What Free Speech?

02/09/2017

“Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly… It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” – Louis D. Brandeis

 

The University of California at Berkeley was once the scene of perhaps the greatest example of free speech in America. I should know; I was there for a time. Some of the free speech was pretty radical by anyone’s standards. However, all viewpoints were allowed. That’s the beauty of free speech. No one truly has free speech unless everyone has it.

The recent violence on the campus of UC Berkeley shows that some students there disagree with the concept of free speech. An example of their thinking was on display recently in the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, a sample of which is as follows:

  • “To people with platforms who decide when a protest should and should not be violent: You speak from a place of immense privilege. As I recently wrote in a tirade against this brand of idiocy, asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act.”

Comment: We are a Republic, a nation of laws. Therefore, no individual gets to decide    what is a “violent act.”

  • “…with President Trump threatening to cut UC Berkeley’s federal funding if it does not allow all opinions to be shared… the president is threatening the freedom of speech of these protesters.

Comment: No one violated the protestors free speech. The problem is the violence, not the rhetoric. In reality, the opposite is true; that is, the protestors caused other peoples’ free speech to be violated. You may hate what someone has to say, but you have to allow him to have his say. Otherwise free speech is no longer free.

  • “…the hate speech that fails to respect the humanity of undocumented people.”

Comment: The lack of respect is actually on the part of the violent protestors. Certainly, if any of these were my kids, I’d wonder who brainwashed them into hating America.  As Dana Carvey once said, “I think free speech is probably the coolest thing we have in this country, and again, you can label it hate speech and dismiss it, and then you’re allowed to censor it.”

  • “When mass call-ins, faculty and student objections, letter-writing campaigns, numerous op-eds (including mine), union grievances and peaceful demonstrations don’t work, when the nonviolent tactics have been exhausted — what is left?…These were not acts of violence. They were acts of self defense.”

Comment: Of course, this form of “self-defense” violates the civil rights of others. Self-defense? No further comment is necessary.

  • “I urge you to consider whether damaging the windows of places like banks and the Amazon student store constitutes ‘violence.’”

Comment: Suggest that we ask the people who had property damaged whether or not it was violence.

 

Yes, we are a nation of laws. When we cease to respect those laws, we spiral down into anarchy. At some point, we actually cease becoming a nation. Instead, we are hostage to mob rule. Perhaps, that’s what was intended all along by the violent protests.

 

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another. And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know. This sacred Privilege is to essential to free Governments… Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Fteeness [sic] of Speech….”

 – Cato’s letters

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