Free Speech Under Siege

by Jarret B. Wollstein

How the rise of censorship and violent political correctness threatens democracy, diversity, and your freedom 

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”   – Voltaire

“The thought police are watching you. If you say the ‘wrong thing’ you could lose your job or you could rapidly end up in court.

Michael Snyder, “20 Outrageous Examples That Show How Political Correctness is Taking Over America,” Thetruthwins.com

 

In the U.S. and throughout the world, free speech is under siege. At risk are our ability to speak truth to power, our freedom to create and pursue our vision of a good life, the right to report and reform abuses of power, and our freedom.

The threat is global, but in this essay, I will focus on the growing assaults on free speech in the United States.

Free Speech is Essential for Every

Free & Prosperous Society

No right is more fundamental and important then freedom of speech.

Without freedom of speech you can’t communicate your ideas and feelings, decry a social injustice, pursue an artistic vision, challenge prevailing “wisdom,” contradict establishment media, investigate scientific truth, expose corruption, practice a religion, protest police brutality, oppose war, or criticize government.

If freedom of speech is destroyed, self-development is crippled, social progress grinds to a halt, and official lies become the only “truth.”

Free speech is essential for every free, progressive and prosperous society.

Censorship: The Handmaiden of a Police State

Censorship is the use of force or intimidation to control what you can say, read, or see.

The greatest threat to free speech is government, which has a monopoly on legalized force and the power to shut down publishers, arrest dissenters, ban books, control media, and imprison or destroy any person, business or organization it views as a threat to the established order and power elites. Another growing threat is censorship by “progressive’ executives at YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other powerful social media, frequently in response to government pressure and threats:

Government’s War on Free Speech: In March of 2016, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted in testimony before the Senate that she had asked the FBI to consider whether the government should take legal action against “climate change deniers.” Thousands of scientists who question the role of human activity in global warming and other climate change could be imprisoned if the government goes down this path.

Another example: The IRS has admitted that under President Obama, it delayed or denied tax-exempt status of hundreds of conservative and patriot groups, hamstringing their public speech.

As former Congressman Ron Paul points out, “Today, many neoconservatives are using the war on terror to justify crackdowns on free speech, increased surveillance of unpopular religious groups like Muslims, and increased government control of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.” (Ron Paul, “Loretta Lynch and the Government War on Free Speech,” 3-14-16.)

“Dirty” Pictures Can Send You to Jail: Under the 1990 Comprehensive Crime Act, nude pictures of your own children in a bathtub can be prosecuted as “child pornography.” US Supreme Court Justice Brennan warned that the law is so broad, you could even be prosecuted for having “pictures of topless bathers at a Mediterranean beach.”

Since the passage of that Crime Act, court decisions have greatly increased its scope, so that today possession of even a few nude pictures of your own babies or even sexual cartoons could land you in jail for decades.

Lunacy on Campus: Clemson University’s chief diversity officer, Lee Gill, claimed that to expect certain people to be on time is racist.

Student activists at Evergreen University routinely disrupt classes of professors they disagree with, and in 2017 demanded the college have a “day without whites” to promote diversity.

At many liberal universities, students daring to wear a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hat or say they support Trump’s policies, have been assaulted and their cars vandalized.

During the last few years, liberal universities have been rocked by violent protest over conservative, or even insufficiently liberal, speakers. At Berkeley in February 2017, student protestors and black-clad Antifa thugs protesting a planned speech by Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, set fire to cars, did hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to campus and local businesses, and sent a dozen students to the hospital.

As journalist Walter Williams points out, “Today’s academic climate might be described as a mixture of infantilism, kindergarten and totalitarianism.” (“Walter Williams, “Sheer Lunacy on Campus, 5-18-17.)

Criminalizing Political Speech: Enacted one year after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the Omnibus Counter-terrorism Act did a lot more than go after terrorists. Its “conspiracy” provisions are a threat to any American who has anything to do with a foreign or domestic political organization the government dislikes.

Under this law, any individual or group in America can be branded “terrorists” by the Attorney General. Then the government can seize all of the assets of the banned group, as well as the assets of anyone who contributes to it. If you pay $5 to attend a lecture by a Middle Eastern group, and the Attorney General later decides that they might have terrorist links, your home and business could be seized.

Persecuting Dissenting Students: In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, hundreds of teenagers have been suspended, arrested or imprisoned for simply exercising their freedom of speech by making comments such as saying “I understand” how the Columbine student gunmen felt or for posting critical remarks about school administrators on the Internet. Other children have been suspended, expelled and arrested for such “crimes” as wearing an NRA T-shirt, chewing a Pop Tart into a gun shape, drawing a “violent picture,” or quoting the bible in class.

Deadly Government News Management: Increasingly, the U.S. government is controlling the news you see and hear. According to the watchdog group Accuracy In Media, over 87% of national network news comes either from government bureaucrats or consultants. Much of it is blatant pro-war propaganda fed to the media by the CIA and Pentagon. These agencies also have heavy input into many Hollywood movies!

Government news management is sometimes deadly. For example, the U.S. has been supporting Saudi Arabia in their genocidal war against Yemen. The U.S. supplies aircraft, bombs, and logistics that have been used to destroy homes, farms, businesses, schools, hospitals, and ports. In early 2018, over one million children were dying of cholera and 82 million Yemeni citizens were at risk of starvation from the Saudi-U.S. attacks and blockades of relief supplies.

Yet the hardly a word has been mentioned in establishment media about the complicity of the United States in one of the worst war crimes in human history.

Global Censorship: In the information age, censorship is going global. Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat – the world’s leading social media sites – now employ thousands of “hate speech” monitors who can arbitrarily kick “politically-incorrect” offenders off their sites. Amazon and PayPal have cut off payments to some sites (defunding) without citing causes or providing an opportunity to appeal. Many Internet Service Providers have also begun their own censorship regimes, under government pressure.

Fully implemented, these censorship regulations could transform cyberspace from the greatest public forum in history into a controlled, politically-correct mirror of the mainstream news media – no dissent allowed.

Reclaiming Our Freedom of Speech

During the last 70 years, government assaults on freedom of speech in the U.S. have been growing rapidly.

People whose only crime is that they hold unpopular ideas or expose government lies, are being harassed, imprisoned and even killed.

In America, censorship is not only wrong, it is illegal. Our Bill of Rights is unmistakably clear. “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .” It is time our legislatures and courts obeyed their own laws.

To preserve our freedom of speech, we must fight for it. Support groups like Liberty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American PEN Society, and FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) which are fighting for your freedom of speech. Challenge campus and office speech codes.

Regularly read independent news websites – like Zero Hedge, AlexJones.com, and Rational Review. Read the annual Censored books documenting assault on freedom of speech, and listing the projects of many organizations that are fighting back. Don’t be afraid to voice politically-incorrect and controversial views. And encourage others to do the same. Only by many of us working together to stand up to bullies and censors will we stop them.

For over 240 years America has stood for liberty and freedom of speech. Today we can no longer take these for granted. We must act now to restore our heritage of liberty – or risk losing it forever.

Jarret B. Wollstein is a co-founder of the original Society for Individual Liberty.