Scottish man arrested for “breach of peace.” What about free speech?

by Phil Schneider

When the police can arrest anyone they see as “breaching the peace,” because they have insulted somebody, then we are now in a very precarious situation. It is absolutely critical that any person who would like to express themselves with whatever crazy ideas they have be able to. Yes, there must be limits. But how and what should the limits on free speech be?

Free Speech with Just a Few Limits

This may seem obvious and unnecessary to explain but here goes. Free speech is one of the most precious aspects of a free society. Lack of free speech has historically been one of the most prevalent concepts of totalitarian non-free societies. The ability to scream, “The emperor has no clothes,” is a precious right that we should never take for granted. It is one of the most basic blessings of American and Western society in general.

Today, the trend is going in the reverse direction as hypersensitivity and feelings policing are the norm. Lest a person insult someone of a different faith – especially Muslims – they may find the police at their front door. The above video is one absurd example of this. The exact reverse should be the norm. The police should be the ones that protect the demonstrators – even if the demonstrators are a small fringe that represent only themselves.

Free speech should be encouraged and protected – as long as it does not include a clear call for violence or a clear violation of the privacy of property. It’s really that simple. If it includes a call to insult, demean, and ridicule somebody, then that is fair game. If it harms somebody, then the harmed person should of course be able to sue for damages. But the free speech should be allowed to reign. For example, it is a good thing that masses were able to demonstrate and walk on Washington during the Civil Rights movement or during the Vietnam War. It was similarly a good thing that there were counter demonstrators. The job of the police is to insure the freedom of expression and keep the 2 sides from not allowing the other sides to express their views.

We are going in the wrong direction on free speech. Let the debates and freedom of expression dominate our lives.

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