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On Free Speech


I love XKCD as much as every other right-thinking guy who likes science and math and the internets, and this strip about free speech says something that I think is important: Namely, it’s inappropriate to frame all restrictions of expression as infringement on the right to free speech.

However, in a series of tweets, mcc makes a critically important point, that the narrow implication of the XKCD strip is that only government can act to restrict the right to free expression, which is clearly not true:

We live in a world with many systems of control. The government is one system of control. It isn't fundamentally different from the others. — mcc (@mcclure111) April 18, 2014

We — and XKCD — may sneer at CEOs and TV stars who defend themselves from criticism by invoking “free speech:” It’s hard to sympathize with the rich and powerful who stand on a national stage and complain that they have no ability to speak their minds. While the Bill of Rights expressly protects all from restrictions imposed by the government, access to free expression is not at all universal, and, like so many things, is a function of power and resources.