There's a loose rule in comedy that says you shouldn't "punch down." The simplest explanation of this rule is that it's less funny to mock someone who's beneath you than it is to mock someone above you -- mocking a powerful, wealthy politician is going to get more laughs than mocking a child who was just diagnosed with leukemia (unless you're going for shock humor, in which case the joke is actually how horrible you, the comedian, are). I bring this up because I only ever hear the "free speech" argument trotted out when someone wants to defend punching down. Which leads to the last point ...
"It's Not About What We're Saying -- All Speech Must Be Defended. Either Everything Is OK, Or Nothing Is"
I'm kinda cheating here, because "either everything is OK, or nothing is" is a paraphrase from an old episode of South Park where they argue that they should be allowed to make fun of Mohammed or, ya know, "the terrorists win." Except terrorism kills eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims, so Trey Parker and Matt Stone were really just defending their right to say things that were going to piss off, hurt, and kill other people, far away, that they were never going to have to see or deal with or care about. And they were making themselves seem like heroes for being so brave. Here's that clip.
"Why don't you stick to just doing straight comedy!" I shouted with absolutely no self-awareness.
Anyone with even the slightest understanding of the real world would never argue that all speech and expression is OK. We all agree to dress a certain way and use a certain kind of language in the workplace, because each work environment demands a certain kind of behavior, whether it's a kitchen full of slurs and threats or an office full of passive-aggressive coffee slurping. We all agree that Hey Arnold! should never do an episode where Arnold gets spun or Gerald catches the clap, because that's a kids' show. We all agree not to have sex in public because ... OK, I can't actually remember why we don't have sex in public. Someone please leave a comment reminding me why we're not supposed to have sex in public, because I seriously do not remember right now.
What if we curl up in the bushes? Is that fine?
The point is, we limit what we say or wear or how we express ourselves all the time, every day, for thousands of reasons. And now we're moving toward removing the Confederate Flag, among other things, from polite company. If you don't like that, you're not a defender of free speech, you're just racist. You only think this is a free speech issue because you haven't the faintest clue what that would actually look like. You're just racist.
And that's fine! I can't stress this enough: As someone who puts things on the Internet with his real name attached for a living, I love free speech a whole whole bunch. So I will never fight to make it illegal for you to be racist, and say your racist stuff, and have your adorable little racist blog where you racist it up all day. I'd just rather you didn't pretend you cared about free speech while you did it. Because you don't care about free speech or any human rights at all.
You're just racist.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook, racisting it up all day.
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