|Free speech isn’t “free speech.” You know, people think of free speech as kind of like a decoration in your life. And it’s not that at all. It’s not the ability to “speak truth to power,” although it is also that. It’s not that; it’s way more than that.
Free speech is how you think. But it’s not thinking. You know, the “Word” that Genesis relies on to create the cosmos—by the way, that’s the image of God in which you’re made, male and female, which gives you that fundamental value that’s at the core of our idea of natural right—it’s not thinking. It’s speaking. And the reason for that is, first of all, you can hardly think. It’s really hard to think. You have to be trained like mad to think. You have to be able to divide yourself internally into a couple of different people, and then you have to let those people have a war in your head. And that means you have to develop characters who have opinions in great detail—opinions that might be contrary to your own, and then you have to withstand the tension of letting them have it out. And you only see that thinking in great literature. You see that in Dostoevsky; he’s an absolute master of that.
You know, you can think a little bit. But mostly you’re biased, and you have confirmation bias, and you see things the way you see them, and you have massive blind spots, and you’re ignorant as hell. You just can’t think. But you can talk. And the thing is if you talk, other people will correct you. That’s the thing. And that’s thinking. So if you get up and you have something to say—and you say it stupidly, because of course you will, because what do you know?—then other people will tell you where you’re wrong. And then you can learn, and then everybody can think. And so what that also means is that to be free, to speak, even to tell the truth, means you have to be free to be stupid and ignorant and malevolent and bitter. Because that is who you are.
~ Speech to the Montreal Press Club, April 2018 by JBPeterson