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When free speech and social media collide

by David Specht

During a City Council workshop in March, Minden Mayor Terry Gardner declared, “You can’t win on social media. So don’t even engage there.” He was referring to city employees responding to people who spout off about the city on various social platforms.

Those words echoed in my memory during recent days as some have taken to social media to criticize the newspaper — more specifically, paying for online content.

As someone who grew up playing “the insult game” with my peers, my mind is full of “zingers” that could be launched in response to various trolls. After all, if Wendy’s can be snarky to those that are snarky, why can’t we?

There is a two-fold answer to that question.

First of all, like Gardner said, you can’t win. Social media is full of people pontificating about this or that. They put out “information” in a free-for-all format that is often not based in reality.

I once saw a meme that read, “Wow. That post really changed my position on that issue, said no one ever.” I think that pretty much sums up the effectiveness of social media arguments.

The second answer to the question is far more important. As proponents of First Amendment Freedoms, we would be hypocrites if we became “up in arms” over someone else’s free speech. Short of anything vulgar or illegal, we will not ban someone from our social media feeds just because they are in opposition to us.

The true test of freedom of speech is not when you agree with something someone says or posts, but when you are in disagreement, or even disgusted, by it.

Freedom of speech allows for a response. Wisdom reminds one of the consequences.

Dale Carnegie wrote in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that other people may be totally wrong. But they don’t think so.  Don’t condemn them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional people even try to do that.”

We will keep doing what we’re doing. We will keep striving for excellence and working to ensure the longevity of this newspaper and its service to Webster Parish.

Maybe we will win over some of our critics in the process. Maybe we won’t. But that’s ok. In the end, our freedoms are worth preserving and protecting.

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