Free speech is guaranteed by the first amendment of the United States constitution. But we know that some free speech is unacceptable in the public sphere. Intentionally lying about a human, unjustly calling one a thief, adulterer, or addict and threatening to murder one are all immoral or unethical actions which should have legal consequences, especially if done so publicly. If you intentionally lie to someone in private then trust is destroyed and the relationship will probably end without legal consequences.
Morality is slightly different in different cultures and is really a personal code of ethics which one believes in, especially in a nation where diverse religions are permitted and morality differs slightly in each religion. For practical purposes when I use the word ethics then it also means moral values and unethical means immoral values.
Then there is a problem of labeling free speech private or public since social media sites like Twitter and Facebook blur the line between what is truly private and what is public discourse. It is a fact that Twitter and Facebook are both considered private corporations which are private in name only but have many of the characteristics of a public forum such as cable TV and public radio which are regulated by government laws. Policing and censoring cable TV and radio discourse is relatively easy compared to the insurmountable problem of policing and censoring the spontaneous audio visual speech of billions of private humans on Twitter and Facebook.
Between private individuals insults, name calling, put downs, ridicule, humiliation, profanities, and severe criticism could theoretically be called “hate speech” but there are no legal consequences. In a public forum how do you censor “hate speech” without destroying comedy and satire which depends on the freedom to insult, ridicule, name call, etc.? Publicly censoring this freedom of expression threatens to make discourse between humans sterile and robotic with an emphasis on being politically correct and super civil rather than on being free to indulge in some of the joys of humorous ribbing discourse.
Social media is not only humans speaking freely but behaving freely such as on Tik Tok and Instagram so a further question arises. What free audio video behavior is acceptable and what behavior is to be censored? Do we permit humans to behave violently towards each other, engage in simulated rape scenes, display pedophelia or child porn, display beastiality or sex with animals, bondage, bullying, murder, and suicide? Free speech now becomes a question of free behavior too. The question of what is a simulated crime scene done by actors vs what is a real crime scene becomes blurred on audio visual social media.
The tragedy is that absolute or total free speech is a precursor to absolute or total free behavior which ultimately leads to chaos and an increase in criminal behavior. It is really a question of what we consider to be unethical or what we consider to be criminal and punishable by law. So the apparent solution is really one of agreeing on which universal cultural norms are to be considered ethically acceptable and legal and which ones are to be considered unethical and not acceptable and illegal.
So what is to be done? One possibility is a constitutional amendment to change free speech to ethical free speech. Of course you can then argue who will determine what is ethical free speech and who will be in charge of the censorship? Self censorship is an inescapable responsible option which will have to be made by corporations and individuals if they don’t want to be punished by the law which makes unethical speech and behavior illegal.
Historically religion determined what is morally or ethically acceptable normative behavior but in this modern era where secular humans are playing the role of God it may be necessary to define what we mean by desirable integrity which is what honesty and ethical behavior means. If you are dishonest or lie then trust or the bond which makes peaceful human interaction between humans possible is destroyed leading to chaos and anarchy followed by tyranny.
A largely secular state will have to define a universal secular ethical code to be obeyed by all or we will descend into totalitarianism which will arbitrarily determine what is ethical based on the whim of one dictator or one political party. An example of a universal secular ethical code which could be formalized in the constitution would be- in non emergency situations- don’t destroy biodiversity, don’t lie, don’t be inefficient, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery if married, and don’t murder.
But we are really talking here about the indoctrination of ignorant, impressionable, secular elementary school students with a simple universal secular ethical code or normative values. This code or normative values should be practiced even in adulthood as much as possible for a peacefully interacting society where trust has not been destroyed for the vast majority.
Ethical free speech followed by ethical free behavior should be the ideal goal of any ongoing society if it is considered to be a just society where individual rights and individual responsibility are protected for the benefit of most law abiding humans within the collective society.
The internet has blurred the difference between what was once considered private speech and behavior and what is considered public speech and behavior and there is really a battle going on to protect what little personal privacy there is left. When all privacy is gone then who will be in charge of all this audio visual information and who will be judging whether this information is to be prosecuted by the law for illegalities? Will we all be cowering in fear for fear that the government will find out and punish us for disagreeing with it? It is scary to hypothetically foresee a day when the land of the free and brave will be the land of the cowering timid slaves living under a tyrannical censoring government.
Despite this hypothetical doomsday scenario I feel optimistic that in the long run the spirit of the American people will survive along with most of the constitution. The land of the ethical, free and brave will endure for many more generations to come. To be vigilant, be aware of and understanding the anatomy of free speech is the first step towards taking actions to ensure that ethical free speech will be guaranteed for every law abiding human in the nation of the free and brave on into the foreseeable future.
Analyzing the anatomy of free speech really reveals the eternal human struggle to try and define ethical speech and behavior vs absolute or total free speech and free behavior which can be very destructive in the short and long run for society to tolerate since an overabundance of absolute free speech always leads to chaos and criminality. While there is religion, separation of church and state is important but in a predominantly secular nation of the future, a secular ethical code as part of the constitution is essential for the nation to peacefully and justly survive without tyranny.
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