This morning I was on my CNN app and saw an article about Elton John’s boycott of Dolce & Gabana. The title of the article has changed now, but this morning the headline said the article was about the limits of Freedom of Speech. That title completely hit on a major pet peeve of mine, the attempt to rework the meaning of freedom of speech. This has been a pet peeve of mine since the Dixie Chicks controversy in 2003.
The right to Freedom of Speech means that you will be free from governmental repercussions as a result of things you say publicly. The United States Bill of Rights third article states that the government will make no laws abridging freedom of speech. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Nowhere does it state that you will be free from any negative repercussions as a result of what you will say only that you will be permitted to state your opinion without interference.
In both the Dixie Chicks’ case and now Dolce & Gabana’s case, there was no limit to their freedom of expression. They both were allowed to share their opinions without fear of arrest or property seizure. No laws were created that limited their freedom of expression. This is exactly how freedom of speech works.
What freedom of speech does not do, much to the dismay of both Dolce & Gabana and the Dixie Chicks, is limit the speech of others. Elton John is permitted to start a boycott of Dolce & Gabana’s products. The Dixie Chicks fans had a write to stop listening to their music and even request that their music not be played on country stations. This is also freedom of speech. (Now I know that there were death threats made against the Dixie Chicks. That is illegal. However, it is not an indicator that any government attempted to limit their freedom of speech.) Both Dolce & Gabana and the Dixie Chicks claimed that their freedom of speech was limited. It was not. They shared their opinions. The government did not show up at their doors to throw them in jail. What did happen was that other people also shared their opinions and freedom of speech continued on.
I am tired of the idea that is constantly being bandied about that freedom of speech means that no one can speak against an idea expressed by another. That is not how it works. Nor should it. Freedom of speech should be available to everyone. Not just those that speak first.
Thank you for stopping by today and giving me a chance to get on my little soapbox. Until next time, don’t be afraid to share your opinion. You too have a right to freedom of speech.