Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Clarifying My Position on Free Speech

Ed Merwin responds as follows to my post on when free speech can be limited:

Dave I applaud you for trying to clarify some limits of free speech. But, correct me if I am wrong, but your "when can free speech be limited" seems to endorse, generally speaking, campus speech codes. These PC efforts have done much to discourage free intelectual discussion on campuses.

If someone as astute as Ed believes that I would endorse campus speech codes, then I have clearly done a poor job of articulating my views. I regard speech codes in academia to be ridiculous monuments to political correctness that fly in the face of what colleges and universities are supposed to be about.

Just to clarify my position, I oppose banning free expression just because it may offend some people. The main circumstances under which, in my view, speech should not be protected is when it is used to directly threaten or incite violence. Telling someone you don't like them is an acceptable if unpleasant form of free speech. Telling someone you want to kill them is not.

There are also the issues of obscenity and what is appropriate to say in the workplace, but I prefer to leave those cans of worms unopened for now. Generally, I choose to err on the side of enabling free expression, not limiting it. Unfortunately, campus speech codes have tended to prohibit speech that merely offends, which is why I strenuously oppose them.


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