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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 00:41, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". xkcd comics, and only Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",".%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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Free Speech
I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.
Title text: I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.

Explanation

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for freedom of speech for United States citizens, saying that "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". This concerns only government activities, as the Constitution is a legal document that defines the structure and powers of the government. However, many times, both on the Internet and off, people with unpopular (or arguably just plain stupid) opinions will complain that their freedom of speech is being restricted when others make it clear that they don't want to hear those opinions.

An example of this is the incident involving the TV program Duck Dynasty, in which television network A+E Networks suspended the host after he made homophobic remarks, causing some to comment that his rights had been infringed upon. Similarly, controversy erupted when Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla because it was revealed he had donated money to anti-gay marriage efforts in California. In actuality, the First Amendment was never meant to provide immunity from any and all consequences.

Cueball is addressing anyone who has used this argument. As the comic says, just because you're legally allowed to say something doesn't mean that everyone is legally required to listen. It also does not mean that a commercial or social entity — such as a TV network, a website, or its community — is legally required to support you in spreading your message, even if it had supported you in the past. If someone says something stupid or offensive, he or she should be ready to accept the consequences. One of the most famous examples of this is Schenck v. United States, where the expression "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater" gave rise: just because a person can say anything they want, doesn't mean that they are protected from everything, even if they are lying.

The title text points out the irony of anyone appealing to free speech as a defense for their argument or opinion. If the only thing that someone can say in support of an argument is effectively that it is not illegal, then they are severely undermining it by essentially admitting that they don't have any better defense for it.

Transcript

Cueball: Public Service Announcement: The Right to Free Speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say.
Cueball: It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it.
Cueball: The 1st amendment doesn't shield you from criticism or consequences.
Cueball: If you're yelled at, boycotted, have your show canceled, or get banned from an Internet community, your free speech rights aren't being violated.
Cueball: It's just that the people listening think you're an asshole,
[A picture of an open door is displayed.]
Cueball: And they're showing you the door.

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