Free speech has a cost
Yassmin Abdel-Magied makes it clear that much of the discussion about “free speech” is about the definition (“Trouble at the John Stuart Mill”, May 5–11). AbdelMagied leans towards that view that free speech means a person has an equal opportunity to express and transmit an idea. Then people with opposite views should not protest about the expression. In fact she seems to argue that often they should accept the view first expressed. Free speech is never without cost. There may be a cost to society or individuals either to the speaker or to those who are offended by the speech. John Stuart Mill did not mean that speech should be costless but that the benefits of having minimum state control outweighed the costs. The constraints on speech from the state should be limited to direct assault on public good. The social costs of expressing an idea are part of our social fabric. If I promote cruel practices to animals, there will be a social cost that may constrain me. If people personally attack people who express a view they do not agree with, such as happened to Abdel-Magied, I abhor it and take less notice of their opinion. Our society of competing ideas should only have the social constraints on it and little control from the state. That is free, but not costless, speech.
– Reg Lawler, Dagun, Qld