Free Speech

Our President gave an important speech yesterday at the UN. It was a speech about speech. Free speech. This is a topic that gets me going. I have been investing in the tools of self expression and free speech for close to twenty years now. I know how powerful they are and I also know that they can be used by haters and trouble makers just as easily as they can be used for good.

Here at AVC, I have tried to cultivate a forum where all opinions are welcome. Even those that are hateful or hurtful to me. I let them stand. Where everyone can judge them and opine on them. The President said this at the UN and I wholeheartedly agree with it:

As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day,” Mr. Obama said. “And I will defend their right to do so.

And he went on to say this:

the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

These are important values to state, to live by, and to protect. I applaud the President for expressing his beliefs on this subject. If we can export anything to the parts of the world that are just beginning their relationship with democracy, it is these ideas and the tools that make self expression possible. We must do this.


Comments (Archived):

  1. gorbachev

    Too bad nobody called him on his war on whistleblowers.That’s protecting free speech right there, like a champion. /sarcasm

    1. fredwilson

      What is his war on whistleblowers?

      1. Phillipp

        Do your newspapers report about ANYTHING that is going on wih julian assange here in the EU? That would answer your question…

        1. fredwilson

          yes. i know about that. i think its a desire to keep national security issues out of the public domain. and i think that’s impossible these days.

          1. markslater

            i think its using this an excuse to over reach on control.What is said to us – and what actually happens in washington are worlds apart. The internet is beginning to peel this onion back.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Indeed, I think many of us welcome this. It is still a challenge though as people who don’t want – or perhaps don’t know how – to think critically and take in additional conflicting information to then figure out for themselves what the truth is; This process can be world shattering the first time you go through it, though I’m not sure there’s really much structured support online or offline to help people through this.

          3. Jim Tousignant

            we need to get to the “core” of this onion and expose the constant government double-talk…say one think and do just the opposite

          4. kidmercury

            national security is the best excuse ever, applicable to almost everything. why are lee harvey oswald’s 1961 tax returns classified? national security! lol……seriously, that’s the official reason. (kook explanation: he was on the CIA payroll at the time).

          5. MikeSchinkel

            @kidmercury:disqus National Security and Religion. Both are above reproach. As if.

          6. JLM

            .May have been on the CIA/KGB payroll when they were one and the same. The guy spent a year in Russia — not your ordinary CV by any means and then gets killed in the basement of the Dallas PD HQ by Jack Ruby, a small time Mafioso.Come on.And you think we have any — any — inkling of what really happened?There are people who know and they are taking it to their graves..

          7. Cam MacRae

            Nonsense. To quote our former PM, about whom your diplomats had much to say, none of it flattering:”Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network, the Americans are responsible for that.Rule No.1 for our friends in the United States is – how do you tighten things up a bit? I think that’s a fair old question. Maybe 2 million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a problem.”

          8. JLM

            .The breach of security related to Assange and Bradley Manning (Army Private) was totally unavoidable. It is both treasonous and punishable by execution under the UCMJ (uniform code of military justice).The most cursory review of Manning’s record of troubles would have motivated any even modestly talented security officer to have immediately terminated his security clearance and undertake a dishonorable discharge.His record screams out for such treatment.Instead he is allowed access to the most sensitive possible information with an incredibly inappropriate TS-SCI (Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmentalized Information) clearance and ultimately given access to the JWICS (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System) and SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) — this is incredible because this is both the data and the network by which it was distributed. Normally one does not get exposed to both. There is a reason why.This would be the equivalent of your computer network guy reading all of your emails and files. Not a good security practice.His troubles were obvious and totally disqualifying for such an assignment — recycled through basic training, affiliation with a known hacker network at Boston University, gender confusion, contemplation of gender reassignment surgery and a number of signs which while they may be “normal” parts of life are not normal parts of the intelligence community.What is even more confounding is that he was assigned to the 10th Mtn Div and was in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) — why a PFC with a basic intelligence MOS would be in such a facility and exposed to such traffic is beyond belief.He was able to access traffic at the 4-star and Sec of State level both military and diplomatic. Even the Chmn of the Joint Chiefs does not have that kind of insight.He stole the docs on a freakin’ thumb drive.He should be executed and Assange should be disappeared — if the CIA were still run by real men.It would not be a stretch to suggest that this information was at the root of the Arab Spring..

          9. Cam MacRae

            You say completely totally unavoidable, but then go on to prove the case for completely avoidable.At this point it’s all about damaged reputations.

          10. JLM

            .Four levels of the chain of command should have been relieved and those directly above him should have been court martialed.The Sec of State should be standing on someone’s desk demanding to know how a PFC in an infantry division is reading diplomatic cables at the Ambassador – SofS level.Even Bob Woodward does not get this kind of access..

          11. ShanaC

            the problem is national security issues if leaked can cause paranoia and other free speech issues.Free speech doesn’t exist in a vacuum

          12. JLM

            .The problem is that this is an act of treason — under the UCMJ —punishable by execution in time of war..

          13. MikeSchinkel

            @fredwilson They are fighting today’s “war” with yesterday’s tactics.

    2. jason wright

      Assange and Manning?

      1. Matt A. Myers

        It’s not like Obama has any power to do anything about that- oh wait, he’s the President of the USA..

    3. kidmercury

      beat me to the punch! here’s a link: http://www.thenewamerican.c…free speech goes hand in hand with a free society.a society that passes things like NDAA, patriot act, has drones monitoring everything, partners with ATT to monitor cell phone activity, is not a free society. what government watches, government seeks to control. if government is watching your speech, then…..

      1. markslater

        i think he is mixing up “what people say” and “what actually happens” .that’s a very noble speech he made and its inspiring if taken literally. But in all practicality this “society” sais this and acts in a completely different manner i’m afraid. its unfortunately steered far from a democracy and is now a hypocracy.And i have no dog in the fight (as you well know) so its not an anti obama rant.

        1. kidmercury

          well said, i agree totally

        2. Jim Tousignant

          We need a government that not only supports freedom of speech, but even more importantly guards people’s right to privacy (and does not use the power of government to encroach on citizen’s legitimate rights to privacy)…otherwise as Mark suggests, we become a hypocracy.

      2. raycote

        Yes the growing network of activities that are executed under the cloak of state secrecy in the name of security even extending into mundane functions like copyright seriously undercut the power of free speech.

        1. Jim Tousignant

          totally agree!

      3. Jim Tousignant

        so true!

    4. Rich

      Lately this brings to mind something from the 1999 PC game “Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri” The Planetary Datalinks secret project……”As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.”

  2. Shripriya

    Sadly, this is needed even in countries with decades of “democracy”. Criticizing the government/those in power in India has gotten dangerous – the Chief Minister of a state had a farmer thrown in jail for questioning her.India defines free speech with the caveat that it can’t “offend public sentiment” – a statement so broad anything can fall under it. Politicians and extreme right wing Hindus and Muslims use it to terrorize anyone who they don’t agree with. Pathetic.

    1. fredwilson

      Ugh. That’s not right.

    2. William Mougayar

      Yup, they would rather have stability than free speech. People get offended easily in some parts of the world and they can react violently as we saw. It’s unfortunate and sad.

    3. ShanaC

      pathetic indeed. and how does sentiment change in such places?

      1. Shripriya

        It doesn’t.The regular person is too worried about how to survive and live to care about free speech.And Salman Rushdie’s book being banned? Who cares? A cartoonist being thrown in jail? Who cares? Twitter accounts being blocked? Who cares (after a bit of bruhaha)?It’s too far down on the list of life’s must-haves…

        1. Guest

          Da: Disqus [mailto:notifications@disqus…]Inviato: giovedì 27 settembre 2012 11:43A: [email protected]: [avc] Re: Free Speech<http:””> DISQUSShripriya wrote, in response to ShanaC:It doesn’t.The regular person is too worried about how to survive and live to care about free speech.And Salman Rushdie’s book being banned? Who cares? A cartoonist being thrown in jail? Who cares? Twitter accounts being blocked? Who cares (after a bit of bruhaha)?It’s too far down on the list of life’s must-haves…<http:””/> User’s website <http:”” url?url=”;imp=6a6d88a1-8500-452e-a05c-ad41b90b6d5c&amp;zone=notifications.clicks&amp;forum=avc&amp;thread=860070677″> Link to comment

  3. brian trautschold

    thanks for bringing this up. Strongly agree with the President here and applaud his defense of free speech and opinions…also, here is the full video via washpo http://www.washingtonpost.c

  4. Luke Chamberlin

    I read a great article about the recent YouTube video that sparked riots in the Middle East. In certain parts of the world the concept of free speech does not exist, so a video like that could never get released unless the government officially approved its release.So when people from these countries see a video like that they assume it was approved by the US government. They can’t believe that any person can say whatever they want and upload it to YouTube.That’s what the article claimed at least. It sounds like a reasonable argument to me.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. But that’s why we need to educate people about the way our society works

    2. markslater

      yes – i’ve spent many moons in these parts of the world, and your assessment is bang on. It blows the mind.

    3. mcbeese

      We need to carpet bomb these regions with links to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. 🙂 I doubt there is any stronger evidence that free speech – no matter how ridiculous and anti-government – is alive and well in the US.

    4. MickSavant

      I think the YouTube video element is being largely overblown and scapegoated. Are we all seriously suggesting that there haven’t been more offensive videos to Muslims on YouTube for years? How many views had it even gotten before all of this came to a head? Sounds to me like it’s a convenient excuse for a state department and intelligence community being ill informed and ill prepared.

  5. FlavioGomes

    The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. ~Henry Steele Commager.Self expression nurtures innovation and prosperity.

  6. nilb

    so how can Obama explain this request:… (remove the video – isn’t that part of free speech)

    1. fredwilson

      I suspect he realizes that was wrong

      1. LE

        Right. It’s simply necessary lip service. He knows they aren’t going to take it down, but by requesting it he can appear to be doing the right thing in the eyes of some.This is the same thing that legislators will do if you come to them and want some special legislation. They will write the bill which they know won’t get passed so they can seem like they are doing something. Then they will say “couldn’t get the votes” but to all it appears they are supporting your cause and wishes.

        1. fredwilson

          yes, but all of that sucks. i suppose its necessary but it bothers me

  7. William Mougayar

    I am not holding my breath on that one, because it represents a big clash of societies, cultures, religions, political beliefs and customs. These are hard to change. Very hard. They are fundamentally engrained and even new generations are having a difficult time in reversing years of oppression and closed societies.  But if Free Speech and open democracies were to exist everywhere, what a wonderful world it would be.

    1. fredwilson

      Exactly. We have to keep pushing

  8. awaldstein

    My father was constantly trying to teach me to support the right of people whose opinions were distasteful to me.I still struggle with it. But realize that in this struggle is the key to being a better person and key to why this country at it’s best, really does work in a special way.

  9. Tom Labus

    We are basically the only place in the world where you say what’s on your mind without fear of reprisals from the government or haters.And what makes it even more amazing is that there are new ways of doing so being created all the time.

    1. jbcolme

      Don’t mean to be rude, nor to be polemic. The US is a great nation and all. But the view that the US is the only free country, is plainly wrong and offensive to others. England is a free country. Australia is a free country. Canada, Japan, Italy, Brazil, the list goes on and on… I know (or so I think) you don’t mean wrong, but well, this blog is pretty international so I thought it would be proper to comment on this. Cheers.

      1. Tom Labus

        Not an issue and I understand your point.I was saying it that way for emphasis and not exclusion of other countries.

      2. Pete Griffiths

        Seconded. It is too easy for Americans to unthinkingly regurgitate the ideology of American exceptionalism.

        1. matthughes

          Fair enough.But most Americans who believe in American exceptionalism have very clear and thoughtful reasons.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            That has not been my experience.My observation is that hegemonic power throughout human history has readily embraced an ideology of exceptionalism.

          2. matthughes

            I suppose the idea of American exceptionalism has different meanings any more.I think of it in the sense of Tocqueville. That America is a place of opportunity.I am fortunate enough to know several people who have come from different parts of the world seeking, and finding opportunity here that they weren’t able to find elsewhere.That is my experience.

          3. Federica_S

            and so is mine

        2. JLM

          .American is an exceptional country — witness its role in ensuring the safety of the balance of the world.But American exceptionalism does not preclude any other nation laying a similar claim.I personally find the trout fishing in New Zealand quite exceptional. Just kidding but it is really outstanding..

          1. Guest

            Haha. :)Please note that this is not a knock on the US in particular. I am originally from the UK and I probably don’t have to remind you that the English had a readiness to assume themselves superior in all things. And then of course, there are the French….

          2. Pete Griffiths

            Haha. :)Please note that this is not a knock on the US in particular. I am originally from the UK and I probably don’t have to remind you that the English had a readiness to assume themselves superior in all things. And then of course, there are the French….

          3. JLM

            .Actually it would not be inaccurate to say that America’s sense of exceptionalism is rooted in their English ancestry.The English literally owned almost all the worthwhile parts of the globe once upon a time.Now as to the French, they were instrumental in the Colonials winning the Revolution, so we must give them a tip of the cap..

          4. Pete Griffiths

            I think there is a lot of truth to that. But I suspect that it is the form and trappings that were inherited. England inherited its own sense of exceptionalism from its hegemonic predecessors. Offhand I can’t think of an imperial power that didn’t consider itself exceptional.

  10. Phillipp

    As a spectator from germany it seems to me that the US-Adminstration is doing exactly the opposite and works more and more on repressing free speech in US AND in the european union through pressure on the european commission. But keep running around in the world and bring your “democracy” to all other countries (if you have economic interest in them, otherwise leave them alone…)…

    1. FlavioGomes

      We welcome your viewpoints. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Protect free speech online

    Great post. Just remember though, that the best way to censor a writer or artist is to allow his expression to be taken for free and thereby to cut off his or her means of making a living. Nilb equates “sharing” with “speaking” and this view has become commonplace. Pushing “send” on someone else’s work is not nearly the same value as spending a year to write a book, or a lifetime to practice on an instrument to create something new. Free speakers should go out and create free speech of their own – not simply copy freely speech that was create by someone else’s hard effort.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve been working on, thinking about, and invest in that idea for quite a while.the answers are not a return to the way it wasit is a new way forward. and i write a lot about that and think a lot about that.

  12. Dave W Baldwin

    President Obama addressing Human Trafficking and Free Speech is good. It is a long road due to the majority try to shut out opposing views in both free and controlled societies.Also, those of us in the free society need to remember the bar on responsibility regarding free speech needs to be pushed. It is so easy to throw out something bogus becoming fact having effect on debate.

  13. jason wright

    How to amplify speech, for the speaker to reach a wider audience, has to me always been the weakness of established democracies. A letter to the editor was never an open channel. Now we have Twitter, and now we have Disqus.I note the selective use of Disqus by newspaper publishers. Some articles have Disqus comments enabled, and some do not. I’m not sure what to make of this.

    1. fredwilson

      newspapers aren’t that into open comments. their writers don’t like to engage in them. and they don’t like the expense of moderating them. but i think they are slowly coming to understand that they need to embrace them.

      1. mikenolan99

        I tend to support limiting anonymous comments. We had a local paper start printing unsigned letters to the editor some 20 years ago, and the conversation immediately regressed into gossip and name calling.If a person requests anonymity from a newspaper or moderator – as in the case of a protected source, there should be a vehicle to provide for this.

        1. MickSavant

          Easy there… You don’t want to offend this blog’s favorite robot dinosaur…

          1. ShanaC

            I think he may secretly be cuddly.

          2. MickSavant

            More like hungry!

      2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I hope you are right. I find articles without a comments section to almost be missing something!

        1. raycote

          I think you can safely drop the word “almost”

          1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            Happy to do so 🙂

      3. ShanaC

        making the business case for comments, must be really hard 😉

        1. fredwilson

          well we will seehave you done a pass through my edits?

          1. ShanaC

            yes. they were sent back yesterday (before the fast)

      4. MickSavant

        The ones that are don’t seem to have a robust community discussion going on. Usually commenters fall into either sycophantic adoration or vitriolic opposition to the author. Maybe if the authors did engage more often a community would spring up and drown out some of that noise.

  14. Raj

    US foreign policy for the past 50+ years has been anything but supportive of free speech especially in the Middle East. Supporting dictators who systematically suppress their citizens in exchange for oil, military, and commerce is part of why we’re reviled in that part of the world.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Tom Labus

        But you still call the Gov on it without fear.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Perhaps, but you have to go back to Wilson to find a President from whom you had more to fear than the incumbent.

        2. raycote

          Yes you can still call the Government on anything you like but you may need to look over your shoulder if you become too effective at disrupting “the manufacture of consent” as regards their core political agenda in any significant way.When push come to shove national security and its growing mechanisms for state secrecy can easily be used to sweep you up by redefining you as a terrorist of some kind.

          1. Tom Labus

            If we had the political conversations that we have had on AVC in the Soviet Union we would have all been all rounded up and sent to a bloody gulag.

          2. kidmercury

            your comment reminded me of the story from the bush jr era whereby a college professor got put on the no fly list for criticizing bush jr:…that there is a no fly list is tyrannical enough and that it is used to suppress dissent goes to your point.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      So can I assume you supported the US-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled a dictator who systematically suppressed his citizens and paved the way for a more representative and democratic Iraqi government?

      1. Raj

        No. The US invasion of Iraq paved the way for an Iraq with a, previously unimaginable, Iranian influence.I prefer that democracies arise out of the will of the people rather than the will of a foreign power.

  15. georgebc

    The voices of tolerance should not rally against blasphemy, they should rally against the outdated notion that something could even be considered blasphemous. It is the 21st century for crying out loud!

  16. SallyBroom

    Could not agree more – one of America’s most valuable exports to the world is the value of free speech and open discussion. Trying to surpress the voices you disagree with will only make them stronger – for better or for worse. History shows us that many times over.

    1. fredwilson

      hi sally. hasn’t the UK also had this view for a long time?

      1. Cam MacRae

        The US and France both codified freedom of speech in the same year (1789, the French a month earlier), and both nations have been back-pedalling like crazy ever since.

      2. SallyBroom

        Hey Fred. Sure, the UK positively encourages free speech but I think there’s something embedded in the culture of the States that makes freedom of speech a central part of life, as well as a right. People are more politically engaged and vocal about their stance – just like they’re doing in this thread, proactively debating, which is great. It’s why people like Chen Guangcheng hold the US in such high regard and often seek asylum when exiled from their own country for speaking openly. In the UK there’s too often a sense of apathy, which is a true sin in my book when people lost their lives to give some of us the right to free speech.

        1. fredwilson


        2. Pete Griffiths

          Having been born in England and lived in the US for half my adult life I am rather uncomfortable with this generalization.

      3. Simnett

        Yes- the Bill of Rights in 1688 provided for some Freedom of Speech (it focused on a couple of areas). In general the UK constitution is an “unwritten document” so it’s hard to pin down time frames. In general Kings/Queens who tried to clamp down on religion didn’t do that well either.

      4. MickSavant

        I believe the UK, Canada, and most of Europe ban certain types of speech. Much of it falls under or relates to their definitions of hate speech. For example, one would be ill advised to deny the past existence of the Holocaust no matter where you lived, but in Germany it can come with a jail sentence.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          There are also exclusions in the US.

      5. Pete Griffiths

        Yes. For a very long time.

  17. falicon

    I believe the strongest weapon against hateful speech is actually positive action.Passionate talking without positive doing is a big part of the real problems in society these days.

    1. Aaron Klein

      Totally agree. I appreciated the President’s speech. My problem is that it simply appears to be an election-year correction to the horribly mishandled killing of our ambassador and state department staff in Libya. Words without action are empty.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        And consider the actions:1) Asking Google to take down the Mohamed video (that Libya’s president says had nothing to do with the consulate attack).2) Dragging the director of the movie out of his home for a “voluntary interview” in the middle of the night.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I hadn’t heard about the second one.

      2. k77ws

        Yes precisely. I agree. After almost 4 years, we have seen that the President’s actions quite often are in complete contrast to his words. Soaring rhetoric, or credible action — I’ll take the latter as the best evidence any day.

  18. andyswan

    “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”–Winston Churchill

    1. RichardF

      the swanmeister plus Churchill quote = top comment of the day

      1. William Mougayar

        Andston Swanchill 🙂

    2. William Mougayar

      Yup. Some governments around the world don’t want free speech, even if their citizens do. It’s a very sad reality.

      1. ShanaC

        The General Assembly is thinking of putting together a law about banning blasphemous speech in light of the riots.hence the speech

        1. William Mougayar

          That could get wildly misinterpreted. Some people are in jail around the world for “blasphemous” speech.

        2. William Mougayar

          The UN should promote free speech instead of finessing laws around it.

          1. ShanaC

            definitely, still, doesn’t change the context that this speech was made in.

        3. Prokofy

          They’ve passed a resolution in the GA’s third committee in the past, and this is an ongoing struggle. Obama set his own US dipolomats’ struggle back years with this one line about “slander” of the prophet — awful.

    3. ShanaC

      The truth of free speech is you need to learn to control your outrage and instead speak more about truth.

      1. LE

        “control your outrage”When I was growing up my father used to say “argue it like a lawyer or I’m not going to listen to you”.

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s good advice. Was he a lawyer?

          1. LE

            Not at all. There is a yiddish word “meshugenah” which means “crazy”. So the way I was raised, someone trying to make a point or get what they want using anger, is frowned upon and considered lazy for not wanting to put in the effort to use their wits to try and outsmart the opponent. Maybe the roots are from being in a family of jews of small stature.

          2. William Mougayar

            Thanks. Interesting.

        2. panterosa,

          My dad was a lawyer, and so was his dad.At age 4 I was told that if I stood on the curb I could sue if they hit me. And I had to argue without emotion for things, which I feel is good training. Especially for a girl.

          1. ShanaC


    4. William Mougayar

      Well said!!!

    5. MikeSchinkel

      Well said.And the same is true for “keeping the government out of our lives.” 🙂

  19. takingpitches

    As many point out, we live in a contradiction, and don’t also live to the fullest extent of our free speech ideals.That said, our export of the idea has been powerful.What’s interesting now is that our export and example of our self-expression tools to a large extent are selling our ideas and ideals. By “showing rather than telling,” they are selling the transformative power of free speech for people both on a personal and societal level.The Tools Sell/Plant the Ideal.For example, see an excerpt from an article earlier this year in the Economist re: the mass adoption of Twitter-like services in China, and the cat and mouse game the users play with the censors to spread news, such as with the recent turmoil with the transfer of power caused by the Bo Xilai affair:”By the end of last year, weibo, as Chinese versions of Twitter (itself blocked in China) are known, were used by nearly half of the 513m Chinese who had accessed the internet in the previous six months. This was slightly more than the number who used e-mail and a rise of nearly fourfold over the year before, according to the government-affiliated China Internet Network Information Centre. Li Chunling of CASS estimates that 90% of urban internet users under 30 are microbloggers.Weibo have transformed public discourse in China. News that three or four years ago would have been relatively easy for local officials to suppress, downplay or ignore is now instantly transmitted across the nation. Local protests or scandals to which few would once have paid attention are now avidly discussed by weibo users. The government tries hard, but largely ineffectively, to control this debate by blocking key words and cancelling the accounts of muckraking users. Circumventions are easily found. Since December the government has been rolling out a new rule that people must use their real names to open accounts. So far, users seem undeterred.”Source at:

    1. ShanaC

      The next question is who will the horatio algiers of china be?

  20. Roger Ellman

    The greatest enemy of free speech is fear. I quote Betrand Russell to (posthumously) support this”Fearis the main source of superstition, and one of the mainsourcesof cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

  21. DanMc

    “Say your words!”…

  22. Carl Rahn Griffith


  23. Stanislas Marion

    Free speech is great as long as it is used responsibly. People tend to forget about the responsibly.

    1. Morgan Warstler

      There isn’t really a responsibility. It is “nice” and “preferable” that people be respectful, but it will not ever cross the line, where if a religion is being denigrated, the right to speech is lost.

      1. Stanislas Marion

        So denigrating a religion of which the extremists are frighteningly active, angry and dangerous just because you can doesn’t feel irresponsible to you?I’m not sure who I am quoting, but “with great liberty comes great responsibility”. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

        1. LE

          “So denigrating a religion of which the extremists are frighteningly active, angry and dangerous just because you can doesn’t feel irresponsible to you?”Well in general, any individual can decide whether to open their mouth or not with respect to the harm that opening one’s mouth can create for them personally.There are obviously nutty people in the world. And they are going to do what they will do even if it brings great harm to them or their own family in the process. So I don’t think for a second if someone doesn’t care about what happens to them, they are going to care if someone else riots or creates havoc because of what they decide to say.I also don’t think you can walk on eggshells (on a societal level) and decide that if a resident of your country does some thing that pisses off someone else (who is radical, extreme, nuts) you want to prevent them from doing that. Otherwise what is to prevent the offended nuts from simply deciding anything arbitrary (“we want your women to wear burkas or we will riot and kill your people”) and thereby extorting certain behavior?

      2. ShanaC

        I thought the movie was a terrible idea, but I think it is important to talk about the religious context and start taking religion less seriously as something to respect across the board.A Coptic Christian (maligned group in Egypt) purposely made an inflammatory movie, attributed it to the Jews (and got people to believe it was extremely right wing Jewish people who made the film for a while), and then spread it through Wahabi Muslim areas through youtube.If it weren’t for extremist elements in all of the above religions, none of this would have happened. And all of these religions will always have extremist elements since they are revealed religions, claiming they are the only truth.

    2. k77ws

      Free speech is great BUT…. Nope — doesn’t work that way.

  24. Emily Merkle

    The President’s remarks were strong and sure. Score. But free speech is rendered null if it is not heard and recognized. And by the same token, voices espousing views guided by misinformation only leads to discord. We need to get a handle on the media. We need to take initiative to educate, organize, and represent key constituencies to make the freedom of expression the positive cornerstone of our democracy that it is.

    1. raycote

      Maybe teaching the basic concepts of Epistemology as a mandatory high school course would be helpful to the nation’s democratic dialogue?Epistemology:the theory of knowledge, esp. with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinionORwhat do we know and how do we know we know it

      1. Emily Merkle

        Serendipity at work. I am working on an ambitious education reform/tech project; the core is teaching students How to Think. Epistemology will be included.

      2. ShanaC

        Overdue course, but then you walk into certain districts who can’t deal with evolution and say “teach Epistemology”. Epistemology is only going to make that problem worse….

  25. jagiddens

    I don’t think free speech is a great example of democracy — it is a great example of a republic. Democracy protects the opinion of the majority, but a republic protects the rights of the individual. This country was founded as a republic (which free speech is a great example of), so that if just one person stands alone, they are protected. It is difficult, but important, to differentiate between the two.

    1. kidmercury


    2. Dave Pinsen

      “Democracy” and “republic” are not antonyms. A republic is a type of representative democracy, and different republics have different laws governing free speech. France, for example, is a republic that apparently has more restrictions on free speech than the US.

    3. JLM

      .Damn good but very subtle point. Well played.In our Nation, one man can stand alone and, more importantly, is both supported and encouraged.In business, this is the notion of the entrepreneur who can fail, fail, fail, succeed because bankruptcy laws do not destroy him for life.Well played! Thank you..

  26. Mahmoud Hashim

    Using the word ‘export’ and what it embodies from meanings has been the crux of the love-hate relationship those countries with newfound democracies have with the US; let me explain why. Exporting implies that:1. One party is better or superior in that which it wishes to export.and2. It also implies that that which is exported is a product taken in its existing form, or ‘as is’As to the first meaning, yes, the US has a better developed sense of democracy with more established manifestations of the values described above. That doesn’t mean that such ideas don’t exist elsewhere, it just means that they haven’t had the chance to grow and to take root in society. So when they see that the US was propping previous dictators over the course of 50 years in the region (which by the way, were preceded with western colonization of the region) and at the same time try to export their superior values of freedom and human rights, it is seen as very hypocritical. If the same person serving the poison is the same as the one extending the cure, its not really going to be seen as the cure.As to the second point, this is the main issue with 3rd world development issues as a whole. We don’t disagree that there are universal values, but the way they take form in reality differ and we have to approach such ideas not from our point of view but from an understanding of the other. So when you say we will ‘export’ those values, it is understood and seen as we will export the manifestations of those values, which could be very different and sometimes offensive in the way they are implemented or practiced elsewhere.Thats why it shouldn’t be surprising to hear voices of opposition to what might seem to us as basic and universal values, because the issue isn’t in the substance, but rather in the form of the message and the hypocritical messenger (messenger defined as singular because thats how many people view the US unfortunately; through the actions of one government rather than a collection of voices of its individual citizens. But thats exactly what tools like twitter are really changing)I’d like to think that the world is like an open source project where we have different contributors. Some are older than others, some contributed more in the past, and others are contributing more in the present. Those in the present should remember that they are standing on the shoulders of many other contributors and respect them for that, even if those other contributors are currently struggling, because without each and every contributor the project wouldn’t be where it is today. I’d like to think of our values as a common repo (which it is) but that we can individually fork and mould to our different cultures and environments, and if we add value to that, who said we can’t put in a pull request. We are all stakeholders in that project at the end of the day.So if I were to use another term to replace ‘export’, I’d say ‘contribute’ is a more suitable term that gives credit in the most humbling way.

    1. Morgan Warstler

      So Americans can say whatever they want? yes or no?

      1. Cam MacRae

        No. But I suspect you knew that.

        1. Morgan Warstler

          I just want to make sure, that at the end of all of that he says, Americans should be legally free to say whatever they want about any religion in the world, and not be silenced. Period. The end. We can heap abuse on the abusers, but they will not be silenced to protect others sensibilities.

      2. Mahmoud Hashim

        Shouldn’t everyone? Not sure if I understand what you mean by your question. Can you elaborate?

        1. Morgan Warstler

          did so below. I may have just gotten the wrong feeling. It read like somehow we’d eventually say no making fun other people’s religions as a compromise, and that won’t happen. But we should empathize and help everyone get over the change coming to their lives.

          1. Mahmoud Hashim

            Absolutely, everyone has the right to freedom of speech. That right though can be used to help us all move forward or could be abused. In either case, those exercising that right should not be silenced/threatened/or even harmed. However, our integrity and civility as a society is measured by our collective response to those who abuse that right to ensure that we treat each other with a certain standard.As an example, there is a big difference between someone coming here and being critical of Fred, and someone else posting derogatory comments about him based on his background/religion/color. I’m sure as an AVC community people would stand up to respond to such voices to ensure a certain culture and discourse continues on this blog. If such hateful comments were posted with no response at all then we have an issue.

          2. Morgan Warstler

            Agreed, though I’m sure when they find out Fred has started a new cult, things might get harry. 🙂 Figuring out how to sell people on making use of the freedom s they enjoy to calm down situations – not as easy.I don’t have much here, but maybe add in some advertising. Meaning, maybe we should make the Muslims more aware of how many offensive things we say and do and live with about other religions. That’s not likely going to cut it, but we can expect more of same, so we might as well try to provide some context before it arrives.

          3. JamesHRH

            Illiteracy is your biggest foe here.

          4. Mahmoud Hashim

            Thanks for your comments Morgan.One final point though: As much as media likes to portray Muslims as this one entity that gets angry together, Muslims make up 1.5B people from all over the world. I’m a Canadian Muslim living in Toronto, but you never heard anyone here threatened or any embassies attacked. There are underlying issues from unemployment to illiteracy and extremist thought in certain regions around the world where Muslims live that contribute to the violent reaction you always see on TV. Its a big problem that the changes in the region will hopefully be the first step in resolving. But the fact remains that the image of this one huge homogenous Muslim body that thinks and acts alike because of the same association is what oversimplifies the public’s view and opinion on the matter. Believe me its the tip of the tip of the iceburg, but diving deep is not the business of old media.Remember, all it takes is a handful of soccer hooligans to tarnish a game, and in this case it only takes a ‘handful’ to embarrass 1.5B people.

          5. Morgan Warstler

            No certainly, I don’t think of it a huge body of 1.5B like minded people. I have crack devs in Pakistan who are religious and a blast to work with all through this noise. I also had a jaw dropping discussion with a Pakistani lawyer who grew up in BevHills, who had no problem explaining that the US would just have to let go of Free Speech, even though she wasn’t herself upset to violence, it was the only way we’d get peace with those who are. I see no easy answers, except raising standards of living and advertising an explanation for the offensive stuff sure to come.

    2. LaVonne Reimer

      I love the analogy to open source projects. Simple but it captures the heart of your observations about “exporting” values. Thoughtfully written initial post and a comment that adds much.

      1. Mahmoud Hashim

        Thank you LaVonne!

    3. JamesHRH

      Just read this post and the word that hit me was…..’export’.Not for the reasons that you give. And, I think it is a bit of a distraction to the essence of the post, but still…..Anyone who has ever been charged with changing culture knows that it comes from within and cannot be imported (and therefore it cannot be exported).The most powerful people in the world’s most repressive states are now the world’s fulcrum. They used to be a sad commentary on human nature. They are now a major constraint on the most likely catalyst of economic growth: the young populations of the Middle East, Africa & Asia (SA too?).The ability of these people to give back to their societies – by allowing free speech and social mobility – are the key to progress in the 21st century.The US is far past the point of exporting – it had better get to work on making sure that it is not a hollowed shadow of its 20th century self.The US is starting to look like an aging athlete who is unaware that the twilight has arrived (and is not just approaching). I suspect that Americans are trapped by their constitutional framework (which was a beaut 235 years ago, but is showing its age).This post is focused on the one part of the American framework that will be essential in the 21st century. Its getting the other parts tuned up that is the challenge.As for exporting, that ship has sailed. It doesn’t float.And, I don’t think that the world’s largest country (and soon largest economy) is big on open sourcing…..but its a nice thought.

  27. Pravin J

    Fred, would have loved to see a mention about IA – in this post. All leading web companies are also rooting for ‘Protecting Internet Freedom’.

  28. LE

    What’s ironic, is that in a sense, politicians really have less freedom of speech than everyone else.And the more you share your opinions and true feelings on things, the less chance you have of becoming a politician and getting elected (remembering Fred’s #unelectable hashtag when someone suggested he run for political office a while back).

    1. MickSavant

      You’re right, but I would take it one step further than that and say the more a politician says something that voters themselves think the less chance they have of being elected! The media needs to manufacture false outrage and work people up to keep eyeballs and earlobes during an otherwise boring news cycle.

  29. Joe Wallin

    Fred, how do you feel about online anonymity and free speech. Do you think online anonymity is necessary? That is a positive social good that ought to be encouraged with technology? Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

    1. raycote

      Uniquely identifiable markers with anonymity !I’ve often thought that’s the political-free-speech ticket but probably impossible?

    2. falicon

      Some good answers to your questions in this previous post I think ->…Actually there is a lot of great older posts from avc around this topic…worth reading them all if you have the time ->

      1. Joe Wallin

        Thank you! I will check those out. Much appreciated!

      1. Joe Wallin

        Thanks Fred. I’ll check those out.

  30. Pete Griffiths

    Strongly agree.And if I may be so bold – my new venture (Scrawl) is specifically designed to technologically enable a new level of access to free speech online.

  31. Simnett

    Great topic. I think your second quote (more speech, not repression) is key, and bears on a lot of the policy here. It is unfortunate that (surprised this hasn’t come up yet, US only topic, sorry) Citizens United seems to optimize for the absolute <amount of=”” speech=””>, even if from a very small number of people, rather than the <number of=”” individuals=”” truly=”” free=”” to=”” speak=””>- specifically that even in the modern internet communications era, money can make one message crowd out many others (TV advertising in swing states to the fore).

  32. Modernist… Media have a direct financial incentive to distort speech. To what extent should willful, profit-driven deception fall under the protection of free speech? If speech is tradeable, how can it be free?

    1. raycote

      “To what extent should willful, profit-driven deception fall under the protection of free speech?”Don’t be silly!That would preclude political campaigning 😉

      1. Modernist

        In all seriousness: the stakeholder profit agenda of political campaigns is relatively well known. Media profit agenda, however, flies under the radar.

  33. matthughes

    There is perhaps nothing more important than free speech.No, I can’t really think of anything else.

    1. raycote

      Well maybe access to information ?

      1. matthughes

        I’d have to put that #2 on my list.

  34. Dave Lee

    Hi Fred, just curious, do you ever delete posts on and what is your criteria (ie, intentionally violent, profane, spam, etc)?

    1. ShanaC

      spam and we’ve blocked/deleted one person who insisted on making sexual jokes about the gotham gal (uggggggggg, I hate that guy)

    2. fredwilson

      do you mean comments?if so, i delete spam and nasty attacks on others (but not me)there was a troll who was posting disgusting comments about my wifei deleted them, for example

      1. Dave Lee

        Yes, I meant comments. That’s helpful. I was curious because we’re moderating a new community and we’re struggling with allowing people freedom of speech but also protecting others from harmful/offensive posts & comments.

        1. fredwilson

          the best piece of advice i can give is let as much stand as you can stand and engage a lot to set the tone and lead by example

          1. Emily Merkle

            Well-said. All members of the community are responsible for setting the tone – and for firmly calling out transgressors.

          2. Dave Lee

            Wow, that’s really great advice. Thank you. I notice whenever we engage to set the tone it really helps a lot. Originally we thought we could create a great “system” to manage all the discussions, but we soon realized that while systems are helpful, they aren’t necessarily the cure-all to having high quality discussions.

          3. fredwilson

            humans have to be managed by humans

    1. fredwilson

      canada, australia, scandinvia

      1. jason wright

        iceland, finland, the netherlands, switzerland, and new zealand.The swiss canton system is my personal favorite, but the country is a bit ‘unusual’.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Yup – But you gotta love it !

  35. jimmystone

    Great post. This community has given me more confidence in my voice. Thanks.

  36. BillMcNeely

    Having interacted with fairly high level leaders of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan ( and this being a hot topic of discussion)they get the theory behind free speech however they do not separate religious life from public life and respect for their elders and leaders is not just expected but demanded. The Middle East is much how America probably was until the 1900s where Christianity dominated our society thinking and belief system.My second point is kind of along the same lines of Mahmoud Hashim. Americans forgot America is unique. What works here will not work in another setting. In parts, yes, in totality, no.My third point is I am shocked on a daily basis howwe in America abuse our right of free speech. We seem to interpret the phrase “The Freedom to do” as a low threshold of conduct. We do and say whatever the hellwe want because we don’t have any consequences to fear. We refuse to filterourselves for the common good. American don’t have to worry about families andtribes seeking restitution for wrongful actions. When I mean restitutiondeath would be the easiest and least painful of the options. Forced marriages, kidnappings,gang rapes, prostitution, cash payments slavery etc. I know I am missing a few of the more creative ones.

    1. fredwilson

      interesting point about religionso frustrating

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Religion by its nature is dogmatic. And if taken seriously dogma brooks little argument.

    2. JLM

      .Having had the same experiences, it is more than obvious that our polyglot nation is just that a NATION while most of the Middle East and Far East is a series of tribes — even when those tribes are ostensibly within “national” borders.As much as not, those tribal boundaries trump national borders while that is never the case in the US.Americans are literally incapable of holding a grudge — witness the rebuilding of every opponent we have ever vanquished while these tribes can act tom’w on grudges that are a millennium old.Americans look to the future while tribes look to the past.America is one of a kind and anyone who thinks that you can export Jeffersonian democracy in a year or two is unrealistic.It has taken half a century to wean the ACLU from its Communist Party of America roots..

      1. Pete Griffiths

        The nation state is a very recent phenomenon. Tribes are much older. And the kind of problems you cite are prevalent the world over – Africa is a good case in point. And I completely agree that the idea of exporting ‘democracy’ is imbecilic. It may be a laudable ideal but it is so ethnocentric and naive that it saddens me that policy has been built on the bad of such a fantasy.

  37. William Mougayar

    Governments that oppress free speech want to escape accountability. They don’t want to hear about how well (or not well) they are doing.

  38. Jan Schultink

    Americans sorted out the foundations for their religious and political freedoms in the 18th century, other societies are just starting. Expect more turbulence over YouTube videos and other seemingly minor expressions of personal opinion.

  39. jason wright

    “I let them stand.”I’d vote for that.

    1. fredwilson

      that make no sense to me

      1. k77ws

        Me neither, makes no sense. It tells me that Free Speech is one of the defining elements of the USA, and is not something to be taken for granted; and that given a chance, there are those who would in fact limit it away in the name of “foreign policy interests” (in the particular example of the Slate article) or other reasons reasons of justification.

  40. k77ws

    And on the other hand….Obama has no problem lambasting the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.Fred, I think it is a bit shortsighted to hold up the President as a champion of free speech simply by quoting a few recent sentences from him. After four years of myriad oratorical rhetoric, we have learned that what really matters is to watch Obama’s ACTIONS, as they quite often act contrary to his WORDS.My view is that Obama REALLY only wants free speech so long as it does not impede his political and re-election goals.

    1. fredwilson

      i celebrate your ability to think that and say thati don’t agree with it

      1. k77ws

        Back at ya. By the way, I am a long time reader but rare commenter. Your recent (slight) diversion into non-tech, non-venture topics (Free Speech, Student Loans/Education Bubble) has pulled me off the sidelines.Take Care

        1. ShanaC

          First off, Welcome.Secondly, do you think it is the nature of politicians to not want free speech except when it suits them?

          1. k77ws

            Thanks. Yes, I think it is the nature of most (but not all) politiicans to do so. And thus my point here is that I think it is illusory to hold up Pres. Obama as a champion of free speech when this is not really so. Only when it suits him.

          2. ShanaC

            So maybe this is an illusion about government in general? Except with democratic governments ones hope the countervailing forces of the people push politicians to be otherwise?

          3. JLM

            .Of course, what politician really wants to run on their record?.

          4. ShanaC

            @ccrystle:disqus ? Didn’t he? (i mean, he isn’t a politician, but he has run on his record….)

          5. Pete Griffiths


      2. MickSavant

        How did you feel about Obama reaching out to YouTube to review the video that is supposedly behind some of this unrest? Doesn’t jibe with his speech.

    2. LE

      “Obama REALLY only wants free speech so long as it does not impede his political and re-election goals.”Self interest is rarely, if ever, not a factor in ones decisions. Especially a politician or anyone with motivation or goals. It’s quite a balancing act you have to give them credit for having the skill to stay in that game.

      1. k77ws

        Sure, and pursuing oneself interest (and havering the ability to do so freely) is a very good thing. But my point here is that I think it is illusory to hold up Pres. Obama as a champion of free speech when he is not really so. Only when it suits him.

    3. MikeSchinkel

      Citizens United was not about free speech., t was about the definition of the term “person.” It’s result defined organizations as people which IMO is wrong for the same reasons that in principle monopolies are not a good thing.

  41. Carl Rahn Griffith

    There’s plenty of free speech going on in Spain right now.Is this the beginning of an ending of some sort? Esoteric fiscal talk seems even more irrelevant and insulting when we see what’s happening in Spain/Greece, etc – who next?I have never been an alarmist but I am really wondering what’s happening, now. Thoughts, folks?Stay safe.

    1. Emily Merkle

      Failed fiscal policy is coming home to roost in Greece and Spain. Austerity is no fun, and people are pissed. We are on more solid footing – or so it seems. We can sit back and see what happens, or we can lead from the front and call for the societal and financial changes we need as a nation to keep the peace. I am working on leading from the front with an education/tech reform – anyone want to join me?

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I don’t see much of a solid footing in the UK – apart from in parts of Mayfair and Kensington.Greece is one thing – Spain is(was) pretty much a ‘real’ economy – it’s getting closer to everyone. I worked a lot in Spain and did some business in Greece years ago – I never grasped the Greek economy but Spain always seemed analogous to much of Europe.Interesting times…

  42. Daniel Wright

    This is the President who killed an American citizen without a trial for being the Editor of a Magazine right?… You’re free to say whatever you like as long as we like it.

  43. Toxic

    And on the same day, it was revealed that Julian Assange has been designated to be an Enemy of the State… for disseminating information.

  44. Statspotting

    The underlying assumption is that people are mature from a thought process standpoint which is not true in Many parts of the world

  45. matata

    Great post, couldn’t agree more!

  46. JLM

    .The President did not give a speech enunciating HIS beliefs on free speech and the attendant virtues, he gave a speech reiterating OUR national values as it relates to free speech but more importantly it should have addressed transparency, openness, national security secrecy and other considerations which are an essential part of any debate about free speech.The notion that we export “democracy” including the concept of free speech is just nonsense and avoids some harsh but important realities.Our democracy and its values while brilliantly codified over 235 years ago are constantly evolving and some might say “eroding” but other nations cannot drink from that deep pool of experience and may simply NOT WANT TO drink from that firehose. It is too much too soon.Let me use a recent example.Egypt is now ruled by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. We allowed a staunch ally — Mubarak — to be overthrown in the misguided notion that his successor was likely to be Thomas Jefferson or at the least a TJ democracy advocate.What did we get?An organization which provided Hitler two Waffen SS Divisions — the two largest divisions in the Waffen SS — who fought for the values of Hitler against the Russians. Did our government know what they were dealing with in the Muslim Brotherhood?If not, why not?Does this strike you as a healthy export of American values? Me, not so much.We have now unhinged the western border of Israel, incited the Palestinians yet again and dramatically increased the likelihood of more strife in the region. Not a very good development for our only real ally, Israel.In Afghanistan, we have tried to create a justice system — an enormous effort by a brilliant JAG BG McMaster under David Petreaus — which has come undone by the willingness of the tribes of the accused to simply assassinate the law enforcement personnel and prosecutors involved in their administration.You cannot build an institution on quick sand.These naive approaches to protecting American interests have nothing to do with our American values, they have everything to do with our American interests which are not always best supported by exporting a bit of Americana..

  47. spektor

    When the president mentions blasphemy does he include things said agains other imaginary creatures such as unicorn and Spiderman? Since when has blasphemy become an exception to the free speech rules?

  48. deancollins

    hmmm shame Andrew Cuomo doesnt understand Free Speech when he strong armed ISP’s to turn off nttp servers (but didnt outlaw it…..because he knew he didnt have the legal standing to do so).…Andrew Cuomo you suck and are a blight on New York, the fact you’ve continue to rise and gain favor with certain groups in NY only makes this shame worse.

  49. Prokofy

    The speech was better than the policy has been, which is why I’m not voting for him again, this time.And there was one awful, tell-tale line in that celebrated speech, that was very disturbing:”“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”Um, what? Who gets to decide what “slander” of “the prophet” is? The same people who killed our diplomats in Benghazi? Who? That’s completely unacceptable. That’s exactly what the US — Obama’s very staff in Clinton’s State Department — have been fighting for at the UN for all this time, and exactly what they worked *against* in getting Resolution 16/18 passed at the UN Human Rights Council in a joint resolution with Egypt. That resolution kept the narrow defintion of criminalizing only “incitement to imminent violence,” and got rid of this notion, promoted by the Organization of Islamic Community, of “defamation of religions’ which is overbroad.Obama set back progress — as he has done so many times before in other major speeches tone-deaf about human rights! — terribly when he somehow implied that people who “slander the prophet” are doing something wrong or that such a concept should even stand. It shouldn’t!This article caught it:…and I have a blog about this explaining the nuances:

  50. ShanaC

    How do you think entering the public sphere affects free speech?

  51. LE

    Thanks for that clip I’ve never seen that show. (It’s a little to kitsch for me though.)One of the things I hate though is this entire “we’ve got to be number 1” mentality. I hate to hear people repeat facts and figures like “we’re 25th in math”. So what? Life can be quite good for people and certainly any individual, it’s not a football game after all, even if you come in second or 10th.When I was a kid my dad used to always pit me against my cousin (of the same age, say 8?) and say “let’s see who can finish their milk first!”. My cousin would rush to finish his milk and beat me. I just sat there and took my time. Who cares? What’s the prize for winning? Who cares if the collective country is 25th in math? Who are the 24 ahead of us and what sacrifices have they made in order to be number 1? (Remember asian “tiger mom?”.)”I’ve been personally effected by expressing my beliefs–opportunities denied and doors closed, reprisals delivered subtly and not so subtly”Examples – if you care to share them?

  52. mcbeese

    Agree completely. “Free speech” does not mean “free pass” to communicate anything you want without consequences.If I had expressed my political views to my right-wing Republican angel investors, it would have had negative consequences, I’m sure.Additionally, the principle of free speech does not trump other laws that are in place, many to protect the rights of individuals. For example, you can’t express anything you want in the workplace if it creates a ‘hostile work environment’ for other employees.

  53. Anne Libby

    This is of course the problem we’re having with civil liberties we’re giving up overall in the name of “safety” and “security.”There’s an insufficient mass of politicians with the will to speak out on this. (And I’ve seen this at the most local level, in my local Dem club.)I’m hoping that the tide will turn, as it ultimately did for McCarthy-ism.

  54. ShanaC

    this is going to be a problem for everyone as we all start living in public more…..

  55. Anne Libby

    Perhaps both cases show the effects of social media amplification.If you’re a politician, you’re terrified of going viral as a non-“patriot” for suggesting that civil liberties trump the millions spent on airport security theatre. (Remember the reactions when Obama didn’t wear a flag pin in his lapel?) If you’ve got bigoted views, like-minded expressions on cable/blogs/talk radio make you think you’ve got lots of company.

  56. MickSavant

    it’s different when it comes from the president or government in general. It can cause a chilling effect. GWB was loudly criticized by the left for asking media outlets to hold back information, footage, pictures etc.. Sure Google can do what they want, but when it comes time for a spectrum auction, Internet regulation, or self driving car regulation the president remembers who his pals are right?

  57. ShanaC

    It still bothers me that we lack a cultural respect that expressing your political views have such negative consequences

  58. mcbeese

    Yes, I agree. In many regions of this country of ours, we are not as far removed from the Taliban mode of thinking as we’d like to believe. We’re all horrified when we read about women being stoned by the Taliban for adultery, yet many Americans think women should be forced to carry and deliver eggs (yes, that’s all they are at the time of fertilization) that have been fertilized by rapists. Stoning is quicker, but I’m not sure which is more brutal for the female victim.Sorry for digressing a bit from free speech, but it is relevant in terms of context. Our pedestal is not as high as we like to believe. We too are unduly influenced by religions, we’re just more comfortable with the craziness that we know.