Is All Speech Free Speech? We Asked, You Answered

Is All Speech Free Speech? We Asked, You Answered

Why you should care

Because you guys were certainly speaking freely in response to this week’s Third Rail question.

Welcome to Third Rail With OZY, a new TV show presented by OZY and WGBH, where we debate provocative hot topics with experts and celebrities every Friday night. The subject of last week’s show was “Is Free Speech Alive and Well?” You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity. Check back later this week for the question we’ll be debating this Friday on PBS at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Missed the episode? Catch up here!

Tom Robinson, Perry, Michigan

I thought it was an excellent discussion. There is a problem with the “shut-down culture” from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. But inciting violence against individuals or groups is where perhaps some limitations should exist. Demonizing and vilifying is kind of a gray area, inappropriate and objectionable, but not sure if you can limit it without limiting free speech.

Ellen Scordato, New York City

Free speech is indivisible. Check the great old lefty writer Nat Hentoff, who held a variety of views, some I considered laudable and some reprehensible. But the one view he championed … is that free speech is indivisible. It’s either free, or it isn’t. I disagree with a lot of what I hear, and that’s perfectly OK. At least I can hear it.

Rick Preacher, Ridgeland, South Carolina

Free speech is NOT alive and well. Should free speech be free? There was once a time when people were “self-censoring” in their speech. We considered the consequences of our words, but we have lost that. We operate with a mob mentality …

@WhoandWhyy, Phoenix, Arizona

Rashaad Cherry

If the president of the United States of America calls for your firing because of a political expression, there can be no doubt that “free speech” is in trouble. And if this act is not problematic, what is the point of the First Amendment?

@justcarlylloyd, Washington, D.C.

Doug Springer

The First Amendment does not guarantee the right of NFL players to be able to “protest” the national anthem. Rather, it merely prevents the government from infringing upon that right. If the NFL wanted to fire/suspend/fine players for “protesting” the national anthem (for any reason, not just the made-up narrative of police-officers-hunting-down-and-murdering-Black-men-for-no-reason-at-all), the NFL may do so. However, they have chosen not to. That is also their right, even if I disagree. However, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. They can “protest” all they want, but America as a whole is already turning away from the NFL.

Mary Robert, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I think that civility and acceptance have never been the prevailing mood in the U.S. We have said we prize free speech, but we have consistently excluded Blacks, Latinos, native peoples, immigrants and women from full free-speech rights. I think we have made progress toward truly free speech in many respects, but it has been uneven. Lately we have seen a degeneration of respect for allowing other peoples’ views, especially toward minorities. Yet social media has given each person a platform for expanding the impact of personal views. So I see free speech as closer to being a reality than it was 60 years ago and infinitely better than it was 60 years before that. Maintaining and expanding our free-speech rights is a constant battle.

Alex Abdo, New York City

Juin TeVrucht, Tacoma, Washington

I’m concerned because it seems like liberals don’t want Alex Jones or Milo Yiannopoulos types to speak, and conservatives don’t want Louis Farrakhan or Al Franken types, for example. People should be allowed to voice their opinions as long as that doesn’t cause rioting. I was taught that we are allowed to say most anything in the U.S. except “fire!” in a crowded theater.

Tom E LaValley, Hungry Horse, Montana

If you have to stand with your hand on your heart during the anthem, then it is no longer the land of the free, and if you’re afraid to take a knee during the anthem to stand for what you believe, then it’s no longer the home of the brave.

Susie Rosner

Everyone has the right to speak. What’s been lost is our ability to listen to each other.

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