It was about 20 years ago, best I can remember, when a WCMS student brought a hit list to school.
This 13-year-old was found with a note in his backpack that was titled "People I Want to Kill." It then proceeded to list those people.
This note raised great alarm, as it should, and local law enforcement was quick to act. It was our top story for several editions and it left our community in a bit of a daze.
In all the talk about the teen and his note, I don't remember anyone ever saying, "Well that's no big deal. It's just his right to free speech."
That's because, like everything else, free speech has its limits. We may have free speech, but that doesn't mean we can say absolutely anything without there being any consequences.
Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter has prompted a number of people to claim this is a great thing because now, they believe, he won't police the platform and people will be able to say ANYTHING!
This is a very bad idea.
If we glance at America as a whole, we may be the land of the free but we do have laws. Having freedom doesn't mean we can do whatever we want.
I might have the freedom to drive down your street, but if I drive down your street 50 times a day and go really slow in front of your house that's stalking.
I might be able to point my gun at a shooting range target and fire all day, but if I point it at your head in a menacing way that becomes aggravated assault.
We can't confuse freedom with lawlessness. There's a big difference between the two.
In this great land of America, I enjoy the freedom to worship how I please. I have the freedom to pick the career of my choice, the woman I married, the places I want to vacation, and the books I want to read. I guess I can still pick the books I want to read, although I find it ironic the same folks who want to ban certain books from our libraries are the same ones thrilled about the thought of absolute unchecked free speech on social media.
Even with all the freedoms we enjoy and love, there are still laws we all have to follow each and every day of our lives. Having freedom doesn't mean we live in a society with no laws.
By the same token, it's necessary to have some type of filter in place to sift through messages on social media that may go beyond what's accepted as free speech.
Going on Twitter and saying you're mad at someone, or even saying you hate someone, is one thing. Going on Twitter and saying you're going to open fire on customers inside a grocery store on Thursday will result in a visit from officers.
There are rules to everything and free speech is no different. Freedom doesn't mean we live in a savage society void of laws where anyone can do anything without consequence.
Removing any and all barriers on social media is not embracing free speech. It's embracing a head-on collision with disaster.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.