I'm a huge proponent of free speech. I believe anybody can say anything they want, and no one should censor opinions. Toxic and malicious intentions will never loose their potency via censorship. In fact, I'd argue it does the opposite.
A couple weekends ago, I was hanging out with my best friend. We've known each other for a couple decades. We had an interesting conversation on free speech. Where does the fine line between free speech and hate speech exist. I've always been of the mind that intent behind words is the defining element of hate speech. My friend and I have made it a sport to come up with the most vulgar, derogatory, and otherwise derisive insults to cast at each other. There is no ill will behind any of the insults, and yet an observer would see us tarred and feathered for our conduct.
There is also a time factor as well. Simply put, I'm not the person I am today. Being an edgy teen, I often posted cringe worthy stuff to facebook. Back then, no one thought twice about half the terrible comments we made back and forth on our timelines, but they carry forward to today just the same. Going further back, before the facebook epidemic, I used to do stupid things and no one had a permanent record of it. There were almost always immediate repercussions, and as such, I learned quickly.
I recall one time as a kid, I threw a rock at another kid that had thrown one at me. I missed and broke a side mirror of a truck. I was scolded and I had to pay for the repairs by doing a mountain of chores. That was that. No one recorded the act. No one thought it was some targeted incident. It was just two kids being idiots. That same scenario would play out much different in today's environment. You can spin any situation to add ulterior motive to rile up people that were not even present during an incident.
Now I'm wondering what happens if I write a story with an intentionally despicable character as an antagonist. Would I be held responsible for telling the story or the intentions of the fictional characters I created? Should I neuter my characters in order to anticipate censorship or reader backlash? I've always liked complex grey characters. Nothing makes a story come alive than a villain that has believable ambitions, but has some flaw, often loose morals. My intent is to just write regardless of the social norms. If I somehow manage to write a book that gets published, I'll be satisfied that people will read my work before burning it.
It's an interesting time we live in. I wish I had something more than observations and criticisms, but I'm at a loss.
Anywhoo, my dog is getting, not so subtly, passive aggressive about me not feeding her dinner, so I got to jet.