Benjamin Franklin once asserted that “whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” It appears that America’s elites have forgotten this – or perhaps never cared in the first place. Over the past few weeks, the First Amendment has experienced an alarming number of attacks.
The most troubling aspect of this trend, however, is not just that Americans are attempting to limit freedom of expression, but that a foreign country has been allowed to dictate what people can and cannot say. It raises the question: If our leaders and elites won’t defend the right to free speech, who will?
Free Speech Under Attack
There has been a bevy of attacks on the First Amendment of late. New York City recently passed a law requiring some types of speech to be punished by the city. The city’s Commission on Human Rights stated that using terms like “illegal alien” could result in hefty fines.
Next, we have The New York Times, which recently published an article titled “Free Speech Is Killing Us.” Author Andrew Marantz made the argument against supposed “hate speech.” He asserted that allowing free speech online causes racially motivated violence. He then suggested that the government take action to limit online speech that could potentially incite violence.
But these examples represent Americans pushing to limit the right to speak freely. More recently, the nation watched as two major corporations allowed a foreign power to crack down on expression. The NBA came under fire after it kowtowed to the People’s Republic of China’s penchant for shutting down dissenting views. When Houston Rockets owner Daryl Morey committed the sin of expressing support for the freedom activists in Hong Kong, he accidentally ignited at controversy.
China responded by threatening to abandon its partnership with the NBA. What ensued was one of the most shameful acts of groveling to a foreign power by a corporation in recent memory. Liberty Nation’s Joe Schaeffer put it nicely: “The sheer cowardice displayed by the NBA in hastening to appease an angry China sparked a firestorm of criticism here at home, uniting the political left and right in a way few issues have since President Trump was elected in 2016.”
Multiple representatives from the organization, including owners and players, refused to back up Morey. Some issued apologies for his words. Morey issued a mea culpa on Twitter: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
Video game company Blizzard also indirectly gave in to the communist regime’s influence. Chung Ng Wai, a prominent competitor in the world of electronic sports, made the same “misstep” as Morey. During an interview, he shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” in Chinese.
In response, the company stripped the competitor of his prize money and banned him from competitions for a year. Blizzard claimed his comments violated the rules by damaging the organization’s image. It later reduced the ban to six months. Now, a group of fans is boycotting the company, and their actions give a glimpse into the question asked at the beginning of this article.
Who Is Fighting for the First Amendment?
It has become evident that there are those in the United States at the top echelons of society who remain ignorant of the importance of the First Amendment. Of course, there are undoubtedly some on the progressive left who understand that freedom of expression prevents the expansion of socialism. But either way, it is apparent the powers that be are not concerned with protecting the right of Americans to speak their minds.
Those who boycotted Blizzard’s events in retaliation for their capitulation to the Chinese government revealed that the fight for freedom of expression lies with regular citizens who refuse to see their rights stripped. This is a battle that should unite Americans on both the left and the right, and judging from the reaction to the NBA’s cowardice, it seems that it has. This uncovers an important truth: It will always be the citizens of the Republic who safeguard the rights protected by the Constitution, especially when the government does not seem interested.