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Free Speech Must Be Defended, Especially When It’s Controversial

The whole point of freedom of speech is to stop politicians from controlling what we can or cannot say.

The increasing attention and discussion of neo-nazi’s and white supremacists is deeply disturbing. As a mixed-race person, I’m well aware that many in those vile groups don’t even think I should exist, considering their opposition to interracial marriage. While I am not someone who defines myself by a racial identity, it is simply a fact that there are some who wouldn’t see past that identity.

With all of that in mind, the move by some people to use the latest violence and hate as an excuse for restricting free speech is a huge mistake.

The entire point of freedom of speech is to defend all of us from politicians who would use their power to control what we are allowed to say. That’s why defending it in controversial moments – and defending it for groups we dislike – is essential to protecting all of our rights down the road. Note that I’m not talking about advocating violence here. Calling for violence, genocide, and attacks on others crosses into advocating crimes, which is different than free speech. That is where the line must be drawn. But going further, and using the power of government to control speech is incredibly dangerous. Those who want to give politicians that power have to consider that at some point politicians they disagree with will one day be in power, and could use government authority to silence them. That’s why it’s far better to defend free speech, so all of us can be guaranteed our rights to speak our mind.

The big misinterpretation of free speech One of the biggest misinterpretations (either accidental or intentional), some make about free speech is that it somehow “empowers hate.” That’s the argument often used to restrict speech and give politicians the power to decide what we can or can’t say. But that’s not what free speech is about.

Free speech is the absence of intervention, nothing more. Yes, that means people are free to say horrible things, but it also means the rest of us are free to push back against those horrible things. People are free to organize, rally, argue, persuade, and do everything they can to push back against messages and ideas they disagree with. The best way to fight offensive and vile ideologies is not to give government more power, it’s to use our voices to speak out against it. If we allow this disturbing and controversial moment to turn us against free speech and give more power to the government, we will deeply regret it down the road. Let’s ensure we don’t make that mistake, and let’s make sure we continue to defend freedom of speech – especially when it’s controversial. This article was originally published on Spencer Fernando's website on August 16, 2017, and the original story can be viewed on his site by clicking here.

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