For many, the most arduous aspect of supporting free speech is the principled requirement to defend disagreeable speech; moreover, the degree of difficulty in defending free speech increases in proportion to the detestable nature of the individual or entity uttering said offensive speech.
Yet we must. For to infringe upon the free speech rights of one, however loathsome, is to endanger the free speech rights of all. And, really, who doesn’t like to do a little bitching?
Therefore, let us examine a pundit-class kerfuffle to prove how it is possible and necessary to defend free speech, regardless of how unsavory we deem the speaker.
Recently in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman opined that the optimal way to defeat President Trump was for America
to see every [Trump] tweet, every rally, every word and every reaction so that they can ask themselves: “Is this who I want my kids to see as our president? Are these the people with whom I want to be aligned?” It’s too late to move Trump’s core base on these questions, but I would not give up on his passive supporters.
One of the entities Friedman would give up on is, of course, Fox News. Not surprisingly, one Fox News wag didn’t take this sitting down (though it is what he does all day on television).
Greg Gutfeld, the author of a glorified travel brochure, Lessons from the Land of Pork Scratchings: A Miserable Yank Finds Happiness in the UK (among other impenetrable tracts), disagreed with Friedman’s conclusion; and, alternately, argued such ubiquitous coverage had and would continue to help President Trump:
What a great idea. Because remember what happened the last time the media covered every tweet, every rally, every word in every reaction of Donald Trump? . . . They elected Donald Trump…So telling the media to focus on Trump’s behavior, you are in effect saying “hey, remember how we elected Trump in 2016? Let’s do it again.”
Not in the mood to be contradicted by an “active” Trump supporter, Friedman appeared on CNN and declared Gutfeld a “moron.”
Somewhat evasively (he never refuted the charge), Gutfeld nonetheless fired off a Pershing II of a tweet at Friedman’s host cable station: “Ha [sic] sorry I missed it. I was doing a hit on a network people actually watch!”
Yes, because it is so often messy in practice, sometimes amid the pundit classes’ pillow fights it is easy to miss that we have witnessed a principled exchange of free speech. True, the above exchange is less than courteous. Nevertheless, neither Friedman nor Gutfeld is demanding that his antagonist be silenced, for instance by imploring Twitter Jack to eradicate a tweet or suspend an account (which he is more than happy to do these days, if one is a conservative).
No, what we have is Gutfeld lampooning Friedman’s argument and his host cable station, and Friedman dismissing Gutfeld as a “moron.” We, the public, can determine who is right or wrong; and who we will listen to on what station or social media platform.
And, thus, is free speech practiced and protected.
Lads, a pint, pork scratchings, and a round of applause for you in spite of yourselves!
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