[T]he only way that the ideal of “free speech” makes any sense is if we presume that “speech” is entirely distinct from “action” — that is, speech is imagined to be an entirely abstract collection of utterances and ideas that are incapable of directly harming other people or infringing upon their rights. And frankly, this view of speech is naive and flat-out incorrect.
We do not speak to simply listen to the sounds of our own voices. We almost always speak with intention, with the hopes that our words will have tangible consequences. If I were to say, “Mark Lilla and Angela Nagle are completely clueless about ‘identity politics’,” or “You should read my essay Prejudice, ‘Political Correctness,’ and the ‘Normalization of Donald Trump’ instead,” I am attempting to (ever so slightly) nudge the world in my preferred direction. If you were to express agreement or disagreement with my statements, you would be doing the same. Most of us would agree that all of these statements fall under the realm of tolerable self-expression — aka, “free speech” — not because our words have no intention or impact (they do), but rather because these particular claims do not impinge upon anyone else’s autonomy or rights.
Julia Serano on free action.