Free Speech, Freedom and Conversation

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Social justice is best pursued by listening to different people and learning what makes them happy, from my perspective. We should not censor any opinion because we think we know what is right or wrong. According to a discussion at a recent Aspen Ideas conference, “When people say freedom of speech and freedom of thought, is the question really, freedom of which speech and who’s freedom of thought?”

In light of the newly tendered offer by Elon Musk to purchase Twitter, there was a subsequent outcry with fears of what could result from taking the company private. Now that the bastion may soon become (or return to) true free speech as Musk purports, is that a good thing? To some, not really; some prefer to toe the party line and be considered in the know as to what is true and what is not.

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Have you tried to have a discussion over the last few years with friends and family? Are you still speaking with them? It seems we have all crafted our own “echo chamber” and will defend it against all comers.

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Obviously, the founders of America didn’t envision the proliferation of social media and the increasing amount of disinformation spreading across the web. Our society has evolved and so must our approach to having conversations and building relationships. In order to create and maintain a functioning society, we need discourse. Hecklers and agitators have been part of any free tradition. Today heckler, tomorrow president — it could happen. The point is that a broken clock is right twice a day. Perhaps someone with an atrocious opinion in one case may have something valuable to share in another. Should they be canceled, and if they are, who loses?

Circumstances change and beliefs do as well. In order to move along in a healthy fashion, it is important to be able to listen to positions you disagree with in order to come to some consensus and fusion of direction. Is this possible? Not if we cancel everything we don’t like and flee to the echo chamber. The fact of the matter is that we are all subject to gravity and not leaving this planet (Elon Musk, aside), so can’t we all just get along?

Consider that our understanding and experiences dictate much of our view of the world and perspective. If we don’t consider varied views and different perspectives, our ability to take action or grow through thought is impaired. We need to be able to hear each other out and see from these different vantage points and perspectives. You don’t have to like everyone’s opinion, but don’t punt just because it’s convenient. Hurtful speech has been with humans. Is it better to tolerate a few winces and uncomfortable opinions as opposed to losing something of value and thus curtailing our own freedom to add to whatever discussion?

Discourse is a vital element in driving toward a more constructive society. We need to rebuild the way we communicate with others from a place of openness. None of us has the market cornered on being all-knowing.

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