Oh, But You Misunderstand Free Speech and Business

There’s a basic misunderstanding about the First Amendment, and while I wish I could say it’s limited to the rock-throwing, bandana-wearing, pouty-face ANTIFA crowd, it’s not. In fact, this misunderstanding is so prevalent in those who claim to believe in liberty that it literally causes drama when people don’t get their way.

For some reason, the same people who will scream that bakers shouldn’t have to bake cakes for someone they don’t want to, also seem to think that anytime they visit a website, they should get to act however they like with no repercussions from the site owner(s). They’ll go to a leftist site and act like trolls, then scream when they get banned. “The Lefties apparently don’t love TRUTH,” they’ll triumphantly yell. Or they’ll go to an anti-gun website and paste, “F you because I HAVE RIGHTS” 50 times on the page and yet if they get summarily removed, it’s the anti-gunners’ fault for CENSORSHIP and VIOLATING FREE SPEECH.

Uh, no. That’s not how this works.

Let’s ignore for a moment the actual point of the First Amendment’s speech clause. Let’s focus on the business aspect.

If you enter a store and promptly proceed to cut all the leaves off the display plant, are you somehow being oppressed if you’re shown the door? If you go to a Christian bookstore and argue with them at the counter because they don’t sell porn magazines and you think they’re censoring free speech, are your rights being violated if they kick you out? If you go to a clothing store and chew out the owner because she sells clothes you think are ugly and stupid-looking, are you an innocent victim if the owner tells you to leave?

In all of these situations, most liberty-loving folks would laugh and say any business owner has the right to tell people to get lost, to stand up for themselves and refuse service to someone. So why is it that those same people will click onto a website and get angry that the owner didn’t let them act like buffoons?

A website is the space of a company or individual, in many cases. They’ve often paid rent to be there, to occupy that space for the stated purpose. The degree of welcome you enjoy is inversely proportional to the level of jackassery you exhibit while there. In other words, if you start a fight in the bar, chances are you won’t get to stay.

We all understand (hopefully) that while the First Amendment protects your right to speak out against the government without repercussion from that government, it doesn’t insulate you from the consequences of your speech, such as being told you’re a jerk, or being shown the door of the home where you just called your hostess a filthy name. The baker who says he doesn’t do gay wedding cakes has the right to say no–and he has the right to also lose the business of anyone who thinks that’s just horrible of him. The gun shop owner who puts up a sign that says anyone who voted for XXXXX isn’t welcome has the right to do that, and if XXXXX is popular, he also has the right to suffer the consequences to his business. The same goes for the shop owner who says Muslims, or blacks, or even whites aren’t welcome. Their business, their rules.

The problem is, people seem to believe that they must be allowed to go to any business, any website, any place, and act as they choose without consequence. Anything less is somehow censorship and oppression. People don’t get to go to someone else’s house and be angry when the owner doesn’t let them defecate in Grandma’s urn, and people don’t get to go to someone else’s website and claim oppression when the site owner doesn’t let them conduct themselves like a petulant child. Bake the cake, they’re basically saying. You must indulge me.

There is nothing more “libertarian” than someone being allowed to kick a person out of a place they own. Demanding that someone must allow you to comment with impunity, regardless of the level of discourse you bring to the table, is not liberty. It’s being a pansy little social justice warrior.