Consider the space where speech is “free without exception,” which in effect means free for straight white dudes.
The people who wanna have productive discussions without having their experiences, reality, and identity constantly called into question? They don’t get free speech, they get nonstop sealioning. The people who wanna express something without being harrassed? They don’t get free speech.
People who treat free speech as some airy abstract that essentially consists of “nobody can stop me from saying things” don’t actually understand or care about freedom of speech at all. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If I exercise free speech but nobody listens because someone derails the conversation into “arguing the premise” of whether or not women are people, do I have freedom of speech at all? Free discourse has to be nurtured and cared for by supplying spaces where it can actually flourish - and yeah, that will mean pulling out some weeds so that the garden can grow. And that will entail deciding what weeds are.
Because, if you don’t decide what weeds are, it will be decided for you. The most vicious and selfish plants will thrive, choking the life out of everything else. Ordinarily, those plants are the ones regarded as weeds. But you have refused to make that assignment. Flowers are free to grow in your garden of weeds. But they won’t.
“For everyone without exception” doesn’t exist. Speech is not consequence-free; if it was, it wouldn’t matter whether it’s free. Speech can be used to silence and attack - and, in doing so, to harm someone else’s access to free discourse. In online spaces, I’ve long observed that discourse is subject to a Gresham’s dynamic: bad discourse drives out good. Bad users drive out good ones. Every time someone exercises their “right” to “argue the premise” that white supremacy is real, they’re signaling to people of color: your concerns will not be taken seriously; you’re not welcome here; and I will push back against attempts at discussing your experiences.
And then, of course, in the traditional pattern of abusers everywhere, people on the receiving end of this are punished no matter how they react.
If you argue back against bigotry, you have to perform the fucked-up dance of arguing against bigots without calling them out as bigots - as that would be a “personal attack” apparently; you have to perform civility and submit to tone policing, lest you be deemed to have lost the argument by getting angry.
If you don’t argue back, the bigotry is implicitly accepted and will only grow bolder and louder, and pretty soon you might as well be on reddit.
If you leave, you will be branded as oversensitive, weak; blamed, essentially, for not wanting to submit to the abusive song-and-dance of “arguing the premise.”
And then, when you are cowed, or exhausted, or gone, or banned, the old white dudes will pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves on safeguarding “free speech” while sitting on the bones of discourses that they killed. Unmoderated 4chan boards have “free speech without exception,” except, of course, the ideological policing of viewpoints in them is the most vicious there is anywhere on the internet, and the reality is that speech is least free there; because it is a garden where only the most vicious weeds grow.