The First Amendment is not Enough
The First Amendment stands as the greatest limitation of state or official censorship ever conceived. But for the sake of the very principle for which
it stands—free speech—it is not enough. The American government is not the greatest threat to free expression. Not even close.
That honor lies with the public, and there is no law preventing citizens, corporations, and other private entities from engaging in the twin evils of
censorship and the denial of liberty. As Orwell noted, even as far back as 1945, “…the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this
moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print,
it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.”
Little force beyond the principles of their conscience and sheer will can prohibit the masses from forcing, coercing, or punishing another into
various degrees of silence. As history attests, free speech is a principle seldom found in the conscience of the average man, even where it is found
in the constitutions that protect his own liberties from government tyranny.
Even in America, where liberty and freedom is given sufficient lip-service, a vast mob will descend on a free speech rally at the encouragement of the
press and local officials, such as in Boston in 2017, with the sole intent of silencing the voices trying to speak there— freedom of speech be
damned. Activists of all stripes routinely “de-platform”, shout-down and shut-down speakers, whom are often censored for the sake of public
safety. With such a prevailing attitude, it is no strange wonder that corporate censorship and mob censorship grows in frequency. When the public
gravitates towards censorship, eventually the governments will do the same.
Authoritarians like to remind us of their trite principle “freedom of speech but not freedom from consequences”, which is a round-about way of
saying “freedom of speech but censorship”. This sort of newspeak allows our would-be censors to avoid the important task of defending free speech,
especially for views they disagree with, but without the cognitive dissonance of holding two conflicting principles at once.
They will remind us it isn’t illegal for a company to censor certain views, or it isn’t illegal for protesters to shout down some speaker or
other, and that it is their right to deny one's liberty of speech and thought.
But remember what Bastiat wrote of the law:
It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and
property exist before-hand, that men make laws.
- The Law
An action is not wrong because it is against the law; it is against the law because it is wrong. Liberty, free speech, exist before the concessions
and excuse-making of our authoritarian friends, who see no choice but to defend censorship because the laws allow it. Either way, it may not be
illegal for a company to censor certain views, but it is wrong. It may not be illegal for protesters to shout down a speaker, but it is wrong.
There are reasons that enlightened men codified free speech in our charters, and those reasons stand with or without your first amendments,
constitutions, and any other legislations you choose to dictate your morals. And unless you know what they are, why they are there, and whom they
apply to, free speech is doomed.
edit on 5-4-2018 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)