Free speech is at its most valuable when the speech runs counter to the prevailing narrative. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
None are more hopelessly ignorant than those who falsely believe they’re informed.
None are more hopelessly propagandized than those who don’t know they are propagandized.
Living in a liberal western democracy means having the freedom to criticize the tyranny of your government, but instead spending your time criticizing the tyranny of foreign governments who your government doesn’t like.
Free speech in a liberal western democracy means you have the freedom to say whatever you want about the abuses of your government, and the press has the freedom to hammer you with propaganda to ensure that you never do.
In a liberal western democracy you are free to criticize your government, but instead you are propagandized into criticizing the impotent puppets who get rotated in and out of office while your government continues doing all the same evil things regardless of who gets elected.
In liberal western democracies you are free to call the president “Drumpf” or “Brandon”, but you are not free to know who’s actually calling the shots in your country underneath the official government.
In liberal western democracies people say, “I’m so glad I don’t live in a country like Russia or China where people are forbidden to criticize their government. I live in the west, where I’m free to criticize Russia and China all I want.”
It doesn’t matter if you have freedom of speech if those in power can control what you will say. And in liberal western democracies, this is exactly what happens.
We grow up saturated with US empire propaganda in the west. We marinate in it. It pervades our consciousness. But because it’s all we’ve ever known, most of us don’t even notice it.