What do we do with speech that, itself, limits other people’s ability to express themselves?
This essay does, indeed, present us with a paradox (Links to an external site.). How do we both allow free speech and protect people against harassment and harm? What do we do with speech that, itself, limits other people’s ability to express themselves?
As with Nossel’s essay (and with all essays, really), it’s a good idea to examine your assumptions. Our first few essays did not deal with subjects the necessarily touched our lives every day, so were less controversial. But arguments about free speech tend to land closer to home. And because we value our own opinions and those of people who agree with us–sometimes even feeling them to be vital to our health, happiness, and survival–we can form very powerful attachments to our opinions. Look at any comment section or discussion board on a contested topic (if you’re brave enough): how many people are actually listening to one another? How many want to score a political point and won’t even engage with the opposite viewpoint except to denounce it (often with insults)?
“Fake news” is a relatively new term, but it’s become incredibly common in the past few years. It might be interesting to pause long enough to engage your reaction to the term. What do you think of? Do you immediately associate it with particular news outlets, or one political party or the other?
That kind of reaction is a good way to assess our assumptions. Our assumptions are our untested beliefs–the feelings, thoughts, and opinions about things we carry around but which we’ve never looked at deeply to determine why we hold them. We may have been given them by friends, family, and culture; we may have chosen them a long time ago; we may have picked them up based on limited or even incorrect information. One of the important steps in argument is to examine those assumptions to see if they stand up.
So, the Question: Do you agree with Nossel’s assessment of how we combat “fake news”? What might be some flaws in his proposal?