Notes on: Free Speech vs Censorship, Facts vs Opinions, and Writing

Recent events, including today’s (weird, irrelevant, distraction-mechanism) announcement by Trump about colleges and “free speech zones,” warrant a few comments and reminders about free speech/censorship and about facts/options, generally.

People should remember common sense and decency at every step.

People should respect experiences/experts and personal limitations.

People should follow the golden rule.

People today often confuse free speech and censorship. Different spaces have different rules and expectations and needs. Asking someone to “stop” attacking you is no way censorship. Telling someone they said something offensive is not denying them free speech. As as often been stated, there are consequences to any “speech,” and “free speech” protections are very limited in scope legally.

People today sometimes tend to think that any opinion is valid, including opinions easily invalidated by credible evidence. Or people are unable to see how different points-of-view result in different–and equally valid–answers to a given inquiry. As others have said, yes, opinions can be wrong. Opinions are best reserved for the subjective–tastes in something, thoughts about an experience, for example.

That every website, article, post on Facebook or Twitter, and every other corner of the Internet invites comments contributes to this problem, negatively. Very rarely do we see or hear, “I don’t know enough to comment.”

On the note of the Internet and comments, a positive aspect is a type of activism unheard of in the history of the World until the Digital Era. Some of the comments include thoughtful, argument-based observations. For example, I recently saw a comment on an article behind a paywall about law pay for law enforcement officers that roughly said: “too bad they can’t afford to read this article about them.” This comment has stuck with me for months. Even the less informed ideas that comment sections invite include arguments.

And people are reading and writing more than they ever have before. It’s certainly not a “traditional” type of reading and writing, but it’s an amazing thing.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda