To truly protect freedom of speech – a fundamental necessity for meaningful democratic life – we must be alert to how it can become weaponised in ideologically coercive ways. Free speech can become a Trojan horse to
gain space and attention for retrograde ideas that do not really merit debate. Pretending that all ideas must always be treated as equally valid and worthy of discussion in the idealised “marketplace of ideas” allows discredited ones – such as race science – to be covertly rehabilitated.
All too frequently, the gleeful caricature of students as “woke snowflakes” distracts from the fact that fomented free-speech controversies hinge almost exclusively on the right to express discriminatory, hateful or discredited viewpoints that explicitly target racial and sexual minorities.
Yes, this is what free speech means. Peeps get to stand up and say whatever comes into their heads, however stupid, hateful or against your prejudices those things may be.
The two exceptions are libel and the incitement to immediate violence. This last means that it is legal – and part of free speech – to argue for the elimination of the bourgeoisie as a class as the basis of economic and social policy. It is not legal to stand up and argue that we should burn the niggers in the quad right now. That word “immediate” carries a substantial amount of weight there.
And that’s what free speech means. Yea, even to the point that I am indeed allowed to use that naughty word there. And also I have the duty to put up with whatever storms of outrage come my way as a result of my having used it. Just as those advocating the elimination have to put up with arguments back from bourgeois suggesting that perhaps they’re not all that happy with the idea.