THE FOCUS: OUR EDITORIAL
Assault on Free Speech
1/24/2021. Free speech or freedom of expression refers to the ability of an individual or group of individuals to express their beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and emotions about different issues free from censorship, whether by the government or any other institution. However, the Left has been actively pushing to suppress freedom of expression, specifically on expression they disagree with. Cancel Culture is the current trend exploited by the Left to attack on free speech and due process.
The Essence of Freedom of Expression
The essence of freedom of expression is the freedom to express something that is not widely accepted, in contradiction to the prevailing wisdom, in contradiction to some entities’ point of view, or simply expression that other entities hate. As Samuel Gompers, U.S. labor leader said, the freedom of speech is, "...the right to say the things which displease, the right to say the things which may convey the new and yet unexpected thoughts, the right to say things, even though they do a wrong.” This is perfectly summed up by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.:
“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Why Do We Need It?
Speech is our inalienable right granted by the Creator; hence, no entity should have the right to suppress our right to exercise it. Free speech constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for each individual’s liberty and self-fulfillment. It contributes to what the Supreme Court has called the marketplace of ideas. But people’s ideas, not matter how rational or irrational they are, can flow out of their mind if they have the freedom to express it. “It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears,” said Louis D. Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court justice.
It is through the marketplace of ideas we can separate valuable expressions from unworthy ones, which is done without any external interference on the market. As William Allen White, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, said, " ... if there is freedom, folly will die of its own poison, and the wisdom will survive.” Through the exchange of expression in the marketplace of ideas, society can build security and prosperity. "Without it," said Henry Steele Commager, U.S. historian, "we can have neither security nor prosperity nor enlightenment.”
Imagine a critical utility service in your town is completely monopolized by one company. Customers may experience poor services and are imposed increasingly higher charges by the company. Since they have nowhere to go, the company has less incentive to continuously improve their service or run their business efficiently. In the end, society is overall worse off. This is similar to the case when only a certain thought or expression is allowed in a society. Lack of freedom to express competing ideas could result in a society that has to live with an inferior or even destructive ideology.
Consequences of Restrictions on Free Speech
The consequences of restriction on freedom of expression are dire as stated by George Washington about 250 years ago:
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.” — George Washington, first U.S. president.
Once suppression of freedom of speech becomes a primary tool of a government to manage its opposition, it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens:
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” —Harry Truman, U.S. president.
Who Are Restricting It?
The First Amendment assumes that the speaker, not the government, should decide the value of speech. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they saw the government as the biggest threat to the freedom of expression.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” — U.S. Constitution
We can see this sentiment from Benjamin Franklin who wrote in The Pennsylvania Gazette, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
Media and Big Tech: New Tyrants
As the presence of technology is increasingly more intrusive in people’s lives, the Big Tech and the media have risen as a more dangerous threat to freedom of expression than the government. With a single click or simple algorithm, they can completely devoid any person or entity of their rights to free speech. Twitter and Facebook banned even the President of the United States to use their services to exercise his free speech. They also did it to some conservative figures. Now, they will censor or ban anyone that dares to speak up or give evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
The Big Tech will not do it to figures or people with whom they share the same political ideology. They will do censorship to any entity they disagree politically, especially to those that can persuade public opinion that is contrary to their ideological view.
And when they are in cahoots with the government or a major political party like the Democratic Party in the United States, not only do they function as media propaganda machines of a political entity, but propaganda machines on steroids.
In a way, this is much more dangerous than a tyrant government because a tyrant government will do it more openly. The Big Tech and the media can do it rather subtly while hiding their true identity and agenda. They present themselves to the public as an unbiased entity and neutral arbiter, while in truth, they are just partisan hack masquerading as journalists or truth defenders.
Although the media and the Big Tech tried to hide their true ideological background, the American people do recognize their bias. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found, “72% of the public thinks it likely that social media platforms actively censor political views that those companies find objectionable.” About 80% respondents were more likely to say Big Tech supports the views of liberals over conservatives than vice versa.
Why Do They Censor?
Why do the Big Tech and the media censor people or views they don’t like? The main reason is because they are not confident in their “truth”.
“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” —Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966)