02 July 2008

On freedom of speech

With Independence Day looming, here are some thoughts on freedom of speech.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to free speech - a right which many Americans take for granted today, but nevertheless an important and ancient right (which is sadly being eroded by the day). Without freedom of speech and communications, a free society - and this blog - would be impossible.

However, one must understand what "freedom of speech" means. The Constitution enumerates negative rights - that is, the State cannot eradicate or truncate a natural human right bestowed by nature. (The opposite would be a positive right, where the State "grants" the right or privilege to engage in some activity - as if the State has the legal or moral authority to do so. Positive rights are also known as "entitlements.") The First Amendment, in reality, is a prohibition - of State action which would inhibit the right of men to communicate and enlighten.

The First Amendment, therefore, cannot protect a person from the private effects of his speech. People are free to disagree, shout out curses at you, call you a liar and a bigot, etc. And if the power brokers and connected are really irritated by your fulminations, they can bring suit against you (it's called "libel"), track you down, permanently shut the doors of social and economic opportunity, destroy your livelihood and your family, and taint your friends and colleagues with guilt by association.

Such are the realities of a fascist age. In this society virtually everyone is liable to take offense at even the most feeble protests against the regime. Imagine what full scale dissent does to these people. It probably makes their heads spin!

This is why I and others like me must lurk in the shadows by necessity. The power elites very much dislike it when someone exposes their game and speaks too plainly about the realities in our society, as I routinely do here on these pages. Exposure would mean social estrangement and isolation, economic marginalization, utter personal ruin. We truth tellers and seekers must creep around anonymously if we are to survive and perform our necessary work.

In times past, when hereditary absolute rulers were common (today we just elect them), there was a member of the king's court known as a jester, whose formal role was to entertain the royal household; but in this manner he was the only person permitted to tell the whole, unadulterated truth to the monarch.

We are the modern functional equivalents to a court jester. We hope that our efforts entertain and please, but also hope that some very real truths are spread out to the world.

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