That which is free has no value, sorry free speech: Dumb has a reading comprehension problem.
It also has a basic human decency problem. Definition is dependent on geographical coordinates, values, and curiosity. Education doesn’t make you smart if you stop asking questions the minute you leave college. Those who ask them for a living are a deviation from the norm, an oddity compounded into a livelihood whose existence our society tolerates but dislikes.
In the age of the trumped-up intellectual and self-styled messiahs like Alexander Emric Jones who passed off grift as a synonym for honesty in a heated interview and unwittingly exposed a popular online business model, bona fide thinkers and thought-leaders are aberrations.
It’s open season on critical thinking.
You can irritate them into engaging, and you can even irritate them into revealing too much but it takes… thinking.
And if you aren’t getting paid for thinking then why even bother when you know you can simply add trash to the trash fire and make bank?
That’s when you know whether writing is vocation. For most people publishing content on the internet, it isn’t. It’s validation as a name on a screen, it’s an income stream, it’s a livelihood at best. Would you still write without a byline? Would you still write if you had to put your mind through the paces every day instead of churning out listicles, sob stories, and ad hominem attacks whenever anyone dares question your words?
OMG, someone was mean to you on the internet?
What if they paid attention to you when they shouldn’t have because you baited them for money? And you got to them because they take words seriously and you come from the Alexander Emric Jones school of writing.
Why not assume the problem is you?
There’s never going to be an editorial code of conduct for platforms or a style guide so we’re free to make our own.
You’re either a good digital neighbor or you’re that person with the overflowing trash cans out front and junk in the yard who yells at everyone, real or imaginary.
We all have our demons. And we’re apoplectic, exhausted, or both, ready to check out, tune out, and batten down the hatches of creativity so the stultifying zeitgeist doesn’t consume us. Cavort among digital detritus, surrender agency and resources and then weep about what happens to free speech but for the love of Merriam-Webster, leave the rest of us the fuck out of your greatness.
Survival instinct in action is myopic to a fault: Free speech isn’t yours to appropriate, it belongs to everyone. It isn’t just the bloody cat who wakes you up with liver-scented screeches and yowls at 3am, it’s your kid’s favorite companion, it’s your elderly neighbor’s daily ray of sunshine, it’s your partner’s source of writing inspiration and instant therapy so maybe don’t poison the cat, no matter how insufferable it gets?
1 — It clawed the sofa because it hasn’t got a scratching post.
2 — It peed on your pillow because you closed the door and it couldn’t access the litter box.
3 — It bit you because no means no.
You can wage war on nature’s most advanced killing machine or you can learn the three rules of cohabitation and find a way to accommodate your furry child’s odd feeding habits and you might even get lap time as a reward.
You can wage war on civilization’s most advanced form of communication or you can find a way to engage with different views and you might even get to keep free speech as a reward.
Stop yelling, listen: The conversation is always more interesting when everyone has a voice and gets to speak.
Sometimes, it’s a purr that sounds like hope.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.