“How now brown cow.” There. I said it.

I said it here, and I said it on my radio show yesterday afternoon. Nobody called the show in response to my uttering ‘How now brown cow’. Nobody told me I shouldn’t have said it, or expressed shock or anger about it. They didn’t call to support it either. They didn’t call to affirm my right to say it. They didn’t tell me ‘How now brown cow’ is protected under the First Amendment. ‘How now brown cow’ didn’t seem to be a matter of free speech.

Yesterday, a very important decision was made by the highest court in the United States regarding free speech.

The case involved some demented people who would sometimes take photographs of women in high heels standing on cats and other such despicable acts of animal cruelty, and they’d publish them in some foul magazine or on some heinous website. So, several years ago, out of outrage, the government created a law banning the practice. In response, one of the assholes now prevented from publishing his sordid depravity took his case against the new law all the way to the Supreme Court.

This brings us to yesterday, when the Supreme Court decided the government was wrong to ban this bile, and struck the law down, making it legal once again to publish depictions of diabolical atrocity, and upsetting many decent people who hate to see animals hurt.

I, too, hate to see animals hurt. And that makes for a true test of my commitment to free speech, doesn’t it? We now have a real test of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects all free speech and freedom of expression. The famous quote attributed to the philosopher Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” is a succinct summation of the Justices’ decision.

You see, ‘How now brown cow’ does not need a Constitution to protect it. ‘How now brown cow’ is so inoffensive, unexceptionable and innocuous that it is speech which is free almost everywhere by default! I can go on the radio and say it in the United States, of course, as I did yesterday. But I could also go on the radio in almost any country in the world and say ‘How now brown cow’, even ones which do not have a provision protecting the freedom of speech, and it would be acceptable there too (if slightly weird). I could write a million copies of the sentence ‘How now brown cow’ and spread them around to anyone I liked and, although people would certainly look at me strangely, I would not feel the need to have a Constitution to protect it.

When, then, do we need a Constitution protecting free speech? Not when saying something that is unobjectionable, like ‘How now brown cow’. We only need the Constitution for speech or expression that it’s possible we would hate! Only then do we rely upon it; only then do we test its resilience.

Noam Chomsky said it like this: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Stalin and Hitler, for example, were dictators in favor of speech they liked only. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise [emphasis mine].”

And for photographs you despise, like the ones now made legal by the Supreme Court under this provision in the United States Constitution.

‘How now brown cow’ can be said even in Iran and North Korea, and almost any other expression you can’t imagine anybody objecting to. In America, we are right to grant even the most truly repulsive expression, because we value our liberty, and for no other reason.