Lynching Free Speech: The Intolerant State of America

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Top Tier Gear USA


“What are the defenders of free speech to do? The sad fact is that this fundamental freedom is on its heels across America. Politicians of both parties want to use the power of government to silence their foes. Some in the university community seek to drive it from their campuses. And an entire generation of Americans is being taught that free speech should be curtailed as soon as it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. On the current trajectory, our nation’s dynamic marketplace of ideas will soon be replaced by either disengaged intellectual silos or even a stagnant ideological conformity. Few things would be so disastrous for our nation and the well-being of our citizenry.”—William Ruger, “Free Speech Is Central to Our Dignity as Humans

My hometown of Charlottesville, Va., has become the latest poster child in a heated war of words—and actions—over racism, “sanitizing history,” extremism (both right and left), political correctness, hate speech, partisan politics, and a growing fear that violent words will end in violent actions.

In Charlottesville, as in so many parts of the country right now, the conflict is over how to reconcile the nation’s checkered past, particularly as it relates to slavery, with the present need to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense, especially if it’s a Confederate flag or monument.

In Charlottesville, that fear of offense prompted the City Council to get rid of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that has graced one of its public parks for 82 years. In doing so, they have attracted the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan.

Yale University actually went so far as to change the name of one of its residential colleges, which was named after John C. Calhoun, the nation’s seventh vice president, a secretary of state, secretary of war, senator and Yale alum who supported slavery.

New Orleans ran up a $2 million tab in its efforts to remove its four Confederate monuments, with the majority of the funds being used for security to police the ensuing protests and demonstrations.

With more than 1,000 Confederate monuments in 31 states (in public parks, courthouse squares and state capitols), not to mention Confederate battle flags on display in military cemeteries, and countless more buildings and parks named after historic figures who were slaveholders, this isn’t an issue that is going away anytime soon, no matter how much we ignore it, shout over it, criminalize it, legislate it, adjudicate or police it.

The temperature is rising all across the nation, and not just over this Confederate issue.

The “winter of our discontent” has given way to an overheated, sweltering summer in which shouting matches are skating dangerously close to becoming physical altercations.

As journalist Dahlia Lithwick writes for Slate, “These days, people who used to feel free to shout and threaten are emboldened to punch, body-slam, and stab. It is a short hop, we are learning, from ‘words can never hurt us’ to actual sticks and stones and the attendant breaking of bones. That is what has become of free speech in this country.”

Here’s the thing: if Americans don’t learn how to get along—at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different—then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).

The government will lock down the nation at the slightest provocation.

It is ready, willing and able to impose martial law within 24 hours.

Indeed, the government has been anticipating and preparing for civil unrest for years now, as evidenced by the build-up of guns and tanks and militarized police and military training drills and threat assessments and extremism reports and surveillance systems and private prisons.

Connect the dots, people.

The government doesn’t care about who you voted for in the presidential election or whether you think the Civil War was fought over states’ rights versus slavery. It doesn’t care about your race or gender or religion or sexual orientation.

When the police state cracks down, it will not discriminate.

We’ll all be muzzled together.

We’ll all be jailed together.

We’ll all be viewed as a collective enemy to be catalogued, conquered and caged.

Thus, the last thing we need to do is play into the government’s hands by turning on one another, turning in one another, and giving the government’s standing army an excuse to take over.

The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship, spying and policing.

This is how you turn a nation of free people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other. It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other, they’re incapable of presenting a united front against the threats posed by the government and its cabal of Constitution-destroying agencies and corporate partners.

Unfortunately, we have already become a nation of snowflakes, snitches and book burners: a legalistic, intolerant, elitist, squealing bystander nation eager to report fellow citizens to the police for the slightest offense.

Mind you, once the police are called in, with their ramped-up protocols, battlefield mindset, militarized weapons, uniforms and equipment, and war zone tactics, it’s a process that is near impossible to turn back and one that too often ends in tragedy for all those involved.

So how do we stop this train from barreling down the tracks past the police state and straight into martial law?

Let’s start with a little more patience, a lot more tolerance and a civics lesson on the First Amendment.

As my good friend Nat Hentoff, that inveterate champion of the First Amendment, once observed, “The quintessential difference between a free nation, as we profess to be, and a totalitarian state, is that here everyone, including a foe of democracy, has the right to speak his mind.”

What this means is opening the door to more speech not less, even if that speech is offensive to some.

Understanding that freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society, James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.

We haven’t done ourselves—or the nation—any favors by becoming so fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful or closed-minded that we’ve eliminated words, phrases and symbols from public discourse.

The result is a nation where no one really says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views. Intolerance is the new scarlet letter of our day, a badge to be worn in shame and humiliation, deserving of society’s fear, loathing and utter banishment from society.

For those who dare to voice an opinion that runs counter to the accepted norms, retribution is swift: they are shamed, shouted down, silenced, censored, fired, cast out and generally relegated to the dust heap of ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who are guilty of various “word crimes.”

We have entered a new age where, as commentator Mark Steyn notes, “we have to tiptoe around on ever thinner eggshells” and “the forces of ‘tolerance’ are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.”

In such a climate of intolerance, there can be no freedom speech, expression or thought.

We have become a nation of snowflakes.

We have allowed our fears—fear for our safety, fear of each other, fear of being labeled racist or hateful or prejudiced, etc.—to trump our freedom of speech and muzzle us far more effectively than any government edict could. Ultimately the war on free speech—and that’s exactly what it is: a war being waged by Americans against other Americans—is a war that is driven by fear.

By bottling up dissent, we have created a pressure cooker of stifled misery and discontent that is now bubbling over and fomenting even more hate, distrust and paranoia among portions of the populace.

The First Amendment is a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world.

When there is no steam valve to release the pressure, frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.

The problem as I see it is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we need someone else to think and speak for us. The result is a society in which we’ve stopped debating among ourselves, stopped thinking for ourselves, and stopped believing that we can fix our own problems and resolve our own differences.

Not only has free speech become a “politically incorrect” four-letter word—profane, obscene, uncouth, not to be uttered in so-called public places—but in more and more cases, the government deems free speech to be downright dangerous and in some instances illegal.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the U.S. government has become particularly intolerant of speech that challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. Indeed, there is a long and growing list of the kinds of speech that the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation and prosecution: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, extremist speech, etc.

The powers-that-be understand that if the government can control speech, it controls thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry. In fact, some of this past century’s greatest dystopian authors warned of this very danger.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, reading is banned and books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted and controlled.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, serious literature, scientific thinking and experimentation are banned as subversive, while critical thinking is discouraged through the use of conditioning, social taboos and inferior education. Likewise, expressions of individuality, independence and morality are viewed as vulgar and abnormal.

In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”

And in almost every episode of Twilight Zone, Rod Serling urged viewers to unlock their minds and free themselves of prejudice, hate, violence and fear. “We’re developing a new citizenry,” Serling declared. “One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

It’s time to start thinking for ourselves again.

It’s time to start talking to each other. It’s time to start listening more and shouting less.

Most of all, it’s time to start acting like people who will choose dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.

As Dahlia Lithwick concluded for Slate:

To guarantee an escape from conflict, from violence, requires censorship. To have free speech in this moment, when the stakes are so high, is to live with fear. This is not an easy thing to confront—or to accept… Conversation might still be our best chance of getting out of this mess. Free speech is just free speech. It takes actual humans making the effort to talk to each other to transform speech into something more vital and more valuable. Conversations don’t always work. They may sometimes go wrong—horribly, terribly wrong… The First Amendment will never be able to protect us from horrible words and horrific acts. It does guarantee that we’ll keep talking.

Delivered by The Daily Sheeple

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Contributed by John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute.

Since 1996, John W. Whitehead has taken on everything from human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, protection of religious freedom, and child pornography, to family autonomy issues, cross burning, the sanctity of human life, and the war on terrorism in his weekly opinion column. A self-proclaimed civil libertarian, Whitehead is considered by many to be a legal, political and cultural watchdog—sounding the call for integrity, accountability and an adherence to the democratic principles on which this country was founded.

Time and again, Whitehead hits the bull’s eye with commentaries that are insightful, relevant and provocative. And all too often, he finds himself under fire for his frank and unadulterated viewpoint. But as he frequently remarks, “Anytime people find themselves under fire from both the liberal left and the conservative right, it means that that person is probably right on target.”

Mr. Whitehead’s commentaries have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times and USA Today.

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  • TrevorD

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking the truth and expressing your opinions as log as it fits the narrative of the `control system` but more importantly to pacify the `Sheeple` that surround you. And the second one is often much more painful to attempt.

    • Hopeful_One

      We used to live in a free society, but those freedoms are being taken one step at a time, one Supreme Court decision after another over many, many decades, one illegal act of Congress after another, one step too far after another by various presidents, all outside the bounds of the Constitution.

  • Jim

    The Tali-ban is alive and well in America, destroying and rewriting our history so that it conforms to their agenda. And this article is correct in that we are becoming a country of delicate snoflakes, snoflakes that are afraid to say anything about anything for fear that someone might somehow take offense and get pissed off. So, you have a choice, be a delicate snoflake or stand up and exercise your First amendment freedom of speech.

    • Gil G

      Aw neo-Confederates can’t use public funding to celebrate their cause?

    • Hopeful_One

      Those who are called “snoflakes” are not that at all. These same people have no problems attacking and condemning others and even using violence. I’m not sure who people are calling “snoflakes,” but a real snow flake melts with any heat. These snoflakes are not melting but congealing into ice bergs ready to rip out the morays of society to replace them with their own.

      Someone who is easily offended at your beliefs and speech is simply an intolerant, hypocritical leftist/communist seeking to destroy your freedoms that their ideas might become the law.

  • Phil_Ossifer

    The questions to be answered vis a vis tolerance are, what should be tolerated, who decides what should and should not be tolerated, and to what extent should it be tolerated? This is the essence of the left v. right schism in this country. Both sides see far too many things are seen as simple binary issues, that is, if you aren’t with us, then you’re against us, and there is no middle ground. Reality, as usual, isn’t so neat and simple. Some things should not be tolerated at all (i.e., murder, theft) and some should be tolerated completely (I.e., free speech). Others are (I’m not saying they should be, just that they are) tolerated on a sliding scale such as prostitution, certain drugs, corrupt public officials. It’s the refusal to work within, or even acknowledge the existence of, that vast middle ground, or gray area, that causes the most problems.

    • Hopeful_One

      Discussion about the so called “gray areas” has come under PC speech, prohibiting such public discussions when ever possible. The leftists are the main users of political correctness, as they continually use deception and propaganda to promote their causes, which they think are “right” no matter what anyone says to the contrary. Most on the other sides think they are right, also, but not to the exclusion of public discourse on the subjects.

      An example is the squelching of the debate about homosexuality and its place in society. The liberals want it to simply be accepted, while many, God-fearing Americans cannot accept this behavior as normal without throwing out their morals and altering their moral compass which is based on Biblical ideas. Liberals seek to end all discussion of the matter and simply promote the “normality” and “acceptance” of an abnormal behavior.

      You say some things should not be tolerated and I agree completely, but there is an ongoing practice of murdering inconvenient, unborn babies that belies the truth that murder is indeed allowed and tolerated in these United States daily.

      There is such a thing as truth, absolute truth. It is sought in every court room, every week, yet somehow, a great number of our people have come to believe that it does not exist. Somethings will always be wrong and immoral and cause harm to others. God defines such things in his Ten Commandments. These do not change. Yet people practice behavior contrary to these immutable laws daily with consequence to themselves and others and all of society. When society and their govt. begins to accept this contrary behavior, PC speech is used to control the outcry against it.

      Most of our founding fathers believed in Christian doctrine and truth and established a central government with boundaries and limits and state governments with similar limits but different boundaries in law. The states made laws regarding all basic crimes and immorality, with some exceptions. The feds were to be bound within their confines of the Constitution. But they have gone outside those bounds and put clamps upon the states, taking much of their power to decide on moral issues and giving that power to the Supreme Court, which has gone against the laws of nature and nature’s God, to enact law contrary to the good of man and society and to seek to expunge all “religious” laws of the states which include any law based in Biblical morality.

      Until such a time that Americans recognize this work to destroy their freedom of conscience using political correctness, which is a destruction of free speech and freedom of religion and the press, and all other denoted liberties, the control of their liberties will increase, otherwise known as tyranny.

      • Phil_Ossifer

        I did NOT say that abortion should be tolerated, at least, not the way it is being used as a form of birth control. As a medical procedure it is sometimes (rarely) necessary to save the mother’s life so a blanket prohibition against it would be unwise. Gray area, again.

  • renee ciccioni

    I think it’s so stupid to take these things down and allow unnecessary outrage get in the way of addressing slavery and tlhow not to talk like adults about it .

    • Hopeful_One

      It is not stupid, but a deliberate move to control free speech and thought which leads to laws, monuments, and acts that define our past and our beliefs. Remove those laws, monuments, and acts and discussion of the same and we become a controlled populace confined in the parameters of political correctness, manipulated to believe and think as others want us to.

  • So well said. Thank you!

  • Hopeful_One

    Political Correctness is a promotion of hedged speech or speech with idea boundaries. This same PC speech has no problem with vulgarity, obscenity, and blasphemy. Now some think that free speech should include profanity, vulgarity, and obscenity, but our founding fathers did not think so. Crude and blasphemous speech was prohibited by law. Through the younger years of this nation public laws against blasphemy toward God and Christ were enforced. Laws against public profanity were enforced. Such laws do not limit free speech, but simply keep it in the boundaries of decency.

    Freedom of speech is meant to protect the free expression of ideas and beliefs and allow various sides of any issue to discuss their beliefs. Political Correctness seeks to destroy free expression of ideas while promoting vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, and blasphemy. Does this seem to be and idea at odds with itself? No more than believers of free speech that hate the use of vulgarity, profanity, obscenity, and blasphemy against God. The key is the limiting of ideas and their expression. One need not be vulgar and offensive to express their opinion. Use of such words and verbal slaps in the face are not necessary to get your opinion and view across. It does require, however, a mental restraint of sorts. One must think through what they say to present a logical idea. But when it breaks down into name calling, swearing and cursing and attacking your opponent, the meaningful discourse, the conversation between opposing ideas, is ruined; the lights go out, the heat is turned up, and tempers flare.

    Now certain political figures have learned how to avoid out and out profanity and cursing, while still doing it with cutting, directed words that attack the character or incite emotional reactions using words or names that incite such response. This is a clever form of twisted political correctness, wherein direct use of words and ideas that say what you mean are replaced with innuendo and association while making the user seem to be astute or decent. It is hypocritical speech and deception at its worst and far worse than open profanity as it is meant to deceive, not simply offend.

    • G’ma G

      You are spot on that Political Correctness destroys free expression. The following is directed at ideas raised, not negativity to you or your comments.
      Consider: “Crude and blasphemous speech was prohibited by law.” The problem is the subjective nature. Who gets to make the call? What is crude or blasphemous to one is humor to another. This is why there can be no restrictions on speech including the so called “fighting words”. Words can only illicit emotions. Unless it is Imminent/physical harm to one of the people or their property government nannies need to butt out.
      That said, I have been a public speaker for years and subjected to my share of crude hecklers. It goes with the territory. If you can’t take the heat…grow a set and stop empowering tyranny which will eventually turn against you and yours.

      • Hopeful_One

        Note that the prohibitions by law were for public use of profanity and blasphemy. They did not seek to stop private discourse. Public discourse should be kept at the higher level. As a school teacher there were rules in a certain school district against the use of profanity in public or the classroom. This was a reasonable rule. When a student blurted out some fouls words while doing his work, I reprimanded him and punished him, but the principal wanted to take the students side, going against the rules. Go figure.

        Profanity is not that subjective. We all know the words. Do we like having people yell out obscenities in public for our children to hear? Shows are rated R or otherwise because of the use of such words. It’s not that difficult.

        Neither is pornography that difficult to figure out, but nearly anything goes nowadays on tv and movies, the boundaries have been moved. Knowing the boundaries is not that difficult, but enforcing them is. As long as profanity and pornography is considered “free speech,” the erosion of true freedom of speech will continue. “Imminent/physical harm” should not be the standard for the border line. Words need not be spoken even for that threat. When something does harm to public decency and morality than it should be opposed. The standard has been lowered so far in recent years that there seems to be no standard at all in many cases.

        But as I said, this is not the most egregious problem. The deceitful, slandering tongue that carefully chooses its words while meant to cut and invoke a visceral response, is the more dangerous. I did not call for restriction on “fighting words.” There are already laws on the books against assault, which is words that threaten the physical well-being of someone. My point was that in early America, when the climate of belief was mostly Christian, public profanity and blasphemy were prohibited by law. Public speeches were not laced with foul words or blasphemy toward God. These things are not needed to promote various ideas. If you look at the Congressional Record, you will not find hardly any foul speech, nor blasphemy. Why is that? It is not allowed even today in Congress. Do they complain of this lack of “freedom?”

        In public debate, it has been my experience that deliberately rude and crude speech is only used to break up an otherwise thoughtful discussion, not promote it.

        • G’ma G

          Well laid out response. The question remains, who gets to pick the standard. Who decides which words are foul. Again a crude word to one is humor to another. The instant we say it depends on context we have again crossed the subjective line where one group gets to enforce its will against another.

          • Hopeful_One

            In public discourse, most understand the “G” rating. No crude words or profanity. To not offend the ears of the children among us or teach them foul speech, should be our standard. Those who do not understand Christian morality and teachings about using course speech, should learn what it means.

            The more difficult lesson is teaching men and women to speak their minds and to not cave to the pressures to be silent or mince their words so they offend no one. Politically correct speech teaches people to be afraid of repercussions for speaking their mind and promotes hypocrisy and deceit throughout society.

            Our liberty to speak freely comes with responsibility and was never meant to be license for all manner vulgarity and obscenity, Nor should true liberty ever be thought to be something that takes away the liberty of another, as is thought by many today.

            Hate speech is a vile law that does just that. When one speaks against supposed liberties granted by governing bodies to certain people, it is called hate speech. Those opposing homosexuality have been jailed or otherwise punished in certain cases using this vile law. The “hate speech” laws are an example of our eroding liberty, a real infringement on our God given and Constitutionally supported right to free speech.

  • G’ma G

    “Unfortunately, we have already become a nation of snowflakes, snitches and book burners: a legalistic, intolerant, elitist, squealing bystander nation eager to report fellow citizens to the police for the slightest offense.
    Mind you, once the police are called in, with their ramped-up protocols, battlefield mindset, militarized weapons, uniforms and equipment, and war zone tactics…”
    In other words we are a nation of the weak who seek power by proxy. Take a moment to consider what this means to you and your neighborhood.

    “So how do we stop this train from barreling down the tracks past the police state and straight into martial law? ”
    We don’t. We are already there despite any lack of declaration. We can’t turn a train around. All we can do is lay down new tracks that make the old ones obsolete.

    Every “violent” revolution in the past has only replaced one set of bad rulers with another. Repeating this pattern hoping for a different result is insanity. If violence is no longer the answer that leaves us with innovation…something Americans are historically terrific at.

  • Clementine

    Excellent article! How very refreshing to read such wisdom, worded with such delightful intellect…!

  • steve w

    This is all revealed in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.Go read it,even if you have to buy it on Kindle.