The idea that there should be limits on free speech is as ludicrous as it is dangerous, but that hasn’t stopped it from metastasizing across our nation like the most aggressive of cancers.
Those who propose and support hate speech legislation likely do so with the best of intentions. So many of them are blind to the vital role that unregulated thought and speech plays in a free society; they just want to see an end to human cruelty. Far worse, however, are those who see, but reject. Both are wrong.
The idea that a citizen should be able to speak his or her mind free from the fear of government persecution is epitomized in the First Amendment. There is no exception clause included, and non-offensive speech doesn’t need protection. Only words that boil the blood must be safeguarded, as only these words would be challenged.
The Weakest Generation
While free speech has its opponents from every generation, this sickness seems to have hit millennials the hardest – especially those already suffering from a liberal education. Liberty Nation’s Gabi Fiorino called this “the generation of hypersensitivity.” Though unfair to the millennials who don’t fall into this category – and yes, they do exist – this might just be the most fitting name for them.
This is the generation who grew up playing video games all day rather than playing outside in the dirt. They are the ones who were told that nothing they do is their fault – they are, after all, merely the product of their environment. Their parents, for the most part, were the last to be told to “suck it up” or that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But then, they were also the generation that gave us political correctness and are today the second most significant threat to free speech.
All of this may well have been with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t change the fact that it resulted in a generation of people now unable to cope with the harsh realities of life. Rather than learning to ignore the opinions of people who would otherwise make absolutely no difference in their lives, this generation decided that any viewpoint or comment that hurt their feelings must be silenced. This is exactly why we need our feelings hurt from time to time; it’s the only way we learn to adapt and move on when things don’t go our way.
Every generation is remembered by some defining trait, which almost certainly wasn’t shared by all, whether good or bad. Those who grew up during the Great Depression and then went off to fight a World War (two, for some of them) are called the Greatest Generation. They are remembered thusly for their stoicism, their sense of personal accountability, and their willingness to push through hardship and do what needed to be done, especially regarding their moral and patriotic duties. In short, they were the exact opposite of the stereotypical millennial. Sadly, history may well remember today’s bunch as the Weakest Generation – whether calling them that ends up being a crime or not.
Can Free Speech Survive Millennials?
In an article for The Washington Times, LN’s Tim Donner wrote:
“But the highest form of protected speech is political speech. The Founders and Framers of the U.S. Constitution had just fought a war over their right to dissent and separate from the British Crown, and they were intent on allowing the type of political expression forbidden by their English overlords. And yet, it is just such political speech that many now seek to limit.”
But what does that have to do with discrimination by race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation and the hate speech that hurts so many people as a direct result? Everything. Millennials across the nation – and more than just a few from the last two generations – have a bad habit of labeling anyone who disagrees with them evil. Racist, sexist, Islamophobe, Homophobe, xenophobe: these are but a handful of the tags these people assign to their opponents to both justify their views and to discredit those who disagree.
For better or worse, this generation – the very people calling for opposing political views to be outlawed as hate speech – will rule the world in the not so distant future. Will enough of them understand the folly in restricting free speech? Will they care? The Cato Institute conducted a survey, and the results were disturbing:
- 51 percent of liberals says it is OK to punch Nazis.
- 53 percent of Republicans favor revoking citizenship of flag-burners.
- 51 percent of Democrats would make it a crime to refuse to use the preferred pronouns of transgendered people.
- 65 percent of Republicans would fire professional football players for refusing to stand for the national anthem.
- 80 percent of liberals say it is hate speech to call for the deportation of illegal immigrants.
Those percentages are from a group of 2,300 adults, not necessarily just millennials. The study also showed that 58% avoid talking about controversial subjects at all – quite likely because 71% of the participants also feel that political correctness has halted or prevented the discussion of important topics.
The First Amendment contains no negotiable language; it was written in absolute terms and contains no “except clause” explaining that these rights aren’t guaranteed to certain people in particular situations. However, if we who understand and value liberty don’t educate the rest, it won’t matter.
With such a significant portion of the population rabidly pushing to criminalize opposing viewpoints, and so many others simply unwilling to fight it, there is a real chance that free speech might not survive the millennial generation. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights have kept this cancer at bay thus far, but if a sufficient supermajority manages to remove the First Amendment, American freedom will succumb to the tyranny of the majority – a condition history has shown us oft proves terminal.