My friend Joelle has been writing some good commentary over at her blog about the recent outcry over Dr. Laura's use of the "N" word on her program recently. She went on a rant, but then later apologized. She also read a letter from a fan about how she's not a racist, but was trying to make a point.
Today, she quit her show. She says she quit her show because "she wants her first amendment rights back." You know, the right to say anything she wants (she still has that right) AND not be criticized for it.
In other words, she wants first amendment rights, but she wants to make sure the people who disagree with her don't have them.
I've never been able to figure out some people's pouting when they are criticized for something they have said, that "they don't have first amendment rights." The first amendment gives you the right to say what you want, no matter how stupid or thoughtless it might be. It doesn't mean that other people don't have the right to disagree with you publicly (a nice way of saying "criticize".)
In fact, I might venture a guess that part of the point of the first amendment is not just for individuals to have the right to free speech. The point of the first amendment might also be a robust conversation about competing ideas, a "marketplace of ideas" where people talk, or write, and other people get to decide: was that a compelling argument? Or just stupid?
If you censor yourself because you don't want to have to respond to people who disagree with you (and might even have good arguments), you are censoring yourself. Of course, you have the right to do that. But don't say that your first amendment rights are taken away. Just admit that you really can't defend yourself, except in the community of the like-minded.
Freedom of speech: if it's a good idea for you, then it's a good idea for other people, too.