Why is Free Speech relevant today?
If citizens of this great country continue to value a free society then they will continue to uphold the tenants of free speech and defend our rights for it. In our exercise of Free speech, we prove the distinction nature of humanity, inspire education, test administrative power and aid in a diverse culture, by these tenants’ freedom of speech maintains and sustains freedoms for all peoples.
Benjamin Franklin said, “whoever would overthrow the liberty of the nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” In order to uphold the liberty of any nation one must surely begin by defending free speech, free press and free opinion, in the moments which it is endangered.
“There is an increasingly repressive climate that is engulfing national mainstream media outlets across the country.” – Glen Greenwald states and “I am voluntarily sacrificing the support of a large institution and guaranteed salary in exchange for nothing other than a belief that there are enough people who believe in the virtues of independent journalism and the need for free discourse…” Glen Greenwald, Journalist 2020
What is the significance of freedom of speech in 2021 It grants us the powers to remain free people? namely the power of human intellect, education, diversity and accountability. Depending on how we manage this constitutional and human right we will either tip towards freedom or bondage. As Abraham Lincoln declared in his Gettysburg Address, “a house divided cannot stand, either we will become all one or all the other, but we cannot remain both.” We will either remain free at the core of our society or become slaves to social ideologies not being encouraged to question motives and policies nor having freedom to oppose them. “slavery tolerates no freedom of the press, no freedom of speech nor freedom of opinion.” -Hinton Rowan Helper.
Tyranny, fascism and communism remains a threat to every free nation; more now than ever where the global trend is authoritarianism. Freedom of speech holds the key to challenge corruption. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’, we must not fight with violence and force, but with the words, intellect and truth. We must not let our guard down by falling quiet at this time and mistake it for peace, how very easy that would be today, how weak and vulnerable we are after a year like this past year weighed down with fear, mistrust, division and death. Are we not ripe for a power greater than WE THE PEOPLE to take up rule, are we not all tired and willing to give up to those who are willing to take over? Free speech contests those who would desire to rule without accountability and overthrow independence. Censorship has begun to creep onto our shores let it be a sure sign of what it as stake, let us take up our pens and our discourse and fight. If we value our freedoms then we must fight for them not as beasts but as men. If we lose ground, we can only blame ourselves, because we didn’t practice or fighting for our rights to free speech when it was still appropriate to do so. As Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death that you may say it.”
Free speech, free press and the freedom to share ideas will always result in a habitable and free society. A society which is free is free to flourish. We will not become perfect through absolute conformity and force but we may become whole and strong through the ‘collision of adverse ideas’ and in oppositional dialogues we find truth that generates fruitfulness, productivity and morality. Free Speech permits the ability to share experiences, oppose injustice, challenging falsehood, criticize hypocrisy, hold accountable leaders and powers who have been elected to serve and protect not direct and hush. Peace will never come to us in the midst of this critical moment by eliminating arguments or silencing those who make them, but by upholding the freedom and right to present them.
In an attempt to do defend free speech and the threat to democracy a letter was written by several prominent writers and signed, after several journalists received repercussion for sharing views and ideas which appeared to “go against” popular cultural thought and social movements. Can individuals not have their own views and opinions and reactions and voice them publicly isn’t that freedom of speech and isn’t freedom of speech part of our constitutional rights? In a portion of the letter we read “The stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes our time. the restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation risk taking and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.” Harper’s magazine. I suggest free speech is the knot which ties or unties our country from our independence and constitution which in turn has protected all our freedoms for every citizen in this country since it’s drafting. Should we not defend it?
We may find peace in the midst of this critical moment, if by our own individual human conscience, we exercise freedom to speak forth convictions though it may offend the highest powers or the lowest victims, truth is not owned but discovered and mostly through abrasive engagements and hearty discrepancies, and in the end, truth brings peace. The truth that we are human, that freedom emerges from education, values diversity and demands accountability.
We are Human
Free speech proves human distinction. “Free speech is a basic human right. We don’t have it merely because of the first amendment, we have the first amendment in recognition of our right. Human society cannot exist without the communication of ideas.” Gary McGrath (medium.com)
The one thing that sets man high above all other life on earth and throughout the known universe is this: speech. Language. The ability to use words and communicate and share our minds intelligently. Thoughts. When we speak our mind and when we exchange opinions, we learn we grow we solve problems we expand knowledge. When we have freedom to express our human mind, we are providing evidence of our unique human attributes, and we manifest the one aspect of our nature distinct from animals; to reason without violence, force or tyranny, but in the most civilized manner – verbal utterance. Beasts, are easily tamed because they cannot oppose their masters with “intelligent minds”. The animal kingdom has no ‘rights’, they have no ability to think beyond instinct, oppose, reason, make logical arguments or educated decisions, therefore animals are not free to decide or choose for themselves. If we do not exercise the one thing that distinguishes mankind from the animal’s, speech and thought, we will become like them, slaves with masters directing our lives.
We Can be Educated
Free speech encourages free thought and education on the Brandeis university webpage you can find this claim, “all members of Brandeis should be able to put forth ideas for consideration, engagement, and criticism by other as such exchanges are the core mission of institutions of higher learning. ‘if there be a time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies to the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech not enforced silence.’” Why- because higher learning transpires in the cradle of free speech.
Speech emerges from individual thought, thought emerges from knowledge and education, knowledge and education from experience. Freedom of speech empowers mankind. Creating opportunities to choose what to do with new information. Human get to judge novel thought, theories, concepts and beliefs, and to be a critic over the spoken and written word and to share his own personal rebuttals. Free speech puts power into the hands of the hearer to act, react, respond change or counter and most important improve. “without freedom of thought there can be no such things as wisdom; no such things as public liberty without the freedom of speech” …ben franklin
Free speech holds powers accountable through divergence. It is critics, not fans who drive improvement. Rivals and intelligent opposition stimulate thought processes, while unswerving agreement merely silences the spirited nature within each of us. Opposition is often the catalyst for improvement and reform. Total conformity erodes the spirit which seeks to be strengthened through examination and debate and it cancels any appetites to seek truth. A Newsweek article By Marina Watts On 10/29/20 states “Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize winner and founder of The Intercept, announced that he would be resigning from the publication, due to censorship over his criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden. “The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.”
It is the job of the press to expose and uncover. Through accurate reporting and investigation, it provides information, truth, facts and yes criticism to the public. It is the free press who have pledged to be watchdogs; weeding out those who would lie, cheat or steal from the people for selfish gain. Without such accountability and criticism, powers go unchecked. Fact finders must be permitted to print and speak according to their exclusive observation and knowledge, individuals must be encouraged to share their oppositions and beliefs, we have no hope for freedom to remain a value in this country if free press is suppressed. Leaders and powers at hand must fear the exposure of their actions in order to walk the straight and narrow line of justice, fairness and impartial rule. Leaders must be afraid of the threat of exposure if they are practicing falsehood and there must be those who are willing to expose the falsehood without fear of threat. The fear of punishment ought not to be on the truth seekers but on those who hide truth. “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” -unknown source
In their letter on justice and open debate published in harpers magazine writers express the value they place on free speech and the threat to its existence today in 2021. “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted, an intolerance of opposing views…” . it is precisely these opposing views which must be permitted otherwise we are an authoritarian government with a ruling class determining like Hitler what is acceptable and what is not.
The danger in censorship and unchecked government powers is repression. The first threat to tyranny is that of free thought, free thinkers cannot be controlled, even Adolf Hitler recognized the power of the pen and quickly erased the freedoms of authors in order to assert his own exclusive views, remain unchecked and gain momentum and power.
“Literature, along with art and music, suffered greatly in Nazi Germany. As with other aspects of culture, a very simple rule existed for literature: it was either acceptable to the Nazi state or it was not. When Hitler came to power on January 30th 1933, he was acutely aware of the power of authors – both within Nazi Germany and internationally. Hitler knew that they had the power to undermine Germany abroad if they were allowed to write as they wished. As early as May 1933, Hitler took the decision that literary freedom had to be curbed at all costs and that authors only wrote in a manner that the government approved of.” The History Learning Site, 9 Mar 2015. 19 Apr 2021.
We can easily fall into the same model even if not led by the same partialities. Permission must be given to the republic to challenge, sometimes in unpleasant ways, the views and ideals of authorities. Free speech encourages both sides of an argument despite its uncomfortable notions and implications to individuals and organizations. Like a tool of resistance, opposing arguments shape, build and strengthens, like a chisel cutting away the clay of indifference, sparking and igniting a sort of friction which enables us to stand. Those who have freedom to speak, must hold accountable those who have power to act. “It is only those who fear the investigation of their actions who would say no to free press, and free speech john Adams.
Free Speech inspires, aids, diversity, Symbiotic relationships in nature allows for the most productive and habitable environments. When a variety of people’s opinions are permitted to arise then a lush and diverse culture emerges. Diversity within the universe is a necessary ingredient for life. With a wide range of information societies are shaped, improved and sustained and better conditions arise for the people by the people. When people are subdued with uniformity there is no re-production or multiplication of information. Free speech inspires creative thought, examination, truth and beauty. But these things often find their strength in a force which presses against them in their counterparts not their reflections. So obvious is this expression and freedom of speech connected to free society and so historically has the removal of it led unapologetically to other forms of tyrannical governments, that we would have to assume the removal of freedom of speech would create a government not for the people and by the people but for the elite on the backs of people and notwithstanding the people.
Slavery was dissolved in this country many years ago, deemed inhumane and evil, let us not be owned by any government which says we cannot think a certain way or speak against such things which are unpopular or unkind. Kindness alone does not win our freedoms. Let us not fear war unless it is a war against our own freedoms to speak and let us not fear to speak out but rather fear silence as MLK said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK
America is in a critical moment, a moment of trial, one in which every free country must overcome in order to maintain the freedoms valued or else surrender its rights. Our liberties are
placed under fires of truth and justice. The year 2021 Has underscored crisis, setting ablaze the furnace which will either prove or destroy our declaration of independence and the will of the people to maintain a just and free society. if we still value this free state, we must value its sources. For 244 years the American ‘experiment’ has trumpeted a free society, a capitalist country, a land of opportunity and just balance of powers, but now we sit precariously perched on the cusp of a new kind of society, one in which individual freedom is not the norm of the day, but a ghost of past generations. A society in which freedoms that once inspired, now haunt with echoes of silence. We have before us a choice; will we use our current liberties to solve problems through free discourse or be hushed into oppression, herded like cattle into one single perspective for fear of “offending” the group. All governments and societies must pass through this test; a test of freedoms, not all survive. To pass this test we must hold onto our life line – the freedom of speech. Something the founders of this country value above all else to be either the force of success or the removal of it the catalyst of destruction.