We have long discussed the rapid decline of free speech protections in the West. I have long argued that the West appears to have fallen out of love with free speech, which is more often viewed as a rising scourge rather than a defining value in some countries. A recent poll of the Pew Research Center shows just how many people we have lost to those calling for greater censorship and criminalization of speech. It is not surprisingly more prevalent with younger age groups, though Democrats are almost twice as likely favor censorship that Republicans. The largest (and most alarming) group is the millennials — 40% of whom favor government censorship of speech offensive to minority groups.
Thirty-five percent of Democrats supported such bans as opposed to 18 percent of Republicans.
The least likely to support censorship were people who have lived long enough to know the dangers — only 21 percent of those 70 and older supported such censorship. The numbers go down by age (and experience).
The figures on Democrats is particularly disappointing. Democrats once rallied around free speech values in organizing campuses and protests in the 60s. Those baby boomers now appear to have acquired a taste for censorship and speech regulation.
It is good to know that some 58 percent of millennials have not fallen for the siren’s call of censorship. However, these numbers appear to be rising. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have even seen comedians targets with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
From the growing free speech regulations on campuses to the demands for the expansion of hate crimes, we are seeing the early signs of the taste for censorship that appeared in Europe years ago. Once people start to censor speech, they develop an insatiable appetite for censorship and criminalization of speech.
Here is the Pew Report.