​Kevin's Culture Corner:  

Music, Politics and American Culture

Free Speech is Not Free! 
By Kevin Comtois

I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. I always here people saying: “We have free speech in this country!” That may be a generally true statement, based on the natural rights we have in the 1st Amendment of the US constitution which states: “Congress shall not abridge… the freedom of speech,” but in reality free speech can be a very costly action. The important point here is that the government that cannot punish you for what you say, but anyone else can.

Just because you have the right to say anything you want, that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for what you say. You can stand out in the public square and yell “Donald Trump is a Russian.” You have every right to say that (regardless of what is true or not), but others have the same right to call you an idiot and hold signs around you and yell “Donald Trump will Make America Great Again.” Others could speak louder than you so your voice is drowned out. You may have a right to speak – but you don’t have a right to be heard!

If you own a business, you can put a political sign in your window, but that also means that other people can decide not to shop at your business. You may attract attention to your business because of your speech, but that attention may be negative attention not positive attention. The expression of opinions by a business owner can lead to the loss of revenue and even the loss of your business. For a business owner, free speech is not free, but expensive. Just the other day, a baker put a slogan on one of his cookies: “Build that Wall.” Someone opposed to building that wall took a picture of that cookie and put on social media. The picture went viral and now far left liberals and open border Democrats are trying to boycott his bakery. According to the baker he was only making a joke and doesn’t support the wall. He learned an expensive lesson that free speech is not free.

If you are a musician and you speak you mind at a performance, some in the audience may not agree with your speech and your popularity could be harmed. A great example of this is the Dixie Chicks. During the Iraq War, the Dixie Chicks criticized President George Bush by saying that they were “embarrassed we’re from Texas” (Bush is from Texas).  In the following days, their concert ticket sales slumped and their CD sales also decreased. They learned that free speech can be expensive.

You have every right to call someone a racist, a jerk, a fool, or even an idiot, but don’t expect that person like you or even speak to you. In fact, if you want people to listen to your ideas, you have to consider what you want them to hear. Try calling them a name may not be the best way to get their attention.