Free Speech

Have you ever fired a gun? Felt the kickback in your hand as you project a tiny metal object at terrifying speeds towards a target of your (hopefully) choosing? Have you ever fired a machine gun, or a rifle, and realized that you're holding something that could create violence on a scale unimaginable to people a thousand years ago?
Nowadays, in most places, if you want to own a gun there's a lot of rules around it. You need to apply, get a license, get training. And even from there, there are rules about where you can store it, where you can carry it, and certainly where you can fire it. In most places in the world you can have a gun, but that doesn't mean that you you're free to do as you please with it. 
Speaking of guns, have you ever thought about words? 
There's a lot to think about when it comes to saying things. Which is kinda weird, right? We talk all the time. But what you say, when you say it, where you say it, all those things are so impactful to the end message. Say for instance I yelled,
"There's a fire, run for your lives!"
That would be a very impactful thing to say in the context of both of us being in a place that is on fire. Alerting you to the danger feels very much like the right thing to do. But if you yell the same thing in a movie theater, or school, or any other place with a crowd, if there is no fire you're suddenly doing way more harm than good. People panic, get hurt, get scared. All because you said something that could be fine, but at totally the wrong time. 
This, in the most basic of views possible, is the question of free speech. Should the government be able to have control over what you are and aren't allowed to say.
I think for most people, it's very easy to say "Of course! Everyone should have the right to free speech."
And I actually agree. But I think when we actually look more critically about what that means, we see that things get a lot more murky. Especially for us animal smoochers. 
If you yell that there's a fire in a crowded theater when you know there isn't, all you've done is say words, but I think most people would agree that that should probably be illegal. So clearly it's not like speech has immunity against any harm that that speech causes. But this is a very cut and dry situation. What about ones where it's not so clear?
Say someone has a belief that in one year the earth is going to explode. And so, as a kind soul, they make sure to inform everyone they can about the impending end. They stand on street corners, they make social media posts, they make as much noise as possible about it in order to help as many people as possible. Most people don't believe them. They walk right on by and probably never think about them again. But others, a few here and there, do start to believe in this aforementioned doomsday. And so they decide to sell all of their possessions, quit their jobs, and party like they've only got a few months left to live. And when the timer runs out and the world does not in fact explode, they're shocked. Even the man who started it is shocked. He's relieved, overjoyed. Happy that the end didn't come. But everyone else, they're suddenly pissed. They upended their whole lives based on the words they heard. He apologizes. Says that he really thought it was going to happen, because a "government official" of the new world order on 4chan was talking about it happening and he took them at their word. 
Is that free speech? Should he face repercussions for causing people to go through all that? 
Have your answer? Well, it doesn't matter, this isn't a test, I will not be grading your work. We are, however, going to take this another step further into the real world now. I do want to move a step forward here. I'm going to be talking about politics. I'm going to be using multiple sides as reference because it's important to understand what I'm trying to get at. I'm going to say things I don't believe. Things you might be sensitive to. If that's something that concerns you, you probably have the jist of what I'm saying, feel free to call this one a short one. If not, keep reading and let's have some fun. 
Say someone tweets "I hate trans people, and what they're doing to our kids." Should that be free speech?
Got an answer? Let's tell a quick story. 
Let's go to Kansas, where a stay at home mom has some concerns about whether or not being gay is a good thing. There was only one queer person in the town when she was growing up and they went down a dark path where they ended up doing drugs, getting into a lot of trouble, and then moving out of state to New York or LA or some other big city that supports that kind of "lifestyle."
Now that she's a mom herself, she has kids of her own and she sees some of the same traits in her daughter that she saw in the queer kid. The daughter cuts her hair short, doesn't seem to be interested in dating boys, and as she's gotten older it's been harder and harder to talk to her about these kinds of things.
One night, she's watching the news and her favorite newsperson says something about how the left are trying to transify the kids. Something clicks, and she realizes that's exactly what's happening to her daughter. So she goes on Facebook to make some posts about how she's concerned. In the replies, she gets some support, but she gets a lot of replies from people calling her a bad parent and "transphobic." That hurts her. She's not a bad parent, nor does she hate trans people, she just loves her daughter and wants the best life possible for her. So she starts replying to these people, really telling them off. And the response she gets from other parents like her is amazing. She's never gotten this many likes in her life. Some big accounts are even supporting her! She might not agree with everything they say, but it feels good to know she's not alone in her concerns. She starts reading more about all this, and over time her own opinions change.
As she changes though, so too does her daughter. She's shortened her name, made it more masculine sounding. Stopped wearing make up, started wearing a lot of baggy clothes. It seems like any time she and her daughter talk they fight. Nobody even knows who starts it, it just happens. One day, she even finds a bag full of weed in her daughter's room. They fight about it again, but this time enough is enough. Her daughter packs a bag of stuff and leaves, saying she's off to New York or LA or one of those cities where she wont be hated like she is here. She's made friends with a lot of trans people online who give her support and acceptance and they said that she could come live with them instead. She says that she wants to be the real "him." The mom is shocked, outraged. She just wants her daughter back. She cries for hours, and when she finally stops she opens up twitter and tweets,
"I hate trans people and what they did to my daughter."
Is that free speech? Should social media take that post down? Should she be condemned for her views?
Chances are, if you're reading this, you're a leftist who says, "That's a bad mom promoting hate speech." If you're in the minority of our audience and swing a little more right, you're probably saying, "Yes it's free speech. She isn't really even transphobic, she just has concerns and it's okay to voice those.
Not to say people on the right are more likely to support free speech or anything, just ask them about discussions of LGBT topics in schools or freedom to bash religion. 
I frame it this way because when it comes to being a zoo, we're on the minority side. Minority in terms of what people assume they're supposed to feel about us. A lot of the world thinks that they're supposed to say we're monsters, even if most haven't thought about it that much. On most sites, talking about being a zoo is grounds for termination. Grounds for having your "free speech" revoked. And it's easy to say, "that's bullshit, we aren't harming anyone!" But I'd hope given all the anecdotes at this point you realize that perception matters way more than actions. We want free speech when it comes to being able to show our side of the story, but also we sure do have a lot of people telling us to kill ourselves and I'd rather they didn't have their free speech any more.
Which leads us to an interesting situation. The platforms we're allowed to exist on are the ones that have their free speech dial turned way up.
There's Twitter, which is now X, and is the only social media site to allow just straight up porn on main. But it goes past that. In a recent interview with Don Lemon, Elon even went so far as to say hate speech is totally permissible so long as it's not illegal. So anything goes on Twitter, which means we're allowed to exist there.
There's Telegram, which basically allows anything and is notorious for being used by literal military services, so there's not much as far as concerns over free speech there, which absolutely makes sense as to why most zoos have a Telegram account.
There's also Discord, which allows zoos, but with a lot of asterisks around what you can and can't do. They allow zoos to exist, which is a step up from the idea of free speech allowed by other platforms, but that speech is limited by unwritten policies that don't apply to other groups. 
But outside of those places, what we can say about our sexuality is really limited. We can create Reddit accounts, or post TikTok videos, or god forbid be on Facebook if we really want to, but the second we start talking about how much we love animals, we're removed from those platforms. We aren't allowed to talk, even if we believe what we're saying isn't harmful.
Here's another interesting thing I've noticed recently. There are/have been four big zoo forums, at least in my lifetime. Beast Forum, Zooville, ZooCommunity, and more recently Zoocadia. Of those 4, three have sections that are clearly designed to just have hate speech in them. The dumpster fire. And it's not like those sections aren't popular. They're frequently frequented. It's clear that, acknowledged or not, some percentage of the community wants to have that total free speech. 
But all of that is online. You can say private corporations have the right to police their platforms however they want. And that's true. But what about in real life? If I say the words "I am a zoophile" out loud, it's not like the police immediately break down your door. In fact, I just did it right now to check and I'm still here typing this. If you went to a park and you said it out loud, depending on how crowded the park is you probably would get some weird looks, but you legally are allowed to say it in public. You're also free to say it to your friends and family, and then depending on how totally cool they are they might either high five you, hug you, or come out as well.
But what if they're not cool. What if they're the opposite of cool? They decide to scream and yell and then a few hours later you have the police at your door. You could decide to tell them "I am a zoophile" and that's not a crime. But anything you have the right to say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Say, on the other hand, you said, "I do bestiality." At that point, you're using your speech to admit to a crime (depending on where you live), and so while the act of saying it in itself isn't illegal, the action your words are talking about is, and so in a sense those words are also somewhat illegal. I mean, you're allowed to confess, probably encouraged even, but you're basically saying "I did an illegal." Saying "I do bestiality" to cops is certainly unlikely to be something that will help you prove you didn't do a crime to a judge, anyways. In the same sense that even if you haven't murdered anyone, rolling up to a cop and saying that you have is probably going to get you into a lot of trouble. 
What if you go up to your boss and say "I am a zoophile." It's likely that given the current political climate they might be unhappy about that, and think about the reputation of their business if that ever came to light, even if they themselves are actually okay with it, and so they decide the best course of action is to fire you. Which is interesting, because if you instead go up to your boss and say "I am a homosexual," if he decides he doesn't like that and fires you you can actually sue him. At the very most super powerful side of free speech is something called "protected speech." It's things that you can say in most contexts where if people disagree with you and take action against you for your words, they're the ones that are held liable. But even though zoosexuality is, as you might guess from the word, a sexuality, it's not protected because people haven't decided that it deserves that right. The difference between people protecting LGBT anti-discrimination speech laws and people trying to silence the free speech of zoos is as simple as what we've decided we want to hear people say. 
So what's the takeaway from all this? Well, it's just interesting to think about at the end of the day. As a person, I don't believe in "free speech." I believe in allowing criticism of the government, the original intent of free speech, but I think there are a lot of things that people should not be able to say. But I also recognize that were it up to most people, the things that I say would be outside the bounds of that concept too. It's easy to say that everyone else who's speech is limited is wrong, but are we only saying that because they've never really been given the chance to get their point across? But at the same time, boy there is certainly a lot of speech that never needs to be listened to, and frankly is just destructive. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that the power to control what is and isn't free speech is the power to control social direction. 
It's a complicated problem, and not one that I have a solution to, but hey. As long as I can keep talking I'm never going to shut up. Let's make sure to use our voice before someone decides that our speech should no longer be free.
Article written by Tarro (March 2024)
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