Free speech on life support!

By | on May 26, 2014 | 2 Comments
I have watched helplessly in recent weeks and months with a growing sense of alarm, fearing that our generation is witnessing the death of one of the most vital pillars of liberty: the freedom of individual thought and the free exchange of ideas. While it’s true that the First Amendment only protects people from government reprisals for speaking freely, social media and mass media lynch mobs are just as much a danger in a free society as any oppressive government.

By selectively descending upon anyone who dares say anything that might offend any particular group of people and pounding relentlessly upon their name and reputation until they are rendered jobless and/or shunned by society, freedom of speech is no more free than it would be if the government were to throw them in prison or sentence perceived enemies of the state to exile.

It’s sad that in a free country, we can’t have an honest conversation anymore about anything that involves any individual, group, or issue that has protected status in our country, no matter how badly the conversation is needed.

People can’t ask common sense questions about the risks in changing longtime policies, casting away long held traditions, or the wisdom of state or federal power crushing local leadership and individual liberties with more laws and regulations without receiving a dreaded label of hater, racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, American Taliban, and worse.

Even simple things like the names of fish such as the Asian carp, telling someone to “man up,” or college fundraisers for charity using fun wordplay like the Pi Phiesta aren’t safe from outrage and criticism in this day and age of endless politically correct newspeak. What used to be fodder for satire sites such as The Onion have now become serious stories distributed by the mainstream media, which reports them breathlessly non-stop, as though there is nothing more pressing going on in the country than one person’s statement revealing ignorance or an unpopular viewpoint or a handful of people offended over a relatively benign, completely accidental perceived slight of some kind.

Honestly, at what point did people become so thin skinned and easy to offend? Whatever happened to giving someone who said or did something seemingly insensitive or hurtful the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t deliberately attempting to harm or insult anyone? Is it too much to ask for to have a rational, honest conversation between political opponents, without the debate devolving into juvenile and inflammatory name calling, accusations of hating a particular group or engaging in a war on an entire caucus, or otherwise attempting to shame adversaries into silence using tactics and pejoratives better suited to a bully on a school playground?

The truth is, in a world of hypersensitivity to every possible comment, action, and viewpoint, saying anything at all becomes a risky proposition and it gets to the point that much of the joy, innovation, and personal expression is lost in the fool’s errand of trying in vain not to offend anyone, ever.

Being offended is unavoidable. Something somewhere always offends someone, but how one reacts to it is a choice. You can choose to scream and rail against someone who had the audacity to insult your sensibilities and demand that they be unemployed and shunned by society or you can simply choose to not take part, change the station/channel, vote accordingly, etc. It’s really that easy and if liberty is to survive, we must make the decision to resolve our differences in that manner and with some semblance of civility. Otherwise, some politician somewhere might get the idea that they can, in fact, ban “offensive” speech and receive popular support. Then we’ll all be in trouble and liberty will have truly gasped its last breath.

 

  • pearl87

    It must be pointed out that the intention of the left is exactly this – to stifle every independent thought – to create an environment so hostile, so utterly devoid of rational discourse, that people will voluntarily self-censor to avoid consequences too costly to bear.. The most complete victory is one in which an opponent lays down his weapons and surrenders without ever challenging the might of his enemy . Americans have lost their will to fight and therefore, their ability to survive.As Aristotle observed, “Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society.”

  • Tornado83

    EXCELLENT article Christine! Looking forward to your next post.