Setting Boundaries: Ethics of Free Speech

Food for Thought

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a nuclear topic at the moment. The accusations of “censorship” are ubiquitous, prompting me to ask what exactly constitutes censorship.

Consider the controversy surrounding the Queens Night Market. Last year, the organizers removed a vendor’s sign that stated, “Your tax dollars are funding the genocide of Palestinians; end the occupation, free Palestine.” Since then, the market has faced accusations of censorship, and some are boycotting the event this year. Personally, I find this disheartening because the market provides opportunities for underserved communities. It’s a passion project for the organizers, not a profit-driven endeavor, as evidenced by their policy of capping prices to keep the market affordable for everyone.

I am against censorship, especially because I often discuss controversial topics. However, certain ideas can evoke strong emotions, and not everyone is prepared to confront them. Moreover, even if they are willing, it does not mean I have the right to impose the time and place. Everyone is entitled to set their own boundaries. Governmental censorship is problematic because it restricts my ability to express myself even when nobody is listening.

Take, for example, a chat room dedicated to food. Its members would understand that discussions are expected to stay within the boundaries of the topic. If someone starts debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other members complain, should this be considered “censorship”?

The issue with social media isn’t so much about censorship as it is about dominance. For instance, Facebook has become so powerful, functioning almost like a utility company, that its censorship has effects akin to governmental censorship. We should not mistake this for an entitlement to force others to listen to us anytime and anywhere.

What distinguishes the righteous from the self-righteous is respect for personal boundaries. Not just sex but communication, too, requires mutual consent. The Queens Night Market is a private project. If the organizers prefer to keep it free of political tension, we should respect their decision. After all, who can live without personal boundaries?