With a hat tip to Althouse. She posted this on her blog this morning, it is a picture taken at Brown University that says “free speech = hate speech,” she found posted on Facebook. There are a variety of comments in the post, including those who support the idea that speech they find offensive needs to be controlled and stopped. I didn’t bother to look into the University’s position, but from someone who’s spent his life defending the Constitution it troubles me that young people know so little about the reasons for the Constitutional safeguards, or even our recent history, they have been indoctrinated to believe censorship of ideas they don’t like is okay.
When I wrote about the 1st Amendment (here) I did not discuss why the founders thought the free exchange of ideas, dissent, and disagreement was so critical, I only mentioned the fact government did have some limited rights to control speech.
The idea of one side imposing its will on the speech of those who disagree with them is not new, it has been a condition of human existence since mankind began keeping records, and perhaps well before that. This is, I believe, the potential tyranny they sought to avoid. We were a collective band of Europeans who had all left the safety of the known, for the challenges of the unknown. Each with a separate reason, some voluntarily, some not, but once here became a people who appreciated the freedom this land offered.
I doubt most millennials, aside from a few film and television buffs are familiar with the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors association, or the Production Code Association established in 1934 to assure the morality of the film industry. Without PCA approval a film would not be allowed into the commercial theaters of the day. This was possible because the Supreme court had ruled that moving pictures were purely commercial products and as such not subject to the safeguards of the 1st Amendment. That decision was reversed in 1952, but between 1934 and 1952 the prospects of any film rested almost exclusively on the editorial decisions of the PCA.
Then we come to the infamous House Un-American Activities committee, who investigated potential communist sympathizers in the private sector. In the late 40’s it created a “black list” of film writers, directors, actors, and others. This list was used for well over a decade to punish those individuals who were implicated, without a thought of due process, or the right for an individual to face his/her accuser.
At about the same time, Senator Joseph McCarthy made headlines for his investigations of communists in the government. While he had widespread support, the damage he did to individuals based on scant evidence, innuendo, and implication was horrendous.
In each case, significant numbers of people were willing to silence their voices for fear of retribution. It was only with the passage of time, or the courage of a few to speak up that we as a nation came to appreciate the damage being done.
Now we come to the modern day, where a group of impressionable youths are willing to climb on board with a vocal minority fighting for political domination. In the process, they will implement a new form of censorship under the guise of “hate speech,” and surrender their freedom to explore ideas, just as our parents and grandparents did for the myths of protection from morally inappropriate material or from communism.