I have previously written columns about the rising generation of censors in our country. After years of being told that free speech is harmful and dangerous, many young people are virtual speech phobics — demanding that opposing views be silenced as “triggering” or even forms of violence. Now a Pew poll shows just how much ground we have lost, including the emergence of the Democratic Party as a virulent anti-free speech party. Pew found that “Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are much more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to support the U.S. government taking steps to restrict false information online (70% vs. 39%).”
I was raised in a politically active Democratic family in Chicago. Free speech was viewed as one of the defining values of the party and championed across campuses in the country. That changed dramatically in the course of the last ten years as many liberal politicians and professors called for opposing voices to be banned or canceled. I no longer recognize the party as it pushes for censorship and speech regulation.
The result is reflected in the poll which shows that “Just over half of Americans (55%) support the U.S. government taking steps to restrict false information online, even if it limits people from freely publishing or accessing information.”
What is particularly chilling is that this poll is occurring after the disclosure of biased censorship efforts by the government and corporations, including the suppression of views that were later found to be legitimate. That includes the banning or cancelling of scientists who raised concerns over Covid-19 that are now considered valid from the lab theory to the efficacy of masks to natural immunities. It also includes the suppression of political stories like the Hunter Biden laptop.
The growing support for censorship may reflect the echo chambered media environment. Many people watch and read news that continues to downplay or entirely omit reports on biased censorship. President Biden even charged that companies who refused to censor opposing views on social media were “killing people.” Others have denounced free speech as “a white man’s obsession.” New York democrats called for limiting speech as a way of protecting democracy. Indeed, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich has declared free speech is “tyranny.”
Many journalists have joined politicians and professors in decrying the dangers of free speech. Some falsely claim that hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment. Others panicked at the notion of free speech protections being restored at Twitter. On CNN, speech limits were called a “harm-reduction model” for the media.
The result left free speech values in free fall in our country. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West. The European crackdown on free speech has now reached our shores and there are a growing number of citizens calling on the government to limit their right to free expression. It is a form of constitutional immolation by citizens who have never known true authoritarian government.
The Pew poll shows how dire this struggle has become. Despite our long history of free speech protection, every generation can renew or rescind that support. This is a crisis of faith that we cannot ignore. Justice Louis Brandeis once warned that “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”