Please stop misusing “Freedom of Speech” and “Censorship”

I can’t believe that I’m writing a blog post where the two driving forces at Duck Dynasty and Bravely Default, but here we are.

So some weeks ago, some old dude on some A&E show made some homophobic comments in an interview. Due to Duck Dyantsy’s absurd popularity, this made a whole lot of people on facebook really mad. A common sentiment was “But this is America! What about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” or whatever. Freedom of Speech, coming up over and over again. I almost feel embarrassed writing about this, because I feel like it should be ridiculously obvious, but it isn’t. I’ve even seen it come up in many intelligent circles, with even one… quite well known game designer and writer who’s forum I used to post on a lot. “We can’t ban people on this forum, this forum supports free speech” (unsurprisingly that did not work out). Needless to say, this is not how freedom of speech works (and this serves as a perfect intro to censorship talk).

Freedom of Speech (in the US at least) protects you from the Government. Protection from other people would infringe on those peoples freedom of speech. If you say something that offends me, it is my right to be offended. If you work for me and hold opinions I find offensive it is my right to not employ you. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t need non-discrimination laws. No where in the idea of Freedom of Speech was the intent that you shouldn’t be judged by society for your shitty opinions. The idea is that you should not fear the Government (a ‘more powerful’ entity) and legal repercussions for saying things. Your friends might disown you, but you won’t end up for prison for saying shit (… well, maybe not so much anymore, but you know what I mean). Where this idea that saying something gave you a magical shield is beyond me. I dunno about you, but I don’t know if I want “Freedom to be a douchebag without any social ramifications” as a basic right. Just sayin’.

So now there is this Bravely Default shit. People are complaining about censorship left and right. Also lets just ignore the whole fact that people are complaining about not getting under aged girls in thongs. Plenty of people are arguing about that and I’ll leave that to them….

So unlike the Freedom of Speech thing — they’re right. It is censorship. The issue is people don’t seem to realize the difference between self inflicted censorship and government enforced censorship. When a smug tumblr 14 year old sends someone a nasty Ask about Bravely Default to someone, declaring “I don’t believe in censorship”, what don’t they believe in? “I read 1984, I know how scary censorship can be!” Even if that has nothing to do with a company modifying it’s own content. Do they not believe that I, the owner and content creator of my own work, shouldn’t change it? Fuck you. You don’t even know all the things that got ‘censored’ before these games were even released. Is that still censorship? Do you still care and not believe in it? What gives you the right? They are treating two hugely different concepts as one and applying the gravitas of government control to a taste choice made by content creators with their own content.

You can COMPLAIN about changes (HELLO STAR WARS), or you can complain about the reasons for the changes if you really want, but to act like they’re doing something inherently bad or immoral by modifying their content is absurd and selfish. In a sense, you’re attempting to ‘censor’ the desires of the creators. You’re not against censorship — you don’t understand what it even is. You’re just against not getting the thing you wanted and are now crying about it.

I’ve actually had friends ask me why I was ‘censoring’ myself with changes I’ve made to unfinished games, which to me raised a lot of questions. Should I not account for taste or my audience at all? Should I always go with my first impulses? Am I never allowed to change my mind? Is making shit sexy or violent a ziptie where I can take clothes off (and limbs) but never put more on? If you accidentally offend some people and want to change something, is changing it to make them feel better somehow bad? How? Shouldn’t it be the content creator’s call?

By complaining about ‘censorship’ in a context like this, you are not taking a moral high ground or defending any sort of noble idea. You are being selfish and demanding and saying “but I want THAT thing over there instead”! Square-enix is not your government. They cannot infringe on your rights. They were not forced to make the changes they made. No ones freedom of expression is being infringed. Perhaps you can argue that somewhere in the company, someone is upset that they have to change away from the old outfits, but there are people on any game design team sad about TONS of changes. That, again, is not censorship. That’s making a project with a team of people.

So please, people, stop saying this type of shit. At best you come off at clueless and at worst, you seem selfish. If you really want to complain, there are a million better ways to go about it. I complain about design decisions in games all the time. It’s not hard.