Opinons Section

Free Speech – A Uniquely American Concept

No.09

The great political commentator Ben Franklin said: “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.” This simple concept was enshrined in the founding document of our country, not because it was politically expedient, but because it was the ethical thing to do.

Freedom of speech has become more and more of a taboo concept with the onset of political correctness in America. According to Pew Research, 40% of millennials are alright with speech limitations. But PC culture alone is not the only factor contributing to this societal shift. There are serious concerns that arise when certain kinds of speech are expressed that specifically have racist undertones, or are explicitly such. The word “Hate Speech” is consistently used by members of the political left to paint a picture of a better and more conscientious  America. Unfortunately, this situation is an idealistic and untrue reality and one that would have serious consequences if it came to fruition. When a society calls on the powers of government to censor and restrict unpopular speech, it sets precedent for the very thing that Democrats and Republicans alike would absolutely detest. That thing is a corrupt tyrannical regime that censors unpopular beliefs, preventing progress and using their newfound power to silence opposition.

Recently, Ann Coulter, a right-leaning public speaker had organized and established a date to speak at UC Berkeley. She has a record of making public statements that have been deemed ridiculous by conservatives and liberals alike. The serious challenge facing students and faculty is that while Coulter may be an unpopular figure, she has the right to speak on campus as anyone would. Freedom of speech is an ideologically blind concept, it’s one that gives the same podium to the ignorant as the intellectuals. The difference between ignorance and intellect is who is willing to listen.

While pundits speculate and create arguments to counter inappropriate “Hate Speech”, the truly regressive policy would be to remove the rights of the ignorant for the sake of the intellectuals. Progress comes when people like Coulter are debated, and the flaws in their ideas are exposed for the world to see. It’s this very same forum of free speech, that “Hate Speech” can be stopped and put in its place.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is likely the most well recognized and respected civil rights leader in modern history. His legacy came not through the silencing of opposition, but rather openly exposing the morally bankrupt perspectives of racial prejudice. Through his expression and voice to hold hate speech accountable, the country changed and real policy solutions came about. While the civil rights movement did not end racism in America, it highlights the important value and significance of free speech.

So when it comes to free speech, there is no debate over whether or not this freedom should be protected. Millenials think they have a moral superiority when it comes to social issues, but when the tires hit the pavement, they’d prefer to silence opposition instead of explaining why they’re right. This is yet another reason why conservatives are consistently labeled as holding views that are “Hate Speech” because it lets the left censor them. Free speech after all is said and done, is not a partisan issue. It’s time we open up our political bubbles and learn to listen.

“Freedom of speech and thought matters, especially when it is speech and thought with which we disagree. The moment the majority decides to destroy people for engaging in thought it dislikes, thought crime becomes a reality.”

-Ben Shapiro

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