What is the meaning of “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”?

…as answered on Quora

This George Orwell salvo was directed against leftist Political Correctness as well as the conservatism of Mrs. Grundy (now Ms. Grundy).

The current craze is to cry “I’m offended!” or “you can’t say that!” and expect to have all of society, including the coercive power of the State, side with you and shut up the person whose ideas or invectives or innuendos annoy you.

The case for free speech precludes that general attitude. The attitude of the Grundies and the commissars and apparatchiks is the attitude of tyranny. They must be opposed and marginalized (at least) to have liberty in society.

Orwell thought (or merely hoped) that socialism and the “democracy” of basic rights like freedom of speech and association would prove to be compatible. They are not. Freedom of speech and press and association all depend upon the general framework of freedom, which includes and must include extensive private property rights.

The truth is, “if liberty means anything at all,” it is the right to tell people on your property, or hired property, what they do not want to hear only as long as they are on your property, or hired property. In a free society, everyone has a right to go to their “safe spaces” (homes, churches, clubs, etc.) and not hear what you want to tell them.

Free speech is just as much about the ability not to hear something, through peaceable means, as to saysomething, through peaceable means.

The case for this is tied to liberty in general. These ideas all work together, and free speech proves strategically important. But, when you work it out, it is just another aspect of freedom in general. Some people focus on it because they wish to take away other freedoms. And those people need some push-back, too.

People like Orwell himself.