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July 21 2017

Is It Time to Worry about Our Right to Free Speech?

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Why would a feminist—or anyone, for that matter—celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them.

--David Harsanyi in Reason

The U.K. has set up something called the Committee of Advertising Practice to monitor ad content so that stereotypes will not be perpetuated. As David Harsanyi explains, it will be a very busy comittee:

It will ban, among others, commercials in which family members "create a mess, while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up," ones that suggest that "an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys, or vice versa," and ones in which "a man tries and fails to perform simple parental or household tasks."

A headline in Jezebel proclaims:

Ads That Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes Will Be Banned in U.K., but Not in the Good Ol' USA!

Fortunately, in the Good Ol' USA we still have the Constitution, which guarantees the right of free speech. But a growing number of people would like to sacrifice this right in the name of not offending the easily offended.  Harsanyi writes:

Acceptance of speech restrictions is a growing problem among millennials and Democrats. For them, opaque notions of "fairness" and "tolerance" have risen to overpower freedom of expression in importance.

You can see it with TV personalities like Chris Cuomo, former Democratic Party presidential hopeful Howard Dean, mayors of big cities and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arguing for hecklers' vetoes in public university systems. It's major political candidates arguing that open discourse gives "aid and comfort" to our enemies.

If it's not Big Yogurt, it's Big Oil or Big Somethingorother. Democrats have for years campaigned to overturn the First Amendment and ban political speech because of "fairness." This position and its justifications all run on the very same ideological fuel. Believe it or not, though, allowing the state to ban documentaries is a bigger threat to the First Amendment than President Donald Trump's tweets mocking CNN.

It's about authoritarians like Laura Beth Nielsen, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation, who argues in favor of censorship in a major newspaper like Los Angeles Times. She claims that hate speech should be restricted, and that "Racist hate speech has been linked to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and requires complex coping strategies." Nearly every censor in the history of mankind has argued that speech should be curbed to balance out some harmful consequence. And nearly every censor in history, sooner or later, kept expanding the definition of harm until the rights of their political opponents were shut down.

As Harsanyi notes, liberals used to quote the famous line "I don't agree with what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it." This has been revised. It is now: Shut up.

In Europe, where bans on free speech are common, citizens often fear that in discussing hot button issues such as immigration, they may run afoul of the law and end up paying fines or worse. One man went to prison for a dumb post on Facebook.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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