1) A guarantee that in any particular interaction between individuals, people will like you, respect your opinion or even listen to you.
Citizen A: We shouldn’t be arguing about gender equality and pay when women don’t belong in the workforce in the first place. Working women are ruining families everywhere.
Citizen B: Citizen A, you are an idiot and I do not deem your supposition as worthy of a response.
Citizen C: I agree with Citizen B.
Citizen D: What the fuck, Citizen A? I want no piece of this protosexist fundamentalist nightmare. Take that shit elsewhere.
Citizen A: I have the right to express my opinion without all you fascists ganging up on me and trying to shut me up. Freedom of speech, bitches.
Clarifying the fallacy: Actually, Citizens B-D have the right to call Citizen A names, as well as contradict and devalue Citizen A’s stupid opinion for the exact same reason that Citizen A is free to express a stupid opinion. Both the stupid opinion and the entirely appropriate return volley of criticism are protected by the first amendment.
2) A safeguard to ensure that you will be carried by a major media outlet or published by a commercial publishing house, contrary to their best business interests.
Citizen E: It’s funny how quickly the libs forget all about the first amendment when they decide it’s time to take Rush Limbaugh off the air.
Clarifying the fallacy: Firstly, boycotters’ voices are protected for the same reason that radio personalities’ voices are protected. The protections apply to everyone. If the boycotters are more persuasive than the radio personality in an argument to media executives, then so be it. When a very useful mass media resource becomes unavailable to a person because the media or the person terminates the relationship, this is not censorship. If legislation went on to the books saying that Rush Limbaugh could not express his opinions, or if he were arrested or executed for calling Sandra Fluke a slut, this would be a breach of the first amendment.
3) An assurance that you will not be rejected and banned from communities and private gatherings that find you verbally hostile, unpleasant or that simply don’t want to hear what you have to say.
Citizen F: I was banned from the NAACP boards after only like 1 hour and 20 posts where I was explaining that affirmative action is like reverse slavery and that they were all slave owners. I guess freedom of speech is not one of the human rights they espouse. : – /
Clarifying the fallacy: Speech-based communities, like most communities, have the legal right to revoke the membership of people who behave poorly. Such practices are preferred by the majority of people who frequent these communities. They have some expectations of being treated with respect in their chosen environments.
4) An edict that states that an employer, school or club cannot form or enforce policies on speech that happens within its own environment and boundaries.
Citizen G: You’re a stupid bitch!
The boss: You’re fired.
Citizen G (to the lawyer he or she hopes to hire): That stupid bitch violated my right to free speech.
Clarifying the fallacy: The lawyer will not be taking Citizen G’s case because employee discipline is not legal censorship. Citizen G’s right to curse about his or her boss is protected, but will not receive safeguards from anything except arrest or government assassination. Firing Citizen G did not nullify his or her ability to call his or her boss a stupid bitch.
5) An exemption to adjacent criminal and civil penalties when speech is the primary method of committing infractions.
Potential examples: Fraud, threats of violence, solicitation, medical malpractice through misinformation or lack of information, child pornography, defamation that meets the legal burden, incitement to riot, perjury, false report, impersonating a police officer, etc.
Clarifying the fallacy: Similarly to the second amendment, you have a right to do something, but you may not legally use this right as an instrument in the commission of a crime.
6) Legislation which prevents any kind of speech short of a direct admission of criminal activity from being interpreted as probable cause for a criminal investigation.
Citizen H: The gummint started watching me cause I made that speech whur I done tole everyone that the race war was a comin and they outta be prepared real good. Ain’t no freedom of speech in this country.
Clarifying the fallacy: While not an admission of intent to commit a violent crime, such a statement, when combined with other factors, may well be enough to warrant probable cause for an extensive investigation. Arrest for the comments alone would be unconstitutional, but there are plenty of things that you can say to cause legitimate legal suspicion of illegal activity without direct admission. If Citizen H does not believe that they can meet the burden of probable cause, then he or she has the option to bring up charges of police harassment. There are legal protections there outside of the first amendment. However if Citizen H’s speech fits into a larger framework of probable cause, he or she is not protected from the investigation.
7) Sadly, a protection of anyone outside of the United States or, in many cases, active members of the armed forces, who are subject to the military’s judicial process.
Citizen I: When Khomeni issued that fatwa against Salman Rushdie, he impreded his right to free speech.
Clarifying the fallacy: This would be true, except places like Iran and India don’t really have the right to free speech. Rushdie’s persecution in either of these places is not germane to the constitution of the United States of America.
8) The encouragement of thoughtless, reckless words unencumbered by compassion, relevance or accuracy.
Clarifying the fallacy: Free speech is not some moral or divine imperative to go ahead and be the biggest piece of shit you can find in yourself with little or no value to anyone. That’s your own prerogative if you do that, not an urging of the constitution. The first amendment was written with important speech in mind; courageous dissent and truth to power. It’s an assurance that might shall not make right; a hope which is in constant jeopardy already without the added burden of the confusion of the issue.
9) A noble principle which counterbalances and nullifies the evils of bigotry, racism, sexism and other social maladies.
In response to the recent Chick-fil-A homophobia controversy and subsequent boycott:
Citizen J: “Just because the guy owns a restaurant doesn’t mean he has given up his right to free speech.”
Clarifying the fallacy: When no one is arresting or assassinating the speaker, no rights are being denied, so let’s go ahead and call it what it is. This could more accurately be stated as “Just because the guy owns a restaurant doesn’t mean he can’t proudly support the oppression of the GLBTQ community, both through donations to homophobic organizations and public statements, without GLBTQ and allies everywhere declaring him an enemy of the community.”
Actually, this is an entirely logical progression. If one exposes oneself as the oppressor of a people, oppressed people and allies everywhere will come for justice, and it is completely deserved. Anyone who chooses that path and could abandon it at any time, should he or she find that agreeable.
10) An imperative to shut up and get over it when someone’s words piss you off. Air it out.