Free speech a misnomer

Experiences and readings, in particular this lucid posting from Stanford Law School, have made me re-think free speech. By this I mean the constitutional right outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

And I’m not talking about speech that is damaging in any way, but the simple voicing of one’s opinions and points of view.

Yes, you can stand on a street corner and say just about anything you like (with certain exceptions). And you can publish books that say just about anything you like, as long as you own the printing press. Getting someone else to publish your ideas is, well, an exercise in free-market economics (in other words, a publisher will publish your work to the extent that they feel they can make a profit).

In today’s marketplace of ideas, in most cases the publishers (those who take your words and convey them to readers, by whatever means, whether broadcast radio, newsprint, or blogs) are private organizations, not the government. Those private organizations have a right to censor one’s material, based upon whatever criteria they choose – and they are not accountable to anyone for those criteria. Again, the organization that publishes peoples’ ideas probably has a service motive or a profit motive, which means their rules for censoring had better be ‘acceptable’ or else they will lose readers and, hence, profits (or goals).

There is much more to say on this topic.

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