It was about 20 years ago, as best I can remember, when a WCMS student brought a list of results to school.
The 13-year-old was found with a note in his backpack titled “People I want to kill”. He then listed those people.
This note caused great concern, as it should, and local law enforcement was quick to act. It was our top story for several editions and it left our community a little giddy.
In all the talk about the teenager and his grade, I don’t recall anyone ever saying, “Well, that’s okay. It’s just his right to free speech.”
This is because, like everything else, freedom of expression has its limits. We can have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean we can say absolutely anything without consequences.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has prompted a number of people to argue that it’s a good thing because now, they think, he won’t be monitoring the platform and people will be able to say ANYTHING!
That’s a very bad idea.
If we look at America as a whole, we may be the land of the free, but we have laws. Having freedom does not mean we can do whatever we want.
I may have the freedom to drive down your street, but if I drive down your street 50 times a day and drive very slowly past your house, that’s harassment.
I might be able to point my gun at a range target and shoot all day, but if I point it at your head in a threatening manner, it becomes a serious assault.
We cannot confuse freedom with anarchy. There is a big difference between the two.
In this great country of America, I appreciate the freedom to worship as I wish. I have the freedom to choose the career I want, the woman I marry, the places I want to vacation, and the books I want to read. I guess I can always choose which books I want to read, although I find it ironic that the same people who want to ban certain books from our libraries are the same people who love the idea of absolute, unchecked freedom of speech on social networks.
Even with all the freedoms we enjoy and love, there are still laws that we must all follow every day of our lives. Having freedom does not mean that we live in a lawless society.
In the same way, it is necessary to put in place some type of filter to filter out messages on social networks that may go beyond what is accepted as freedom of expression.
Going on Twitter and saying you’re mad at someone, or even saying you hate someone, is one thing. Going on Twitter and saying you’re going to open fire on customers inside a grocery store on Thursday will result in a visit from officers.
There are rules for everything and free speech is no different. Freedom does not mean that we live in a savage, lawless society where anyone can do anything without consequence.
Removing all barriers on social media is not embracing free speech. It’s embracing a head-on collision with disaster.
Standard Editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.