Myths about free speech and the left

Readings:

Today, we are looking at some aspects of free speech.

There is a common perception that in the US, support for free speech is declining overall, driven by collapsing support for free speech primarily on college campuses and the left. Our first reading for today shows that this is the opposite of correct: across the entire population, support for free speech has never been higher, and people of the far left are the most supportive of free speech rights. The far left has higher support for free speech than liberals, moderates, conservatives, and the far right.

The second reading explored the idea that countries with restrictions on free speech always justify these laws based on the need to suppress the far right, but the laws are instead used against the left and ethnic or religious minorities. This underscores a very basic point: Controlling speech is incredibly powerful, and it is extremely dangerous to empower the government to send people to prison for what they say. You might agree with today’s decisions on what speech needs to be suppressed, but what happens when Donald Trump is elected president and suddenly has the power to decide what speech needs to be suppressed?

The last article looked at many difficult questions, including a quote from Fredrick Douglass expressing frustration over being repeatedly shut down by pro-slavery protestors whenever he tried to give anti-slavery speeches.

Finally, we are all here out of a desire to make the world a better place for ordinary people. But if we’re not willing to protect the right of an ordinary person to speak her mind, what are we really doing?

Open discussion. If a question is needed to get people talking:

  • Why do so many pundits cry wolf about free speech?
    • The far left is winning the war of ideas, so moderate and conservative pundits look for ways to discredit the far left. They can’t address the underlying ideas, so they make up concerns about free speech.

 

My future topics on free speech, including: how the far right cynically and hypocritically claims the mantle of free speech, and what is the most effective response.