Comedian Rowan Atkinson on free speech

This should give you an idea of how screwed up the United Kingdom is when it comes to free speech.


I know, but this looks like the direction a lot of people want to take the world in

They see free speech as something sacred and good, therefore speech that isn’t good to them must not be free speech and therefore can be limited

But free speech isn’t beauty, it’s compromise

Compromise that is necessary for a functioning society

1 Like

More broadly, it’s the same reason why I generally root for the “bad guys” in feudal stories. The general premise of most of those stories is that any given strategy is considered a “brilliant tactic” when used by the “good guys” and a “vile scheme” when used by the “bad guys”, even if it’s functionally the same. Marxists call it “violence of the oppressors” and “violence of the oppressed”. I obviously hate Marxism, too.

Unfortunately there are a few select situations where it’s necessary to restrict free speech, when there are immediate and measurable threats to individuals or society

-a terrorist group making calls for deadly attacks
-people spreading medical misinformation that could kill people (i.e. drinking bleach to cure gastrite)
-people defamating someone to the point of ruining their life

Given that, it’s pretty easy for political group to warp those definitions of harm and threat to suppress any type of speech their ideology might deem dangerous

That’s why ANY free speech restriction needs to be carefully pondered and not just spewn out amidst moral panic

Well, there’s a difference between saying someone should die vs. a specific order to kill someone. As for medical misinformation, I once agreed with you, but given how many countries tried to censor information about the side effects of a certain experimental vaccine of a certain disease (to say nothing of the manmade origins of said disease), I say that many “conspiracy theories” are borderline prophetic.

I’m just saying that in extreme cases suppressing freedom of speech might be necessary, but it should be limited to those extreme cases

Instead, countries abuse their power and try to suppress legitimate speech that might even be abhorrent to people, but doesn’t cause any direct harm and therefore should be 100% allowed

1 Like

I agree when those words are direct calls to violence, but these days, hurt feelings count as “violence”. Heck, even silence apparently counts as “violence”. That way of thinking is then used to justify real violence against those who “perpetrate verbal violence”.

The general exceptions to free speech for an absolutist are:

Incitement to riot

Basically, anything with actual or imminent harm. Real harm, not someone’s feelings.


Thing is, what constitutes threatening speech? If one advocates that treating minorities like garbage and having sexual relations with prepubescent children is a-ok, another could argue that such speech incites crime, is inherently dangerous, and thus ought to be silenced. What is and is not threatening speech is perhaps a matter of perspective.

It’s speech that’s still on an ideological plane, therefore it’s free speech despite being morally questionable

Arguing that murder should be legalized would also be free speech

Limitations should be for actual calls to violence like “go bomb this school” or “let’s go kill fat people” when said in a context where they pose concrete threat

There are grey areas, but politicians exploit those grey areas too much and try to suppress harmless speech like lolicon, certain types of porn, rap music, etc…

Suppressing any potential or imaginary harm or threat is how dictatorships operate


Again, there’s a difference between “let’s go kill fat people” and “fat people should die”. The latter can be from natural causes (and let’s be honest; it probably will be).

It’s interesting that Obama was cited in that address.

Good take!

That incitement clause is the only incitement clause, by the way.

The text of the decision in United States v. Stevens (2010) explains a number of things.

This text from the decision conflicts with how obscenity is handled.

Depictions of entirely lawful conduct may run afoul of the ban if those depictions later find their way into States where the same conduct is unlawful.