One of the cornerstones of liberalism is the idea of freedom of speech and the open exchange/ discussion of ideas. However, is speech really free today? What exactly do most people mean when they talk about speech? After all when somebody talks about free speech they aren’t talking about the right to talk with a friend at length about your favorite sports teams over brunch. Nor does it necessarily mean the ability to talk in front of a small group of people. Words and their context are often so muddled these days, that it is so easy to get confounded and misled. When I use free speech, I generally mean the ability to speak about the most profound and personal issues as related to society at large. Now notice what I am not saying, I am not saying you have the right to speak wherever and to whomever you want. Because free speech isn’t a real thing. Not everyone’s speech is equal I am sad to say. For instance, odds are you, like me, do not have a billion followers who latch on to my every word. I do not have a radio show or a podcast where I can talk everyday and expect people to listen. Not everyone has a platform and people who care enough to use the platform to hear me. Not everyone has the free time to listen or ponder the deepest philosophical ideas of our time. If you work two jobs, are you likely to second guess your own deepest values and ideological convictions? Do you even have time to do so? I would wager that you don’t and it is unreasonable to expect otherwise. Being ignorant isn’t a crime and not everyone is able to spend the time and energy required to learn everything they need to know to be as rational as we are expected to be. Furthermore, rationality only goes so far. What is rational for me and rational for you are completely different things depending on context, lifestyle, class etc. Also rational emotions are a thing. Emotions connect us to other people and it is rational for human beings to be social. I have gone on quite a few tangents so let me set up a pretty controversial example of why I think free speech is imaginary.
If you have any sort of belief system or ideology odds are you will disagree with other people. It is also important to remember that some systems and ideologies cannot coexist side by side. Contradictions will emerge and the dream of diversity of thought is good in theory, but let us not pretend that some contradict one another. It is also important to recognize that bad ideas, can stick around contrary to mainstream wisdom, because they are continually talked about. Ideas are kept alive only when they are spread around and talked about. Even the worst ideas will not die if there are devoted people who continue to spread them. If you are rich and have resources, you alone have more free speech than most of the population. You get to decide what ideas can continue to spread and what ideas must be suppressed. Your worldview will also clash with someone else’s but the rich can afford to battle for far longer, due to their ability to argue without any negative consequences due to just being far more secure and having their basic needs met regularly.