Two Ways to Go Wrong About Free Speech

When it comes to free speech, we’re losing our minds in multiple directions at once. On the one hand, some, mostly on the left, are crusading against unwelcome or unpleasant speech with tactics ranging from mob criticism to thuggish violence to actual state censorship. Others, mostly on the right, have reacted by dismissing civility and mutual respect as mere political correctness. It’s past time to regain the self-restraint–in our own speech and in our reactions to others–that makes free speech livable.

The urge to censor is natural. People (other people, of course) say awful, hurtful things. It is easy to see how the world would be better if that guy over there could just be shut up, and the excitement of joining together in righteous indignation to make him shut up is only an added inducement. So lives are ruined over ill-considered social media posts, controversial campus speakers are threatened and shouted down, and violent mobs assault their neighbors for the crime of attending a Donald Trump rally.

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