Thought Fodder
thought fodder

Do We Really Want Consequence-Free Speech?

Thought Fodder

It has been announced numerous times in the media that people who support Donald Trump for president admire him for “telling it like it is.” In my mind, and through the contradictory and often inflammatory things Trump says, “telling it like it is” means saying whatever is on your mind, regardless of the consequences. Trump doesn’t seem to care for the consequences of what he says, angrily balking at criticism, yet he also seems to get a free pass for most of his comments. Perhaps that’s because he says so many outrageous things that it’s difficult to keep up with or counter them all.

Maybe this is what his supporters are keying into. They appreciate a person for “telling it like it is” and getting away with it. They connect to this consequence-free speech because it is something they wish to do.

Is consequence-free speech really something we want as a nation or in our daily lives?

Sure, it’d be fun to let off steam, go off half-cocked (or full-cocked if you’re supremely wound-up) and let the invective fly, exploding in the minds of all within ear-shot, without fear of repercussions. Good enough for them, the audience to your barbs. That’ll learn ’em and you can feel sure of the rightness of your comments because no one is allowed to point out the wrongness of them.

Until someone else assumes they have the right to consequence-free speech and hurls verbal bombs back at you.

Do you really want to give up your right to respond?

So, then, back to Donald Trump. What happens when he decides to turn on his supporters, whether individually or collectively? Will they still be in love with his “tell it like it is” attitude?

A sign of maturity is learning to hold one’s tongue in order to provide thoughtful, truthful, and not overly hurtful comments, particularly when angry. That’s the sort of presidential candidate I’m looking for.

In researching this post, I ran across a number of good articles related to Trump’s “tell it like it is” attitude, and consequence-free speech.

[The Washington Post] Trump ‘tells it like it is.’ That’s not necessarily a good thing for democracy.

[The Washington Post] South Carolina Republican primary exit poll results (This shows how many people supported Trump because he “tells it like it is.”

[The Blaze] Dear Trump Fan, So You Want Someone To ‘Tell It Like It Is’? Okay, Here You Go. (This article illustrates what I’m talking about in regards to what might happen if everyone assumes they have the right to consequence-free speech.)

[Yes! Magazine] Why We Shouldn’t Call Trump an “Ignorant Bully” (Even When We Really Want To) (I’m not sure I agree with this article. I agree in principle that we shouldn’t be name-calling, particularly when we’re using it as a cheap way to win an argument, but pointing out that someone is a bully when they exhibit bullying behavior or a racist when they say racist things is not a form of argument. We have these words in our language for a reason. They are meant to keep people accountable for their words and actions … they are meant to introduce consequences to free speech. You can say what you want, but others are allowed to hold you accountable for what you say, even if that means calling you a name.)

[Ebony] ‘Freedom of Speech’ Does Not Mean Freedom of Consequences


3 thoughts on “Do We Really Want Consequence-Free Speech?”

  1. The framers of the Constitution had certain things in mind when they wrote the part about “Freedom of Speech” … and recent case law has underscored that it does NOT mean freedom from consequences, freedom to abridge the rights of others, etc. It does still allow that one has the right, I suppose, to make a public nuisance of oneself.
    However, one of the questions we need to ask ourselves as a people is do we want a person with a demeanor such a Trump’s running and representing our country? Would you bring him to a family picnic? No, what if he would offended this one or that one and did not care if he was rude to you as the host! It may be too simplified an example, but this country is our extended family and if should be cared for as if our lives depended on it (because they do) …
    Now, you may not like the other side either; but, given the family picnic example, I believe she was raised to know what simple manners are and how to use them. Diplomacy before a black eye. A very good thing to know when you are the person with access to the infamous nuclear “Red Button” …
    Food for thought ….

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, AvistTheArtist. You have definitely hit the nail on the head with your example of inviting Trump to a family picnic. I like my family too much to subject them to his behavior. 🙂

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