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Sunday, July 29, 2018

SALLY MORRIS:  PART 7 - FREEDOM OF SPEECH 101:  THE BEDROCK OF LIBERTY

The past weeks have brought us a brief discussion of our most fundamental right - enshrined as the First Amendment to our Constitution.  Until recently we’ve enjoyed and could depend upon the protection of our freedom of speech. Of late we have allowed encroachment of government and social pressure to erode this basic right.


How important is this?  Should we risk offending others by asserting it?  We must ask what the alternative is. We have no dearth of examples:  China, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Britain, Iran, Saudi Arabia. In these places people who speak out are harshly dealt with.  There, silence and fear are a grim reality.


You might think it odd to include Britain among other police states, but they persecute dissenters, as you know if you’ve read  my previous entries in this series or if you’ve followed Tommy Robinson’s story. It’s important we acknowledge Britain’s culpability because we’re culturally close.  


Without free speech there’s no clearing house for discontent or redress of grievances.  There’s no way for people to govern themselves. Free elections depend upon free speech.  If the safety valve of free speech is blocked less civilized means come into play.


We’ve seen ways in which our voices have been  silenced. Those not part of the Left are routinely marginalized, often misrepresented and slandered.  They’re demonized - punished. If speech comes to a court case, as Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant observe, “the process is the punishment” and costs to defend speech can be devastating.  Justice is dear - and elusive.


“Controversial” speakers are denied venues -  because of social pressure, threats or usurious costs for “security”, as Ben Shapiro has learned, and thus, audiences denied their information.  Even the threat of disruption can deprive a speaker of a venue. Are they bribed or threatened? It’s been determined that a baker cannot decline to serve a client.  Could we also be told that a venue can’t allow a certain speaker?  


City governments impose “inclusivity” or “hate speech” resolutions on communities which take on de facto force of proscription of “certain kinds” of speech.  Much of the impetus for this is coming not from Americans, but from foreign sources - the UN, George Soros. Thomas Sowell has said, “What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it.  When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long.”


Newspapers refuse letters they don’t approve of.  Advertisers are boycotted. Social media isn’t shy about allowing the most offensive expression for some while banning those with whom they disagree outright, sometimes for life!


Identity politics have given us whole segments of our population we’re not allowed to “offend” and some are remarkably thin-skinned.  The slightest affront brings calls for “discussion” meaning not discussion, but an opportunity to  shame the perceived offender.


There’s no way to find the truth without open, fearless discussion, debate,  sharing of thought and opinion, yet our younger generation has declared that freedom of speech is less important than not hurting another’s feelings.  “Safe spaces” are more desirable than debate.  Professors who express dissent are threatened with loss of position or worse, in universities - which are supposed to be bastions of critical thinking and debate.  This is a recipe for tyranny.


In Britain it’s risky to expose corrupt government; in Iran it’s deadly to criticize Mohammed; in Canada one dare not call a Muslim anti-Semitic nor a “scientist” a fake, even if they are; in North Korea, one doesn’t doubt aloud that Kim Jong Un is God.  Can we afford take this?  Yet we are.


It is important to remember that the target of those who seek to deprive a man of free speech is never the the speaker himself, but his audiences.  It is not the right to speak that tyrants fear so much as the right of others to hear the speaker and learn the truth.  It is your right to hear that is in the crosshairs of tyranny.


I will conclude this brief series with a defining confrontation between Ezra Levant and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, wherein Levant verbally devastates the soulless system in his eloquent defense of freedom.

 

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