On Freedom of Speech
As a writer and former journalist, freedom of speech is something that I hold very, very dear. I’m lucky to have been born American (and especially a Texan *wink*), because we have these great things called the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and this even more amazing thing called the First Amendment, which allows for freedom of speech.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment is something that’s been challenged–and upheld–time and time again, especially that little clause about free speech. It’s honestly a subject I could talk about for days, because it’s something I’m not only passionate about, but that I have attempted to learn about and understand. Because I’m a writer. My words are my lifeblood.
Freedom of speech is quite possibly THE most important right that we Americans have, and while I will vociferously stand up for MY right to freedom of speech, I will also stand up for ANYONE’S right to free speech. And yes, that goes for people who don’t agree with me or who share completely different beliefs and opinions than I do.
And let’s not fool ourselves, here. I don’t exactly go out of my way to hide my beliefs and opinions (if you’ve read my books–and odds are you have if you’re reading this blog, you get a good sense of the things that are important to me), and a very quick look at who and what I follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will paint a pretty damned clear snapshot.
But, oh, wait. Nevermind on that whole Twitter thing. I’ve deactivated my account.
Twitter claims to be a platform that encourages free speech. In fact, its mission statement proudly boasts about how open it is.
To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
Those last two words are important.
And yet Twitter has consistently thrown up nothing but barriers for those who happen to voice opinions that don’t fall in line with what their executives and employees believe.
Before I continue, let me first say that as a private company Twitter can do whatever the hell it wants to. It can ban whoever it wants to, promote whatever/whoever it wants to, approve and censor whatever it wants to. It’s called the free market, and it’s something I believe in wholeheartedly. But just like Twitter has the right to do whatever they want and see fit regarding its users, users have the right to criticize and leave the platform if they choose to do so. The market will almost always respond. That’s the beauty of capitalism.
But back to censorship.
I’m not a huge fan of censorship, and I’m really not a fan of companies filtering the news and information I see because the sources and subjects might not fall in line with a particular set of political beliefs. My very Libertarian self believes wholeheartedly in things such as freedom of speech, free markets, an OPEN internet, freedom to learn, and freedom of thought. And my God do I rebel against censorship.
This has honestly been a long time coming. I’ve enjoyed Twitter for breaking news, but it’s increasingly become a place where I–and people like me–don’t feel welcome. And it’s not because I have boobs, but rather because I don’t fit the stereotype of what women should believe and how women should vote. I’ve increasingly been leery of using my words–of exercising my freedom of speech–in any sort of public forum because I’ve seen how quickly someone’s life can be ruined by internet trolls and social justice warriors (oh, yes, I did just say that). But I’m a writer. And I’m very opinionated. And I shouldn’t be afraid of voicing that opinion, whether out of fear of trolls or fear of my opinion being silenced because it’s “wrong think.”
Last night was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, I guess, when Twitter permanently banned a conservative journalist because he dared to voice his opinion. Some of you know who I’m talking about, others don’t, and that’s okay (I’m talking about Milo Yiannopoulos, FWIW). And he’s not the first conservative to be permanently banned from Twitter, and I doubt he’ll be the last. (And yes, this particular incident isn’t a super cut and dry issue, but that’s a debate I’m currently not getting into right here and now, but the folks over at Reason say it very well, IMO.)
As a writer–and hell, as a Libertarian and someone who values free speech–I can’t continue to use a platform that on one hand bans and shadow bans conservative voices while allowing terrorists to recruit future jihadists and allowing the continued approval and encouragement of the assassinations of police officers. So I deactivated my account.
For anyone who happened to follow me on Twitter, I’m sorry you’ll no longer be able to see my very occasional tweets. I’m much more active on Facebook, although there have been times when I’ve been tempted to delete it, too (it’s just SUCH a great way of keeping in touch with family, especially with all the stuff going on with my husband).
At any rate, yay for the First Amendment–and the fact that I DO have the ability to voice my opinion (and deal with any consequences of said voicing).