Saturday, 25 July 2009

Carrie Prejean and freedom of speech

See, Carrie, you are allowed to say whatever you want about whichever group of people you want, no matter how hateful or ungodly, but then other people -- get this -- are allowed to respond. That's sort of how it all works. Pretty cool, huh?

The above quote comes from Brock Keeling at SFist in response to the news this week that Carrie Prejean is writing a book about her Miss USA / Miss California experiences and about free speech issues.

Amongst all the bile directed at Miss Prejean since the announcement has been criticism, like that above, that she somehow doesn't understand how freedom of speech works. I think she understands it perfectly well and with a level of sophistication beyond those who are attacking her. For sure, nobody is stopping her from voicing her opinions on same-sex marriage or anything else, nobody is impinging on her essential constitutional right to freedom of speech. "So, what's her problem?" ask her critics?

The problem is that while Miss Prejean has the courage to stand up and say what she believes, other people may not have such courage, knowing that they're likely to be on the receiving end of hatred the likes of which she has experienced. So while everyone has a de jure freedom to say what they think, the fear of a negative response can introduce a de facto restriction on that freedom.

We are told that a majority of Americans support Miss Prejean's stance on same-sex marriage, yet relative to the criticism there appears to be very little support vocalized for her in the media or online. Judging by what's happened to her since the Miss USA pageant, it's hard to blame that majority for remaining a silent one.

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