The latest yelling about a war on free speech” comes after the University of California at Berkeley cancelled Ann Coulter’s speech for what they say are “safety concerns”. We must remember that there is a group of anarchists that have caused violence during speeches at Berkeley before. Maybe, the university is right, maybe it is wrong.
The question really isn’t about why the speech was cancelled, but whether or not it is another “battle” in the war on free speech. I guess that depends upon our definition of free speech. Which makes us look at just what free speech is.
We have seen lots of cases where this so-called war on free speech could be used by both sides. But, it is the fringes on both sides that use the free speech argument the most. In just the past year or so, we have seen many people blasted for their opinions on different issues. We could call those attacks as a war on free speech.
There was a big problem when Milo Yianapolis tried to give a speech at Berkeley. We also saw and heard all kinds of attacks against Kapernick just because he chose to kneel for the national anthem as a protest in favor of Black Lives Matter.
Those attacks are still going strong, and many conservatives are very happy that he seems to be having a problem landing on new team. Couldn’t we call that a war on free speech?
Free speech is one of our fundamental rights a citizens. The speech we use is not limited to “correct” speech. I have written before that even hate groups like the KKK or the American Nazi Party have a right to hold rallies. That is what free speech is all about.
Even still, there are limits to our free speech rights. We do not have a right to cause disturbances or riots from our speech. We do not have a right to cause public safety concerns with our speech. For example, we cannot simply yell “fire” in a crowded theater just for fun and claim free speech.
We are even seeing this play out in the courts right now. Three protesters at trump rallies are suing the trump campaign, their supporters, and trump himself for inciting violence at his rallies. Even one of the accused trump supporters has said that he was encouraged by trump to attack the protesters.
The odd thing is trump isn’t really arguing against the claim of inciting violence, he is arguing that he cannot be sued because he is president. You may argue that protesters do not belong at a political rally. But, if that is the case, what about your free speech argument?
In 1968, I attended to protest at a rally for George Wallace in Chicago. During that campaign, Wallace took great joy at protesters disrupting his rally because it put his name in the headlines. He ran into a problem in Chicago that time. Whenever he used his hate speech towards the protesters, they sarcastically cheered his hate. As a result, no one was “thrown out” and there were no “violence” headlines at the rally the next day. Needless to say, Wallace kept getting angrier and angrier as the night went along.
We are hearing that people like Bill O’Reilly are victims of liberal attacks just because he is a conservative and liberals are trying to shut up conservatives. The argument goes that sponsors were bullied to pull their ads from his show by liberal extortionists. They claim that liberals just wanted to stop a conservative from expressing his views.
That argument is bogus. O’Reilly thought that his position allowed him to abuse and harass women. He thought he could get away with it because he was “famous” and that meant he could do whatever he wanted. Just like beloved leader bragged about in that Hollywood Access tape during the campaign.
Then you have the Kapernick argument. If you are claiming that O’Reilly shouldn’t have been fired because he is a conservative, then Kapernick should be left alone too. If you wrote a letter or complained openly about his protest, than you are doing to him exactly what you complain liberals are doing to O’Reilly. You are trying to silence his political views.
Conservatives have tried to paint the Black Lives Matter movement to anti-American activities. Even calling them “terrorists” on Fox News more than once. Where is the cry about waging a war on free speech?
The biggest problem we have with our right to free speech is the speech itself. In the 1960s protesters were met with violence. Many times they were attacked by police just because they were protesting. That was really the case in the Civil Rights movement. But, the anti-war protests against the Vietnam war faced similar attacks. As Mayor Richard J. Daily famously said on television: “The police are not there to cause the violence, they are there to preserve the violence”.
That sentiment still goes a long way today. When violence breaks out over a conservative speech, the rioters are trying to “suppress conservative views”. When violence breaks out when a liberal speaks, then the liberals are just a bunch of anti-Americans trying to cause trouble. Yes, the same can be said in both directions, but today it mostly comes from the right.
In order to have a proper discussion and/or debate over issues, we need free speech. We need to hear both sides of the argument and then decide which direction the nation should go. However, we also need to have rational debate.
Ann Coulter is not better than any other right-wing fringe wacko. The pundits try to place her more in the main stream, but her speech and her writings are anything but mainstream. She has never had a good word about anyone who isn’t white, Christian, and conservative. She is a white supremacist nationalist who hates anyone who is not white and wants to keep any non-white out of the country. That is not mainstream.
Still, she is entitled to her opinions. However, others have a right to their opinions, and if they decide to show up and peacefully demonstrate against her then they are exercising their right to free speech. Yet, that isn’t how her supporters see the world. They see the world as she can say whatever she wants, and no one can protest against her.
In our history, we had the fringe wackos on the left do the same thing. There have been times when they argued they were right and everyone was wrong and therefore any protest against them should not be allowed. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
Before you take sides in this so-called war on free speech, remember it works both ways. You may feel like the victim today, but the other side was the victim before. The only answer is for each side to understand that hate speech of any kind is not really political speech. It is hate speech pure and simple.
Both sides have a right to say what they want. I am not advocating for a ban on any form of speech. However, if anyone is wanting to give a speech, they should expect blowback from those who disagree. If you are not willing to accept that blowback, then you shouldn’t be giving a speech in the first place.
You should also be careful of what you say. Yelling from the podium words like “get ’em out of here” or “I will pay for your lawyers” can and should be considered incitement to violence. That is what the suit against trump’s campaign is all about.
We have a right to free speech. We also have a responsibility to control our free speech. You cannot have it both ways. If you claim your side has a right to free speech, you cannot deny free speech to the other side. If you agree that you can protest against a speaker, then you cannot argue the other side doesn’t have the right to protest against your speaker.
For example, when something like the resistance movement protests against your leader, you cannot simply call them “paid protesters” to dismiss them. Neither can you reject someone’s right to give a speech, even if you disagree with the content.
The oddity to me is that Berkeley is known as the birthplace of free speech from the 1960s. That same birthplace cannot tamp down on conservative views either. Free speech must be allowed so anyone can express their views. Yes, public safety must be taken into consideration. We do not need violence just because some is giving a speech.
The point is that there really is no “war on free speech”. There is simply a politicization about what free speech is all about. That is the real problem we face today. Free speech actually shows us where our problems lie. It puts on full display the evils and the corruptions that we face as a nation.
The discrimination problems we face today are the same as we faced 100 years ago. They are bases on race, sex, national origin, color and sexual orientation. Immigrants are hated, especially if they are immigrants of color or non-Christian religion. It is the same as it was throughout our history.
Instead of stopping these speeches, we should simply show up and peacefully protest against the views we disagree with. We should let our voices be known as well. That is the best way to stop the spread of hate and the formation of an authoritarian government. When free speech is controlled by the government, we all lose.
Free speech can be controlled in many ways. Not allowing a speech to take place is one form of controlling it. Another way is to label the protesters as anti-American.
Protests are a form of free speech. Marches are a form of free speech. And, yes, hate is also a form of free speech. In order for our democracy to survive in troubling times, we need to fight hate speech, but not with violence or trying to silence it. We need it to be heard so we know how to fight it.
Throughout hour history, hate has eventually lost in the fight for our nation’s soul. There is no reason why we should expect it to win this time either. Unless we go off the rails and try to silence dissent. Fight hate with love and we will win. Fight hate with hate, and we all lose.