The High Cost of Free Speech
Currently there are social media websites that offer access to free speech. Free speech is typically regarded as a good thing. Who wants to be restrained from speaking out about the forces that threaten their safety or their satisfaction? The media are superstitiously thought to be benign because supposedly everybody has somewhat equal access. Free speech is an important link in communication, and in educational advancement. However, free speech by its nature is not free, even when its freedom is governmentally decreed. Technology does not extract the necessity of the kindness needed to produce benefit. In fact, its use amplifies the need for personal kindness, and social consideration.
Government is subservient to nature. Natural laws will prevail. People will be affected by gravity even if a law is passed that forbids it. Speech is a behavior that naturally affects its speakers, and its listeners, and like all other behavior it has the capacity to either benefit or harm both its speakers and its listeners. The the benefit or the harm can, and is transferred socially to people who neither heard nor spoke. The benefit, or harm can be immediate, but more commonly it extends for long periods of time in concentric circles radiating from the source.
There is a naturally existing economic paradigm. All people are affected by the behavior of all others, for all generations. Harm and benefit are naturally existing forces exerted by human behavior, and the behaviors that people exhibit or fail to exhibit are either harmful of beneficial to humanity. There is no middle ground. Doing no harm is beneficial behavior. All people have the opportunity to help others. This is true around the world, and across generations. Benefit improves who we are, how we feel, and our ability to survive. Harm does the opposite. Behavior that is not kindly applied is harmful. When it is applied technologically it is very harmful. Kindness and capability are economic requirements that manufacture kindness and capability. It is a limitless economic cycle. There are no alternatives that can be economically delivered. Intellect, technology, and politics all follow the requirements of nature or they destroy the opportunities created by it.
Ignorance is economically harmful, and willfully remaining ignorant is harmful behavior. Benefit is accomplished by trying to achieve benefit. To achieve benefit a person, or a people must carefully avoid harm because harm is often not reversible. Harmful speech comes with a high cost that makes a person, a people, and all people less safe, less satisfied, and less capable. Free speech is an opportunity to achieve, but unrestrained it is as dangerous as an infant playing with live grenades.
There are only limited occasions when free speech is beneficial. Speaking is a communicational behavior that has value proportionately relevant to the behavior being communicated. Truths are generally considered more valuable than falsehoods. However, falsehoods may be believed because of the number of times they are repeated, because they are spoken from a prominent platform that appears legitimate, or they are what what the listener wants to hear. Personally delivered falsehoods are harmful. When they are delivered politically or technologically they are extremely harmful. Believing what is false generates harmful behavior. Often the results of that behavior are what exposes fallacies to educational daylight. As truth comes to light it often exposes harm.
Credibility is often not based on truthfulness. People tend believe sources they trust. They tend to take comfort in predictability, and they resist changing their beliefs. Truth seeking institutions such as schools, scientific organizations, and the free press, are constantly under attack by people who are uncomfortable with pursuing truth. They find institutional degradation easier than facing facts. Ultimately harm and benefit sit firmly on the reality that we are one people with exactly one environment.
At any given time there seems to be a huge part of the population that would prefer to turn back the clock. Having survived the past, the past looks better than an uncertain future. Change is scary. Free speech seems to be ok because it can be used to hide from the future. People sometimes become deaf to what they don’t want to hear. They repeat what they like multiple times, and cultivate relationships with people who won’t disappoint them with the truth. Free speech vindicates bad behavior because its pervasiveness overwhelms the value of whether it is false, whether it hurts somebody, or whether it is environmentally corrosive.
Social media sites provide technology to amplify and repeat free speech with no consideration of the ill effects caused by the incidental harm, and the purposeful misinformation that is technologically magnified on the platform. Remaining ignorant is bad behavior. Harmful speech needs clear warning labels for the safety of its listeners. It is primarily the listeners who know where those warnings should be placed. Listeners have the opportunity to recognize harm. Speakers have the opportunity to do something about it. Technicians have the opportunity to magnify the results. Politicians have the opportunity to protect those who neither heard nor spoke. These are all opportunities to avoid harm while increasing benefit to people around the globe. And of course, it creates a better environment for people who are, as of yet, unborn. Until those warning labels are clearly posted, free speech costs too much. With technology failing to provide due diligence to avoid harm, free speech is unashamedly very harmful. Free speech is by its nature costs too much. Considerate speech is nature’s key to civility.