I wish I had a dime for every person on every blog that jumps up and down shouting Freedom of Speech no matter how inappropriate the comment and screams how many people served and died for to preserve it (as they burn and defecate on my flag).
While I do agree that many of my fellow service people over the years fought to defend freedom in general, I can’t imagine Lieutenant Jones strapping himself into the pilot seat of a Huey telling his ground crewman “If I don’t make it back, tell my wife that I did it for Freedom of Speech”.
Freedom of speech is constantly held up as the sacrosanct standard when it comes to ranting and raving from bloggers and Occupy whatever people. But what does freedom of speech really mean? Are there guidelines that apply? Does calling out someone who violates community norms exceed the statutes?
Here in the United States, we use the First Amendment as our guide. But read the words carefully:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Those first four words are both important and misunderstood. It rightfully points out that Congress, acting as its authority as the people’s representative in this established Republic shall make no laws. That does not preclude private organizations from setting up reasonable guidelines within their structures to maintain good order and discipline. If that were not true, you would have to close down as illegal every organization in the United States as having violated Freedom of Speech. I can’t just walk into a Moose Lodge for instance and start shouting about unfair parking fees during a stated meeting if I am not a member of their group.
The problem with the blogosphere is that it is so new, laws and rulings of the Supreme Court that defend organizations against continued harassment and exposure to destructive and subversive posers has just not caught up yet. People can sit in a small room virtually anywhere and lob “junk grenades” into any open forum. Sadly, if they are accepted as members in closed forums, they can do so as well.
The only way to correct the situation is for a moderator to have established rules of conduct, pathways to reconciliation, remediation as needed and a clear set of guidelines which will prevent that “member” from continuing the activities which are deemed offensive in clear wording.
Language guidelines are acceptable in a group setting. Words that are inflammatory against an individual or a group are well accepted by judicial standards as being justification for expulsion. Threats and coercive statements against the group standards have a well established background of being acceptable for removal of an offending party.
It comes down to the will of the group. If some members are still under a personal set of guidelines that they have adopted concerning freedom of speech, they must judge their own conscience as to the length and extent of that freedom. But strictly from a legal standpoint, the only real “right” a bomb thrower has under the Constitution* is to petition Congress if Congress makes a law limiting their speech (no matter how disgusting and inflammatory)
(* as amended and applied in statues dictated by the Supreme Court)
Just as some may feel he has a right to dissent, we have the right to offer him other places to voice it if he fails to meet the norms of the group whether its language or content violations. I have the freedom of speech to hold that opinion! And I am pretty sure I served for the years I did to preserve that right too!