Free Speech, Republicans, and Linguistics

If you know my politics you will know that I am unapologetically a free speech advocate. Free speech is the basis for a free society. It is outward expression of reasoning and if speech is limited we can no longer reason on a sufficient level.

I’ve spoken openly about my thoughts on big tech and other companies censoring speech. It is appealing and dangerous. From my point of view this censorship has mostly come from the left. However, the right has had its moments as well. One such moment is from Marjorie Taylor Greene who reported Jimmy Kimmel to capital police for a “threat of violence.” Kimmel made a joke about her that she didn’t like.

This is not a threat of violence. In linguistics this is called pragmatics. Pragmatics is the study of how context contributes to meaning. In other words, how setting, tone, and extralinguistic features contribute to meaning. I always like to give the following example:

I were sitting at a table and say “where is the salt?” Someone would likely pass me the salt instead of just stating the position of the salt. In another context, if I am at the dinner table and eating, and turn to my wife and point at my food with one eyebrow raised and say in a stern voice “where is the salt?” She would likely punch me in the face and tell me where she wants to put the salt.

Context matters. In this particular case, Jimmy Kimmel is in the context of comedy. In literature this is called a genre. All human communication is an interpretation. Therefore, we subconsciously look for these extralinguistic markers to help us interpret what the intended meaning is. Sometimes this is very difficult and sometimes, especially in this case, it is very simple. This was meant to be interpreted as a joke. Some might say in poor taste or perhaps crass. That is certainly left up to the interpreter to decide. The point being, if republicans are going to push back on the obvious demise of free speech in the USA they cannot get involved in this sort of behavior. It is grandstanding and the same exact behavior that the left is pushing. Just stop it, please!