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Posts Tagged ‘free speech

I don’t know about you, but in the last few years I have begun to notice a certain self-censoring that has cropped up in me in these times of fostered culture wars, divisiveness, name calling (“disinformation,” “conspiracy theory”) and Cancel Culture.

It seems our overreach for “political correctness” has got free speech in a choke hold. And witnessing what happens to those who express a “non-sanctioned” perspective on just about anything has indeed created an almost intangible inhibition upon one of the hallmarks of democracy – freedom of expression. It’s still our constitutional right – at least the last time I checked.

Have you noticed any hesitation on your part, in the past 2 or three years, to voice your point of view aloud in conversation, on social media posts or even private emails?

It’s unfortunate that with the drip, drip, drip of censorship, largely excused in the name of a public health response to a global pandemic, our once robust social and cultural debates have become almost treacherous, should some platform, government agency (see the newly minted Disinformation Governance Board) or hater deem our perspective to be inconvenient or untrue.

As a culture we have pretty much concluded that all of our communication via devices such as smart phones, computers, tablets and the like are harvesting information about our buying habits, interests, political leanings and such. We’re all pretty clear about the levels of surveillance that are going on in the USA (and elsewhere) although the man who first blew the whistle vis-à-vis the intent and activities of the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), Edward Snowden, is still in exile from his homeland for suggesting so.

The ever-broadening reach of censorship has a legal term which describes the effect such assaults have on our constitutional right to free speech. It’s called The Chilling Effect.

From the Harvard Law Review:
“When the government passes a law, it often regulates conduct. People and organizations adjust their behavior to fit the legal rule; if a law forbids the destruction of certain financial records, for instance, organizations generally will not destroy those records. But regulations are sometimes unclear, uncertain, or overbroad, which can lead people to refrain from engaging in permissible actions because they are unsure whether they will be legally sanctioned. This phenomenon — a law’s effect on activity outside the scope of its intended target — is called the chilling effect.1× While chilling may happen in any number of contexts, it has been incorporated into free speech doctrine as a mechanism for policing statutes that are not aimed at regulating speech protected by the First Amendment, but have the incidental effect of doing so.”

In our new age of Cancel Culture, we have also watched as political discourse becomes ‘managed’ by platforms and media outlets, while the courts, Congress and the executive branches of our government, sworn to uphold The Constitution, do nothing to stop the encroachment on our civil liberties while still ever-waving the stars and stripes and claiming to promote democracy here and abroad.

Do you remember back in 1978 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demonstrated its unwavering commitment to the First Amendment rights of all US citizens and groups by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, IL, where many Holocaust survivors lived? It was an outrage and a huge controversy, but the ACLU did not back down. It wasn’t that the ACLU elected to defend the constitutional rights of the neo-Nazi’s because they agreed with them but because once you allow ANYONE’s rights to be curtailed or trampled on, EVERYONE’s rights are at risk. It’s a foundational principle of Constitutional Law. (See

Where is the ACLU now with all the de-platforming and censorship of “errant” or dissenting voices?

Well, there’s a little loophole that has allowed this Cancel Culture rave to extinguish the freedom of expression of many while the rest of us have handily come down with a harsh case of “the chilling effect,” urging us to keep our mouths shut about anything that might be deemed controversial.

The First Amendment pre-empts the government and its agencies from restricting the civil rights of individuals and groups, but does not prevent private companies (FaceBook, Twitter, Fox News, MSNBC) from treading on them. So in effect, our government can sit back and allow their dirty work of discrediting and disallowing dissent to be done by the private sector (read monied interests) while holding up their allegedly clean hands for inspection.

And while my Democratic friends may be cheering the fact that Donald Trump has been kicked off of Twitter, what will happen when Republicans or those with even more tyrannical agendas come into power? Left, right, or center, if you put the power to curtail the rights of human beings to express their opinions into the hands of unelected (or elected) “authorities” you can be sure that one day YOUR freedom of speech could come under attack.

Eyes wide open, friends, these are the ways our democratic principles are being eroded right under our noses. You may herald the silencing of the likes of DJT and others whose views may disgust you (as they do me), but once the sickle can be wielded against any one of us, we are all at risk of being felled. The cloak of “politically correct” protects no one, and imperils the very foundations of democracy.


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