(I wanted to call this “Right Doesn’t Make Right” but I already used that title for another post eight years ago. Oh, well!)
I’ve mentioned before that merely having the right to say something doesn’t mean you can’t be criticized for saying said thing. Yet so often when someone says something completely abhorrent or just stupid, and they get called on it, they come back with “Hey, free speech! I have a right to say it!”
No shit, you have a right to say it, dumbass! Nobody is saying otherwise. It’s not an attempt at censorship. It’s a reply. Replying is – gasp! – also free speech!
Seriously, a friend of mine shared a screen cap on Facebook recently of a conversation with an acquaintance, in which said acquaintance posted some racist article, and my friend asked why they’d post such an article, and the person literally came back with simply “Free speech.” My friend asked again, and the person gave no other answer.
As it often does, xkcd covered this one nicely.
This goes beyond speech, though. Sometimes those defending the right to something seem to act like any and all use of said right is okay or even heroic.
You see this with gun rights, where there’s a nasty shooting, and the problem is not that the shooter had a gun, but that everyone else didn’t. 🙄
You see it with abortion rights, too. Pretending every woman who has an abortion is a hero. Barely a word against those who abort because of the baby’s sex or (compatible with life) disability. Yes, you can support abortion rights and still say sex-selective or disability abortions are really shitty. Even in general, you can support abortion rights without necessarily even believing abortion is a good thing.
It’s an important distinction to make. Believing something to be wrong and believing something should be illegal are and should be very different things. It’s the difference between believing someone shouldn’t do something and believing said someone should be arrested/imprisoned/have their life ruined over it.
Imagine how much better the world would be if this distinction were more widely recognized!