It does. It sez it righ’ cheer:
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….
—Amendement I of the U.S. Constitution, ratified 15 December 1791
And I have the good fortune of living in a community that has (since 2006) a monument dedicated to that very idea and (since 1819) a university founded on quite similar ideas:
“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
—Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820
I plan to run past geographical spots marking both these ideas this morning for my 4 July 2010 run: The TJ Center’s “Community Chalkboard” and the University of Virginia (where I have the privilege of working). Although I’ll celebrate other things during my run and later today (including the other clauses of the first amendment to the US Constitution, which are in the words surrounding those I’ve excerpted in the first extraction here), I’ll be especially grateful for this one. In an era when powerful financial forces have nearly free reign to amplify their political opinions, at least I still have the authority to speak my own.
Of course, I mostly speak my views in this nearly chaotic medium we call the Internet where people turn to learn lots of things, including misinformation. That’s the importance of the second excerpt. We, the people, just need to “follow truth,” that is, learn to winnow sense from nonsense. Free speech means that people are free to say things that simply are not true. And, I fear, we too often do not recognize that we are saying things that are not true (see my earlier post about Thomas Kida’s marvelous book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think), ’cause there’s a lot of nonsense on the Internet.