I keep hearing right-wingers talk about how they are 'silenced' and denied their free speech by universities and corporations. The argument seems to be that if certain viewpoints are ostracized, even if there is no coercion involved, the result is the same - with the opinion banished from the public sphere. So here's a little thought experiment: substitute every opinion you think is being unfairly restricted with a belief that black people should be re-enslaved. Should that be tolerated by employers or given a platform by universities? Would you want to associate with someone holding that view? It seems to me that these folks believe that free speech is about letting rational debate decide what is best, and if they aren't permitted to speak their beliefs than those beliefs are being undermined unfairly, i.e. they aren't being properly refuted. Which, if you think about it, is utterly insane (should Holocaust survivors be subjected to arguments that they are liars? Should Latinos be forced to defend their genetic fitness to justify their presence in the United States?). I think this reasoning comes from the view that rationality and a free flow of information is somehow the thing responsible for democracy or human rights. It isn't. What freedom of speech really is is the ability to say anything you want in a public setting or to print whatever material you please without being forced to stop. It's simply a restriction on the powers of governments to determine what people should or shouldn't believe. There is no 'culture' or 'society' based on free speech, and it is certainly not under threat unless, say, white supremacists can no longer endorse their views in their own backyards. Now, a problem still exists as to whether all public settings should be available for free expression. I think the answer is no, unless you think a bunch of Christians should be able to waltz into an Arab festival carrying a pig's head and insulting Islam. If someone can express those opinions at another location without needlessly antagonizing others, then they should be coerced to move. tl;dr: Free speech has only ever existed as a legal restriction of state power. In broader society it appears to be a shorthand for 'my ideas deserve to be given a seat at the table.'