Free speech. How important is it? What would our society be like if we could be censored and silenced? It is our constitutional right to speak our minds, voice our opinions, even if what we say offends those with a different view. The media often use this right to their benefit, yet for some reason a new trend is developing to end free speech – or at least curtail it.
An opinion piece by Andrew Marantz, “Free Speech Is Killing Us,” was published recently in The New York Times. The subtitle: “Noxious language online is causing real-world violence. What can we do about it?” The author wrote that he is not in favor of doing away with free speech altogether, but, because of the violence it inspires, it should be regulated.
“There has never been a bright line between word and deed. Yet for years, the founders of Facebook and Twitter and 4chan and Reddit – along with the consumers obsessed with these products, and the investors who stood to profit from them – tried to pretend that the noxious speech prevalent on those platforms wouldn’t metastasize into physical violence.”
How true is it? Sure, some violence has been associated with free speech: Calling someone (or his momma) a name might be one example. But perhaps that is more the result of tempers getting out of control and people not knowing how to either retort effectively or just walk away. Since the beginning of mankind violence has been a staple. The internet didn’t invent it. It did, however, give wide-ranging opinions a grand platform to reach millions of people in an instant instead of waiting for a carrier pigeon to deliver the news.
The word “free” is batted around like an errant tennis ball, flinging from one side of the court to the other. The Democratic presidential hopefuls on one side of the court promise their constituents everything from free medical care for illegal immigrants to free education. On the other hand, mainstream media and liberals bawl about the antiquated and unfair free speech provisions enshrined in the first amendment to our Constitution. The placement indicates the Founders must have had a compelling reason to protect the right to speak freely, even before ensuring the right to bear arms.
Now it seems our hard-won freedoms are under attack, a trend, sadly, that grows in momentum. Mainstream media are leading the charge to abolish our right to speak our minds and express independent opinions. And the authoritarian push to squelch speech is spreading rapidly.
In Minnesota, videographers Carl and Angel Larsen went to court over their right to creativity. They did not want to shoot certain videos that violated their religious beliefs. The battle lasted for three years until recently the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals finally ruled that they could not be forced to create such videos.
However, the state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, was furious and vowed to fight the court’s decision. He suggested the Larsens’ refusal was related to discriminatory speech, which he is determined to end. In an op-ed for the Minnesota Star Tribune, Keith wrote, “Business owners’ free speech and beliefs are already fully protected under the First Amendment. What they want is a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks.”
This craze to attack our constitutional rights is dangerous and un-American. What has happened that so many today seem determined to undermine the freedoms guaranteed to us by a document that has worked well for more than 200 years? Surely, this can’t all be about one man, President Donald Trump? But it seems those who opposed his election are willing to sabotage the very foundations of our democracy. They have no trouble exercising their free speech rights to insult and condemn Trump, but Trump and his supporters may not be accorded the same freedom.
It’s time to speak up, or forever be silenced.