You have the right to remain silent; if you give up that right you will be silenced.

If you think that’s a line from a cop show read it again.  Chilling, isn’t it?  Yet that’s exactly what opponents of free speech are saying.  The right of free speech isn’t unlimited.  You can’t yell fire in a theater if there isn’t one and you can’t threaten someone without expecting a visit from the police.  You can’t expect your employer to smile if you badmouth the company or reveal trade secrets.  Beyond that you have the right to your opinion.  You also have the right to pepper your remarks with expletives but you won’t impress anyone.

Free speech is under attack by the unofficial law (or is it a religion?) of political correctness, or “PC”.  Any opinion that isn’t PC is promptly censored.  PC obscures communication and delays problem resolution.  It’s phony and everyone knows it.  You have to watch every word you say and apologize profusely with every slip.  It avoids holding people responsible for their actions.  It not only assumes that everyone is the same, but that their motives are the same.  How can you solve a problem that you can’t even accurately describe without offending someone?

A rational alternative is “civility”.  If you have an opinion, state it but keep it clean.  Civility improves communication and helps problem resolution.  Civility doesn’t mean that people can’t disagree, even heatedly.  It means that they state the issue clearly, stick to the issue, hold people responsible for their actions, and don’t indulge in false accusations, ethnic or racial slurs, threats, bullying, or random curses.

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