By Jeffrey Charles
Right now, there is a war being waged on the First Amendment, and the majority of Americans have no idea it’s happening.
There are individuals in our nations that have shown blatant disrespect for the right to free speech. Some have used violence to silence those with whom they disagree. Others have given “scientific” arguments against certain types of speech. At least one public official has suggested that the government regulate certain types of political speech online.
If we are not careful, we will see one of our most important rights succumb to the efforts of those who believe that people should not have the right to express their beliefs. It is important that we protect the rights of all Americans to express their views — even if they are offensive.
The War Against The First Amendment
Over the past couple years, we have seen numerous attacks on the First Amendment. Certain groups and individuals have launched ruthless attacks against the notion of free speech. The majority of these attacks have come from the left, but conservatives are not innocent either.
Last month, Sheriff Troy E. Nehls, of Fort Bend County, Texas, posted a picture of a truck on the police department’s Facebook page with a message asking people to give the name of the owner of the truck to the police. Why? Because she had a sticker on the truck which read “F*ck Trump, and f*ck you for voting for him.”
The sheriff’s message stated that he had received numerous complaints about the sticker. He also threatened to charge Karen Fonseca, the owner of the truck, with disorderly conduct. Fonseca was later arrested on an unrelated charge, but this incident has caused many to believe that her arrest was still politically-motivated. But that’s not all.
Throughout the year 2017, we have seen many instances where hard left groups like Antifa and Refuse Fascism have stormed pro-Trump rallies and used violence to disrupt the event. Even free speech rallies in parks and on college campuses were not off-limits. At these events, leftist agitators attacked conservative demonstrators and set fires in the surrounding areas.
Lastly, we have Ann Ravel, a former chairperson for the Federal Election Commission, who decided that the government should start regulating free speech online. Earlier this year, Ravel gave a presentation at the University of California at Berkeley in which she argued that political speech and ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter should be subject to government regulation. She asserted that individuals who post videos on YouTube or political statements on Facebook should be required to disclose their posts as campaign contributions.
Whether it’s a violent leftist group, an overeager sheriff, or a former government bureaucrat, we need to oppose anyone who threatens our right to free speech. It’s too important of an issue to ignore.
Why Is Free Speech So Important?
Free speech is one of the most important rights that we are guaranteed under the constitution. The founders understood that a populace that was not allowed to voice their opinions freely could be subject to tyranny by their government.
The ability to express one’s views on government or other issues is one of the most powerful protections we have against officials who wish to abuse their power. It’s the reason why leaders of totalitarian governments often strip their citizens of their right to criticize the government.
Many on the left — and some on the right — have justified their efforts against freedom of expression by labeling any speech with which they disagree as “hate speech.” They cite the disgusting rhetoric of white supremacists and other hate groups as examples of speech that should not be allowed.
They are wrong.
As repulsive as these people are, they should be allowed to express their ridiculous opinions. The First Amendment was created to protect unpopular speech. If the government becomes empowered to stifle the opinions of these groups, it will only be a matter of time before they restrict the free speech rights of ordinary citizens.
Public debate is how a Republic thrives. White supremacists should have the right to say that they are inferior to every other race. As a black American, I should also have the right to publicly call them out for their stupidity. This is how a free society works.
Some people fear that evil ideas can poison a society if they are left unchecked. This fear is understandable — but good ideas, expressed by good people can repudiate evil ideologies. Slavery presents an example.
What if the abolitionists had been prohibited from expressing their anti-slavery views? What if Harriet Beecher Stowe was not allowed to write “Uncle Tom’s Cabin?’ What would have happened had Frederick Douglass had not been allowed to publish “The North Star?” It is likely that slavery could have still persisted to this day.
You might think that the Civil War ended slavery. It was the North’s guns that put an end to the “peculiar institution.” However, you’d be missing the fact that free speech is what inspired people oppose the evils of slavery. If these people had not been convinced of the horrors of slavery, they would not have seen the need to take up arms against it.
If we are going to protect our right to free speech, we must pay attention to the efforts being made to destroy it. We must vigorously oppose those who think they have the right to restrict what other people say. If we fail to protect one of our most sacred rights, it won’t be long before we lose the rest of our rights.
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