Updated: Jan 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 restrict freedom of expression, specifically on expression they disagree with.
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. This is perfectly summed up by Oliver Holmes and Samuel Gompers:
“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
“The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press have not been granted to the people in order that they may say the things which please, and which are based upon accepted thought, but 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.” — Samuel Gompers, U.S. labor leader.
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 self-fulfillment. It is essential to individual liberty and contributes to what the Supreme Court has called the marketplace of ideas. But people’s ideas can flow out of their mind if they have the freedom to do 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 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 have poor services and impose increasingly higher charges. 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 of thought or expression is allowed in a society. Lack of freedom for 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 it 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 & 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 cahoot 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.
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)