Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. Anyone can believe in and want to protect agreeable speech. But it’s the speech that offends that needs the most protection if we really want to live in a free society. Without the ability to offend people won’t be able to share controversial ideas like abolitionism, revolution, desegregation, and anti-war platforms. And as you know, websites like our’s are constantly being kicked off of social media platforms because some people find us offensive. We exist to fight back against this sort of censorship.
That’s why it was so diseheartening, but sadly predictable, that President Trump tweeted this over the weekend:
Burning American flags is free speech. It’s offensive, and anyone who does it is probably a horrible person. But offensive speech is the only speech that needs protecting, and is why the First Amendment exists in the first place.
I voted for Trump in 2016 and will again in 2020, but the fact of the matter is that tweets like this cater to the lowest common denominator of conservatives. This is for people who believe that patriotism means worshiping a flag instead of studying American history. I worship the constitution because the principles in it will last forever, not a flag made in China that will exist for a couple decades before needing to be destroyed like anything made of cloth.
This is also why I thought the NFL National Anthem kneeling controversy was overblown. Again, Trump made it seem that the only way to show your patriotism is to stand and salute the flag during a song before a football game. Meanwhile, during the Anthem before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals I was sitting in a bar, drinking beer, and talking to my friends about whatever. Not one of us stood and put our hands over our heart. Are we not patriotic? Or is there some unwritten rule that states that you’re only required to show your patriotism if you’re in the same building that the song is being played? See how stupid this rabbit hole is?
Don’t get me wrong, I was still rooting for the players to lose, because I thought the reason for their protests were faulty and misguided. I also believe that employers should have the right to force their highly paid employees to behave in a way that maximizes profits, and the kneeling obviously hurt the NFL financially. I wanted it to stop because I believe in the free market, not because I believe the flag or the song is sacred.
Luckily most conservatives I’m seeing on Twitter get this, which gives me hope that the right truly believes in free speech. Unfortunately not all of them are this enlightened.
If I were President, the punishment for burning the U.S flag would be the renunciation of citizenship.
No jail time, no fine— simply one year to liquidate your assets and get the hell out of our country.
In exchange, we’d extend citizenship to a hardworking LEGAL immigrant.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) June 16, 2019
This is the most fascist take of the weekend. Kicking someone out of the country and taking all of their money because they burned a piece of cloth. Totally reasonable.
Candace Owens is great when she’s dismantling the hypocrisy of the left, but she’s also 29, has no worldly experience, and got to where she is because she’s good at roasting people. She doesn’t really have principles, thinks she’s always right, and would never, ever criticize Trump. She also used this argument:
1A has limitations. You can’t yell fire in a movie theatre without consequence. You cannot yell racial epithets at someone without consequence. And if I were President, you sure as hell wouldn’t burn a flag without consequence.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) June 16, 2019
The “you can’t yell fire in a movie theater” argument is repeated ad nauseam by people who have no idea that that SCOTUS decision has since been overturned. It was used by Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to ban people form handing out anti-war literature during World War 1, but it’s since been overturned by the 1969 Brandenburg vs. Ohio overruled this decision, because even the most controversial speech deserves our protection. And the only speech that the government has a right to censor is speech that specifically calls for violence (threatening to kill the President), or speech that harms someone else (burning a flag that is then used to torch someone else) or speech that harms someone else’s property (burning a flag that doesn’t belong to you.
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