Not only did they have to spend $600,000 to make sure that Antifa thugs were unable to shut down a speech by author and podcaster Ben Shapiro, but they also just released a poll showing that the majority of California voters believe that we should place more restrictions on the First Amendment. Yes, I know you’re shocked – but it’s true.
According to Mercury News, the poll shows that 46% of California voters believe that the nation has “gone too far in allowing white nationalists to demonstrate.” 43% stated that white nationalist rallies “should not be restricted.” 11% did not have an opinion on the matter.
Mark DiCamillo, the person who conducted the poll for the university’s Institute of Governmental Studies was surprised at the results. Perhaps he hasn’t been watching the news lately! He stated, “I would have thought the liberals would be defending the right to demonstrate in general.”
If we were living back in the 60s, DiCamillo would have had a point. However, times have changed. In an interview with Mercury News, Jewell Taylor, a black American from San Jose said:
“In 2017, we have seen numerous attempts by leftist groups to silence the voice of people who espouse political views with which they do not agree. Under the guise of fighting fascism and white supremacy, groups like Antifa and Refuse Fascism have resorted to physical violence to disrupt conservative events.”
Ignoring the First Amendment
It is not surprising that the left is targeting white nationalist groups – their repugnant ideas are anathema to the majority of Americans on the left and the right. However, the First Amendment guarantees its citizens the right to freely express their opinions, regardless of how disgusting they are.
To those who may not understand why it is important that we protect everyone’s right to freedom of expression, restricting the speech of white supremacists might make sense. After all, they are a hate group, right? Many believe that Americans should not be able to express ideas that run contrary to American values, but this ignores the point of the First Amendment.
The reason freedom of expression was included in the Constitution was to prevent the government from dictating what ideas we are allowed to express. It keeps the government from forcing us to articulate only the views they find acceptable. Free speech also keeps the government from becoming too powerful – this is the reason why totalitarian dictators often prevent people from speaking views that contradict their own.
While unpopular ideas can lead to harmful outcomes, they are often responsible for opposing the evils we have seen throughout history. There are several examples.
Without Free Speech – Slavery Wouldn’t Have Been Defeated
When the abolitionists began propagating the idea that slavery was an evil institution that needed to end, it was an unpopular notion. They were continually met with scorn and derision from those who wanted to preserve the practice. However, the government did not punish those who advocated for the abolition of the institution.
As they continued to expose the ugliness of slavery, the abolitionists won more people to their side. Without free speech, there may have been no Civil War – and blacks could have remained in chains for an indeterminate amount of time.
Freedom of expression gave women the right to vote, put an end to Jim Crow, and helped us build the society we have today. In many cases, unpopular speech has driven us to live up to the values we claim to hold.
Am I saying that the ideas of the neo-Nazis and KKK could be beneficial? Of course not. But if we didn’t have free speech back when these views held sway, we could still be living in a society where bigotry dominates. Freedom of expression has allowed us to defeat these evil ideas, and it will help us ensure that these beliefs remain marginalized. Put simply; the KKK should be allowed to state their asinine belief that whites are superior – and the rest of America should be allowed to repudiate them.
Living in a free society means not being afraid of unpopular ideas. Letting the government control our speech is more dangerous than allowing ignorant racists to bloviate about their “superiority.” Uncle Sam has far more power over our freedom than Richard Spencer, David Duke, and their impotent band of followers. Let us oppose these people using our freedom of expression, not government intervention.