Some People Seem to Not Understand the Word ‘Free’

The word ‘free’, like so many words in the English language these days, seems to be widely misused and misunderstood. One can see it in commercials and politics. It is bad enough in advertisements, but in politics it can get down right depressing and/or infuriating.

In many ads, there are all sorts of claims about getting things for free. If you buy this and that, you get another thing for free! Um, no. If I have to give you money to get the thing, then no, it is not free. Not even you are selling me a “$200 value” for $19.95 plus $7.99 processing and handling. No, seriously, it is not free. So stop lying to me already. (Thank God for DVRs. I get to skip most of that these days.)

The other day, I think it was back during the DNC but could be wrong, I heard a man say on TV that we have a free market regulated by the federal government. Um, no. The market we have is nowhere near a free market. What this man said is sort of like saying “Here is a free man who must obey the rules of the plantation.” Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but it gets the point across. The market is not both free and heavily regulated by the federal government. And yes, it is heavily regulated. Despite what you may have heard, the number of regulations and regulators went up under Bush the Younger. And certainly the situation has not improved under Obama’s administration.

And no, before you start, I am not saying there should be no laws that apply to businesses and corporations. There is a difference between laws protecting people’s rights from abuse by other people and businesses, and laws and regulations that hobble the market. “But you compared it to slavery!” Yes, I know. It is the most obvious and direct comparison. Is the market literally enslaved? No. Is it free? No. Saying it is free is like saying, “You are free to do anything you like so long as you obey all the rules and never leave the plantation.” That would not really be free, and neither is the market. “But you compared it to slavery! Again!” Yep.

Free speech is another issue where some people lately seem to be not grasping the true concept. Some schmuck made some reportedly (I have seen none of it) bad film that ridicules Islam’s founder, the prophet Mohammed. This film has been used as an excuse for violence in the Middle East. Never mind that apparently almost no one but some people in the Middle East seems to have even heard of this film before the recent violence. (How did they hear about it anyway?) Never mind the drone strikes that have killed people in Yemen and elsewhere. The riots are supposedly all because of this stupid film.

(If you believe that, I would like to get you in on the ground floor of a secret project to tear down the Brooklyn Bridge and replace it with a more modern, more iconic architectural bridge. The thing is, the economic situation being what it is, they need to raise money for this project. You send me just $100,000, in cash, and you will make millions when when they start selling the bricks of the old bridge as souvenirs. If not for me, do it for the children.)

Anyway, so how are some people responding to the film? Like this:

So why did I tweet that Bacile [the probably false name of the filmmaker] should be in jail? The “free speech” in Bacile’s film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. Even the film’s actors say they were duped.

Bacile’s movie is not the first to denigrate a religious figure, nor will it be the last. The Last Temptation of Christ was protested vigorously. The difference is that Bacile indirectly and inadvertently inflamed people half a world away, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel.

Got that? Apparently ridiculing someone else’s religion and expressing a personal opinion about that religion are mutually exclusive. How can this be? Because the film “indirectly and inadvertently” angered people on the other side of the globe to the point of murderous violence. Wait… what? No, that does not make any sense at all. This reasoning is nonsense, but it is all the reasoning the author of that quote gives for advocating putting the maker of the film in jail. See, by making the film the filmmaker put American lives at risk, and so therefore he deserves to be in jail. Oddly the “movie does not excuse the rioting in Libya and Egypt, or the murder of Americans,” but it “indirectly and inadvertently inflamed people half a world away, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Embassy personnel.” Apparently the violence both is and is not the fault of the filmmaker. That kind of mental contortionism is almost nauseating.

To those who think the film should be censored and/or the filmmaker jailed, I have to say that is not how free speech works. The trick to free speech is that people are free to express things you do not like. When we start saying people are free to speak except for the things we do not want them to say, we have ignored the meaning of the free part. And do not get me started on the fraudulently shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater bit. I already have practically a whole other post on that.

When people start off by telling me how much they support the First Amendment, I know that pretty soon they are about to start talking about some reason or other why they think someone else’s freedom of speech needs to be abridged. When people start talking to me about how the free market does this or did that, I know they do not understand what a free market is. When people start talking to me about how they are going to give me something for free, I know they intend to have my money. (And that includes politicians.)







2 Responses to “Some People Seem to Not Understand the Word ‘Free’”

  1. I wish there was a standing and applauding emoticon. Free to agree with me is not the same as free. Just like disagreeing is not hate. And having beliefs is not intolerance. And many other things I won’t mention or else the soapbox I feel myself stepping onto will make me ramble……

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