27 Jul Stand Up for Freedom of Speech
“Freedom of speech”. Just about every American knows that phrase. Even today, when knowledge of the US Constitution seems so lacking, just about every American knows that ‘freedom of speech’ is an individual right spelled out in our Bill of Rights.
But Americans living today may not appreciate how central that right is to living in freedom under a government that is responsive to the will of the people. They need to. Because freedom of speech is under attack in America.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a very well-educated former Muslim who speaks out about the oppression of women in Muslim countries, was disinvited as a speaker at Brandeis University because her ideas were said to be inconsistent with the University’s values. Condoleeza Rice withdrew as a commencement speaker at Rutgers because of the protests of a small group of Rutgers’ students who consider the impeccably credentialed former Secretary of State to be a war criminal due to her place in the Bush administration.
And Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, was drummed out of his CEO position when gay activists identified him as having made a $1,000 donation in support of California’s Proposition 8—which supported marriage as between one man and one woman (and was overwhelmingly passed by California voters in 2008). A donation to support a cause is just like a speech in support of a cause.
None of these anecdotes specifically involve the action of government. But all of them involve a societal move to suppress speech with which one group or another may disagree. That’s not a healthy trend. History shows the best answer to offensive speech is more speech. When government assumes the authority to define what speech is or is not offensive and can or cannot be spoken, the result is, inevitably and always, tyranny.
America’s Founding Fathers knew this. We know it, too—and we need to stand up and defend freedom of speech, for everyone.