As a man of many opinions who takes full advantage of his freedom of speech, I can only be responsible for what I say, write and think. It is an impossibility for me to be responsible for what you hear me say, read what I write and think about either. I cannot be responsible for how you feel about what I produce.
The minute the speaker is made responsible for what another person hears, feels or understands, free speech is dead.
If I offend you, I can’t help it. You set that threshold, not me. I have nothing to do with your limits to “offense”.
F.A. Hayek noted a similar problem with socialism in his book, “The Road to Serfdom”:
“I believe it was Lenin himself who introduced to Russia the famous phrase “who, whom?”– during the early years of Soviet rule the byword in which the people summed up the universal problem of a socialist society. Who plans whom, who directs and dominates whom, who assigns to other people their station in life, and who is to have his due allotted by others? These become necessarily the central issues to be decided solely by the supreme power.”
So there is a “who, whom” issue with speech, too. Who decides what is “offensive” and what should be prohibited? Especially when our Constitution clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Shall. Make. No. Law.
But the fault, good people, is in our stars…or more accurately, in our children and therefore ourselves.
Public education has become regimented and systematized to the point that it has become dogmatic. We even refer to our educational services as school “systems”. Socratic learning has been largely replaced with regimented indoctrination, free thinking is not encouraged, and following the “system” is valued over critical thinking. Value is placed on the simple command of facts and not the critical “why’s” behind them.
We also appear to lack important overarching historical context, preventing us from viewing modern issues in proper context and facilitating understanding.
We appear to be more focused on teaching what to think and not how to think. Objective truths and established facts are dismissed as “your opinion”. Direct, vigorous debate and defending a position seem to be alien, just “sharing” opinions, presenting a list of facts or even simply shouting down an opponent is good enough, as if volume is greater than reason. Knowledge is substituted for wisdom. It makes for an intense interest in politesse but leads to arrogant, undisciplined, unorganized thought, resulting in overt hostility to any challenge or correction.
This is what man has wrought upon himself.