I occasionally post about the threat posed to freedom of speech in the United States by some politicians, academics, and television pundits masquerading as journalists.
That’s my topic today.
As a former journalist, it is a subject that I feel strongly about—especially when I hear people who claim to be journalists insist that there should be some restrictions on speech. To hear a journalist say something like that is akin to a minister or priest revealing that he or she no longer believes in God.
When I left active journalism and became a professor and dean at the University of Illinois, I witnessed disturbing restrictions of free speech on campus in the name of inclusiveness and political correctness. In an ill-advised effort to coddle the habitually offended, “safe spaces” were created where the constantly aggrieved could retreat when they heard a comment they didn’t like or agree with.
In my humble opinion, this is NOT the role of a university. If anything, a university should be a place where ALL ideas can be heard, analyzed, and debated. It should not be a place that censors thought and free expression. Ironically, that’s exactly why the concept of tenure was created. Tenure guaranteed that professors who stated ideas or theories that administrators disagreed with could not be sacked for expressing those ideas and theories.
Sadly, the objective of tenure today has less to do with academic freedom and much more to do with unassailable job security. Too many professors today refuse to allow energetic classroom discussion of ideas they disagree with—a paradoxical twist to the raison d’être of tenure.
Incessant attacks on the Bill of Rights in general and the First & Second Amendments, in particular, should concern every American. These are bedrock freedoms that are the backbone of our Constitution.
Americans tend to take these rights for granted and I fear that only when they have lost them because of a misguided obsession with uniformity of accepted political and social thought will they fully understand the depth of their loss. Of course, then it will be too late.
America will have then become a nation that embraces the failed policies of lock-step socialism, rather than a democratic republic that cherishes personal freedom, free enterprise, and individualism. It is disconcerting for me—a former Democrat—to watch the party I grew up with shift so far to the left that now mainstream Democrats are calling for America to embrace socialism.
Socialism is a failed ideology. It strips people of incentive with its “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” philosophy. It gives the government too much control over the lives of its citizens. If you want to live in George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” then, by all means, embrace socialism. I hope I’m not around to witness the destruction of the country I love and served as a soldier.
Today, in America, many people are too quick to condemn opinions and attitudes they disagree with as “hate speech.” In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union says there is no such thing as hate speech—there is only free speech. I don’t always agree with the ACLU, but in this instance, they are correct. The remedy for dealing with so-called hate speech is more free speech. Yet, all we hear today in America is the vicious vilification of those who disagree with us.
Unfounded allegations of racism, bigotry, hate speech, etc. have taken the place of rational discourse and dialog. The result is a nation in which reasonable and cogent debate on such issues as free speech, gun control, illegal immigration, racial equality, border security, etc. is thwarted by biased and impenetrable minds that are bolted shut.
I hate to sound so pessimistic but given the state of intolerance and ill-advised identity politics that is embracing and suffocating our nation today, I am not optimistic about the future. We are currently gripped in the most ominous cycle of malicious personal attacks and malevolent political destruction I have ever seen.
Whatever happened to “we can agree to disagree” while we examine one another’s arguments? Instead, those on the other side of an argument are branded bigots, racists, sexists, fanatics, zealots, jingoists, and even criminals.
When you have elected officials calling for the incarceration and even the assassination of the President of the United States, as a state senator from Missouri once did, it tells me our tradition of a loyal opposition is in grave danger.
When we as Americans refuse to listen to opposing ideas or views, I fear our parochialism and narrow-mindedness will drive us down the slippery slope toward annihilation and that will herald the end of one of human-kinds most noble experiments in self-governance and individual freedom.
At that point, the torch America’s iconic Statue of Liberty has held in her right hand since 1886 will be extinguished and the world will have re-entered a new Dark Age.
When that happens, God help us all.
Of course, given our nation’s rampant secularism, its denial of God, and its approved rejection of the sanctity of life, I suspect pleas for God’s help will go ignored.
As the Bible says: You reap what you sow.