In terms of free speech, we're all thumbs
Say what you will, but there’s little debate that we are living in interesting times when it comes to the matter of speaking one’s mind.
Perhaps you’ve noticed.
Whether this assault on our sensitivities and sensibilities turns out to be a blessing or a curse remains to be seen ... or heard. There’s little doubt, however, that one absolute truth has emerged: While the infinite monkey theorem might one day produce the works of Shakespeare, it only takes a single evolved ape to use their opposable twittering thumbs to stick their foot in their mouth.
Take ... oh, let’s just pick someone at randon ... the Twitterer in Chief.
POTUS celebrated National Free Speech Week by taking to social media to denegrate members of his own political party who choose to swin against the red tide.
To wit (so to speak), he unleashed the keystrokes of bile and called them “human scum.”
It being Free Speech Week and all, he was certainly within his rights to cast aspersions toward those he perceives are out to get him. Although you must admit, he has to be scraping the bottom of even his seemingly exhaustive barrel of nickname to get to the point where you’d troll out “human scum” — especially if those to who he applied it could ultimately be in a position to tell the presidential apprentice that he’s fired.
Still it’s out in the universe now, or at least the cyberverse, and — as Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Greif discoverted this week, when some off-color derisive comments from her past bubbled to the surface — no matter how long ago you post something, the SEND button is a cruel trickster armed with regret.
We are what we said, even when no one’s there. From our chairs out in the Twittersphere, no once can hear you scream. But ... they can dumpster dive for the remnants of our remarks, even after we dispose of our trash-talk.
Heck, what is written here eventually could be tracked down decades from now on a journalistic archaelogical dig by a graduate student using a microfiche reader.
The framers of the Constitution might not have the stomach, however, to accept what has become — through advanced magic and crumbling civility — of their notion that we should say what comes to the ones and zeros operating our minds.
Certainly, public figures in those days were subject to outrageous slings and arrows from the peanut gallery, albeit in the days before dial-up. Still, you’d think instead of using historical precedence as an excuse or justification for the coarseness of our human events, we’d prefer to consider ourselves evolved to the same level of sophistication as our technology..
(And yes, I realize this comes from a guy who each week tells you to get off his lawn.)
Somewhere, deep down, even the snarkiest of us knows that freedom of speech shouldn’t be a hot-take contest. The immediacy of our keypads, however, short circuits the angels of our better nature.
We can shout with our thumbs into the Twittersphere and hunt-and-peck unfiltered comebacks onto Facebook. We’re always high-strung and on red alert to ensure our comebacks are more pointed, our voices are LOUDER IN CAPITAL LETTERS, our thirst quenched by defining truths through the prism of our own terms and conditions. We not only can control our freedom of expression, but yours as well -- we can delete and block and un-friend. I disapprove of what you think, therefore I am able to make you disappear.
The loudest of the loud have trained their Pavlovian dogs. They push the right buttons and offer red meat to the masses — who then see a light go on within their cage, and believe they’ve had an original thought.
And for what purpose? A self-satisfied smirk after hitting “Enter.” A few extra Fonzie Cool Points? A cloud in one of Heaven’s better neighborhoods?
We turned back the clocks last night — you remembered to do that, right? — but there’s little chance of rebooting how we have twisted the promise held out by our first ammendment within a dispassionate virtual void.
The cyberverse marks our footprints to show we exist, but that hasn’t created within it a sense of obligation.
The sentiment behind it being better to keep your mouth shut and be considered a fool, then to open it and remove all doubt can be traced to the Bible (Proverbs 17:28) and the teachings of Confuscious. Yet, in today’s era of coarse discourse, it might provide the one true outcome to this Wild West abuse of free speech.
If a president or a judge, a celebrity or anonymous poster, wants to say something outrageous or confrontational, we should be hardwired to defend their right to say it — as long as we also store in our collective memory banks that there’s little doubt what saying it says about them.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin is busy turning back the clocks at firstname.lastname@example.org.