Read Now: “Free Speech, Politics, and the Trump Controversy: An Interview with Steve Simpson”

Today The Undercurrent published an extensive interview with Steve Simpson on the meaning of free speech and the First Amendment, as well as other topics:

The Undercurrent: There’s been a lot of discussion lately about free speech on the campaign trail — when it applies, who supports it, etc. I’d like to kick us off with a basic question: what is “free speech,” and why should we care about it?

Simpson: “Free speech” is the term we use for the legal right to engage in speech protected by the Constitution, but also the individual moral right to speak freely. And the proper meaning of that right — to boil it down to its essence — is that it protects your freedom to say what you want, about anything you want, so long as you don’t use speech to violate the rights of others (which is true of any right). So, for example, you don’t have the right to commit fraud or libel, to threaten others, or to incite violence.

The core of the right — why we have it to begin with — is that we’re thinking beings who have to use our minds to guide our actions. One way we do that is by communicating with other people. We live in society, which is a huge benefit, and we therefore should and must have the right not only to think for ourselves but to express our thoughts to other people.

As long as you do that in a way that respects the rights of others, the proper understanding of the right to free speech is that you can say any damn thing you want. Now, that’s not how it’s understood today, and there’s a lot of confusion about what the right entails. We’ve seen that a lot in recent times with popular objections to “offensive” speech and calls to limit political speech, but views like these ultimately flow from an improper understanding of the right to free speech.

Read the whole interview here.

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