Shouting is not Free Speech

I am coming to believe that one of the greatest violations of free speech is shouting. That is, anytime you speak loudly enough to drown out your opponent, you are violating his right of free speech. This is the case whether you are drowning your opponent out with a bull horn or an ad budget.

Free speech is our core liberty. Most of our other critical rights like freedom of the press and freedom of religion are merely particular cases of freedom of speech. Democracy itself is just a joke without a zealously guarded freedom of speech. Any erosion of this right whatsoever weakens the entire framework of democracy.

Freedom of speech is even more basic than its role as the foundation of government. We are dependent on free speech for the discovery of the truth itself. Is anything more basic?

Is there any one that doubts that freedom of speech is best served in an environment without shouting? Contrast a personal discussion where everyone remains reasonable with the screaming contests that we have all at least seen. Contrast a formal debate with bull horns screaming from opposite ends of a park. Contrast two massive ad campaigns with a series of reasoned public debates.

We all know how to control shouting. The choices in the previous paragraph make it perfectly clear that we do not lack methods. That means that we must either lack the consensus that shouting is a bad thing or the will to stop it. Further, I suspect if we had the consensus, the will would be sufficient.

Why don’t we have a consensus? This really seems like common sense. Even the shouters aren’t trying to say they have a right to shout. They are just implicitly defining their shouting as an exercise of free speech. Of course it is not, but this is a trick that works for them.

Part of the problem is that there is a large pro-shouting lobby. When people shout by buying advertising, those that sell ads are all for shouting. The front ranks of the pro-shouting forces are all media outlets. The shouters themselves hide in the background while the media outlets try to make it about freedom of the press.

It is not about freedom of the press. In fact, the argument is compelling that the press is less free when the shouters are paying the bills and creating the profits for the media outlet. When shouting is allowed, the media outlet has every economic incentive to be a propaganda arm for the shouters rather than an impartial communicator of the truth.

Democracy will continue to be hamstrung as long as shouting is allowed. Stand up for freedom of speech. Oppose shouting today.