You Don’t Have a Right to Not Be Hurt or Offended (Nor Should You)

At least if you want to live in a free society

Brian Tubbs

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An offended person who doesn’t like what you just said — image generated via MidJourney

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Those words were written by “Silence Dogood” in a 1722 letter to The New-England Courant. The letter was written in response to efforts by the royal governor of the Massachusetts colony to curtail speech rights in colonial-era New England.

Those familiar with history will recognize that “Silence Dogood” was a pseudonym for the then-young and ambitious Benjamin Franklin.

While Franklin may have written these words in his youth (he was a teenager at the time), his words still ring with wisdom today.

If you want to live in a free society, you must protect the freedom of speech.

The consequences of having free speech are indeed significant. You will be exposed to written and spoken words which are hateful, toxic, offensive, and hurtful.

But…

You can’t have freedom without the freedom of speech.

This doesn’t mean that there can’t be reasonable limits placed on speech (written or verbal) that constitutes libel, slander, harassment, verbal abuse, or calls for violence or insurrection.

And there are limits on such speech.

Nevertheless, the more limits you put on speech, the less freedom you have.

And, incidentally, you can limit speech not just via legislative means but via economic, cultural, and social pressure. For example, when a person believes that taking a public stance on a controversial issue might result in losing her job, that’s an effective limit on speech.

It’s not just up to the government to protect speech rights. Everyone must value and protect free speech — online and offline. That includes corporations, small businesses, community organizations, and everyday people.

Unfortunately, we live in a society now where an increasing number of people are putting a higher value on feelings than freedom.

I know it’s not popular to say this, but here it is…

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