Save Free Speech From Trolls


The first thousand times I was accused of being a politically correct, anti-free-speech censor, it seemed silly. The charge was always in response to some relatively innocuous bit of cultural criticism — like, say, that racism is bad and artists should try not to make racist art if they don’t want to be called racists. Or that if comedians want to joke about rape, they should write their jokes very carefully because rape is very horrible. I saw it happen to other women, too, women who had asked for better representation in media, or had even gone and said the words “video games.”

I always laughed at the anti-free-speech charge. I was not the government. I literally could not censor anyone. I cannot go around handcuffing comedians and dragging them off to joke jail. (Anyway, I am a prison abolitionist. That goes for open-mic-based offenses, too.)

Criticism is not censorship, and no matter how insistent Twitter’s free speech brigade might be, I felt safe knowing that we could always go back to the text. The Constitution was on my side.

But that was when I thought facts had power, when what we think of as the truth was based more on observable reality and less on the incantations of paranoid uncles who would rather die of preventable diseases than let America’s first black president leave an intact legacy. When the “free speech” canard started nibbling away at me, around 2012 or so, it seemed as goofy as the idea of Donald Trump becoming president. Oops.


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