The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion To be very clear, free speech is when you give me money

Elon Musk in Washington in March 2020. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

“This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

— Elon Musk, on Twitter, the social media site he owns

Free speech is dying!

If you don’t pay me money for my product, that means that this great country is wrecked! Wrecked on the shoals of oppression and political correctness!

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Free speech is when you pay me money for goods or services. That’s free speech. When you do not give me money, that is censorship. Every second that you spend not paying me money for my services is another arrow stuck into the craw of liberty. Ah, liberty bleeds, and I weep for her! Please give me thousands of dollars; it is the only thing that can save her. Even if you must give them to me in small increments of $8 at a time, that is better than nothing. I believe that if you give me enough money (speech), we can still rescue this godforsaken country!

You might have thought that free speech was when a corporation gave a lot of money to a politician. This is a very, very important form of free speech, and it is getting freer all the time! But that is certainly not the only kind of speech you can make. Just as important is when you take your small-dollar amounts and press them into the hands of a billionaire, or when an advertiser does the same thing with a larger dollar amount.

No, I am not taking advantage of you. I am offering to give you a voice. It is very sad that you are letting liberty die because you are refusing to give me your wallet. I can’t believe you hate free speech so much!

Oh, okay, I see where there may be some slight confusion: There is the word “free,” right there, at the start of “free speech.” It almost sounds as though you didn’t need to pay for it! But this is a common misunderstanding. This is free as in “buy one, get one,” the kind of free that is only free if you have made a purchase first.

Why I remember when our Founders, our brave Founders, fought so strongly and so bravely for free speech. Benjamin Franklin stood there begging and beseeching the business owners of his day to put their advertisements in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. Everyone knew then as they know today that the only true free speech is when you pay somebody money to run advertisements for your business. The Bill of Rights is absolutely clear about this. Why do you think it is called a bill if not because rights require somebody to pay money to somebody else?!

And the people who do not have money? What of them? As though they had anything to say!