All ideas are not created equally

I’m lucky to live in a country where people have the freedom of speech. Certainly, if I lived in other parts of the world, I could be in serious trouble regarding some of the things I write about on this blog. But I live in a free society where people can believe whatever they want, think whatever they want, and express those ideas. This has a lot of advantages, to be certain. Allowing people the freedom to express their beliefs and ideas freely leads to some truly wonderful innovations and movements. But lately I’ve noticed a new trend.

People seem to be equating the ability to say whatever you want with the idea that every opinion or idea has equal merit. This extends to a lot of things in our society: religion, politics, philosophy–you name it. I don’t know how or when this began, but this seems to be the prevailing attitude in our society now. That somehow freedom of speech ensures that your voice must be taken seriously.

It doesn’t.

The US constitution may grant you the right to believe whatever you want and say whatever you want, but that’s just a guarantee that people will hear you–NOT that people will listen to you. Feel free to say or believe whatever you want–but if it’s stupid, don’t expect me to take it seriously. I don’t have to. There’s no legal mandate that says I have to take your ideas seriously or even consider them at all.

This country guarantees you a right to your opinion–but it also guarantees me a right to my opinion, and if my opinion is that your opinion is stupid, that’s perfectly acceptable. Of course the reverse of that is also true, and people are welcome to find my opinions stupid. I accept that that comes with living in a free society. That’s the price that comes with any free society–you get good ideas and you get bad ideas. But we don’t have to take the bad ones seriously.




7 thoughts on “All ideas are not created equally

  1. Well said.
    More in response to the picture at the bottom, though, I do find it a little sad when people block and ignore legitimate criticism. Not from a rights perspective, but just from the perspective that this person is implying that criticism won’t be tolerated. I understand blocking someone who just posts “kill yourself” on everything you make, but someone just disagreeing with you? Seems a bit odd to me. Then again, I like having my mind changed, and I love reading other people’s opinions, and I know not everyone is like that.

    1. I guess I included the picture less to represent censorship and more along the lines of our abilities to regulate what we do and do not accept. To be clear, I am thoroughly against censorship, even when it comes to “bad” ideas.

      Perhaps I should use a different picture.

      1. Ahh, didn’t know. I also kind of figured you were against censorship, since it’s pretty easy to spot someone’s position on it. The only thing in that picture that really made it sound like censorship was ‘mute’, though. I’m a pretty big gamer, and the block/ignore things are pretty common as a tool to let you not hear someone if they’re threatening you or just being annoying. Kinda sad that one word can change how someone sees a picture, though.

      2. Fair enough. As someone with a degree in English I should have given more careful thought to the diction I used…

        Picture changed. I think this one more accurately represents the idea I’m going for.

  2. Wrote on this myself as well – good topic and nicely analysed.
    The tricky part of freedom of speech is that often volume often trumps accuracy; scream something loudly enough, with enough financial backing and it will be believed through sheer osmosis, even if there are zero facts to support it.

    Theoretically free speech means that debate will weed out these incorrect ideas through free criticism, but the fact is that some ideas are profitable even if they are incorrect – this puts them at a massive advantage to the critics, who’s ideas aren’t profitable, even though they’re right.

    Climate change is the classic case in point – there are massive industries invested in it not being real, so climate denial is profitable, even though it’s factually incorrect. Conversely, serious action to curb carbon emissions is extremely expensive, so you can’t make comparible money by promoting it. As such, climate denial is STILL being debated seriously even though the science is overwhelmingly against it.

    Personally I think freedom of speech must be match equally with accountability of speech. Should an opinion be factually incorrect, I should be able to challenge it in court, and should it be proven incorrect (with burden of proof laying definitely on the challenger) then it should not be allowed to be published.

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