Are you Ye’d out? I am, too, but people’s flimsy understanding of what free speech actually means has really been pissing me off.
In the wake of his controversial statements tour that seems to have crested with an appearance on Drink Champs, there’s been a lot of chatter about how Kanye West should have the right to say whatever he wants because we live in what some have referred to as a free country. Joey Bada$$ tweeted that while he doesn’t support everything the man is saying, “censoring his right to freedom of speech is WACK. Askin him to come speak on your platform and then removing/blocking the content cuz you don’t agree?” N.O.R.E. himself posted a video on socials, lamented that “free speech ain’t free,” and hinted that he’s ready to leave Revolt.tv’s platform because they removed his interview with Mr. West.
Whenever a person says something controversial or anything that can be firmly placed in a category with an -ist, anti-, or -ism, and there’s intense backlash, a calvary of people support a person’s right to a version of free speech that doesn’t exist, and never has. It would behoove these people to do something that is 100% free: read the First Amendment. To save anyone some trouble, here it is, for free.99:
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The most important parts here are the phrases “provides that Congress makes no law” and the “right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Essentially, the government shall make no law limiting your speech. This protects the press, groups of people, and an individual’s right to criticize said government. In effect, Kanye can spew all the hate speech he wants, but a corporation suppressing those ideas—be it Twitter, Facebook, or Revolt.tv—is not a violation of free speech. Corporations aren’t the government, and he hasn’t been thrown into jail or anything close to it for his comments. So there’s really no issue here.
Even then, you don’t have free range to pop off at the mouth about anything. When I was learning about the Constitution at age 13, my teacher made it very clear that yelling things in a crowded space like “fire” when there is no fire doesn’t fall under free speech. Free speech is not limitless—you can’t egg on suicides, incite riots, threaten to kill people, or distribute child pornography. You also cannot defame another person, which Kanye is gonna learn about really, really soon. It was easy for me to understand this when puberty was kicking my ass, why do grown-ass people have a hard time wrapping their heads around this?
Interestingly enough, there is a coalition actively working to destroy free speech—right-wingers and their dear fascist-in-chief Donald Trump. They've threatened to open up libel laws against journalists, banned abortion (which some say should be protected under the First Amendment), have an authoritarian view of school curriculum. These conservatives consistently try to pass bills that respect the institution of Christianity and denigrate others, and are proponents of police brutality, even when citizens are peacefully assembling, as we saw during the summer of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests.
Fact of the matter is, in America, you can—or at least have the legal right to—say mostly anything without being thrown into prison. That’s what the most important parts of the First Amendment are for. You don’t, however, have a right to state anything with no consequences.