Column: Just a Thought! Free Speech is Incredibly Dangerous

Thousands of people participate in the Third Annual Women's March at Freedom Plaza in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By James Mauro

Back in the 1700’s a group of Europeans travelled across the ocean and set up home in what would become the United States. Those “founding fathers” believed being ruled by a Monarch was not a good thing. So, they wrote a constitution, a set of guiding principles to outline what is a “right of the people”. The very first amendment of this document, outlined “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press”. They had a problem with any government restricting what could and could not be said. Crazy times.

Free speech does not mean that your employer cannot prevent you from saying some things. Private companies like Twitter or Facebook can restrict content as can your employer. Regardless, is there anyone else out there who thinks that free speech has long outlived its usefulness. My feelings are way more important than your right to an opinion. Unfortunately, a few people didn’t get the memo.

Jordan Peterson exploded as a cult figure over the Canadian Governments plan involving appropriate gender pronouns. This is not about whether Peterson was correct or not. Peterson is just an example of someone who believes free speech is important. For an educated guy, he is obviously not that bright.

Limiting the ability of anyone to question the “new norm”, is preferable to having a discussion. So, I thought I would outline some of the things that are now objectionable in today’s enlightened society. Let’s began in the United States, where Abraham Lincoln is no longer viewed by some in a positive light.

In the District of Columbia there is a statue of Lincoln standing with a black man at his feet, obviously in servitude. This statue must be removed because it depicts slaves as less than human. Seems reasonable enough. There is an unknown group of individuals that get to decide what is and what is not offensive. Perhaps a list of names can be provided so they can be contacted before anyone says or posts something that might offend them.

Does it matter that the former slaves who paid for this statue wanted that statue to portray being freed from a life of servitude? Frederick Douglas, if you are not sure who he is, you should be, spoke at the unveiling of this statue. Lincoln began the process to abolish slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation but fortunately, that too is no longer relevant to the discussion. This must be progress?

Those on the political left want all confederate statues taken down. They were put up to honour those from Southern States who wanted to divide the country during the Civil War. But is that the best approach? What about placing a plaque beside the statue that outlines who these people were, what they believed and hoped to achieve, to educate those who come along decades from now. Obviously erasing history is a good thing because it is being utilized by extremists on both political sides.

In Canada, some want to eliminate John A. MacDonald from our national consciousness as he was Prime Minister when residential schools were created. They would not have existed without MacDonald’s support, but does this alone mean MacDonald should be erased from Canada’s history? What of the Prime Ministers who came after MacDonald? Are they equally culpable?

We have other flawed leaders who have led this country including Pierre Trudeau who arrested people during the FLQ crisis without cause, or the current PM who invoked the Emergency Measures Act, what many consider a huge overreach of government power, and only with the support of the NDP leader. Is Jagmeet Singh also to be erased from history? I am not suggesting that is the same as the residential school issue, only providing examples of conduct that some consider serious and disqualifying. Should Trudeau or Pearson airport be renamed? What is and what is not disqualifying conduct when viewed from today’s perspective?

When looking back, the “enlightened people” tell us that had they been born 1-2 hundred years ago, they would have been superior human beings than those back then. They would have fought against slavery, supported gay marriage and I am sure would have walked around in rainbow T-Shirts. Just ask them.

I mentioned those judges and juries earlier. They seem to have the entire issue of Gay, transgender people well under control. Every human being should be treated equally and with dignity but thank goodness the morally superior have eliminated our ability to ask questions. If you do not agree with their entire premise, you are “phobic” of some kind. It is great that the term “phobia” has been changed to mean whatever they believe is “correct”. Arguing with labels demonstrates their self-appointed superior intellect.

There are people who believe that if you were born a biological male, you should only compete in men’s sports. Fortunately, the keyboard warriors prevent people from expressing that view by attacking them on social media. Asking a question only confirms your transphobia. The hypocrisy of yelling at someone about how intolerant they are while exhibiting intolerance is lost on them.

Now much of this comes from the political left but the political right has their own team of “experts” expressing outrage over “improper ideas”. You want to speak about critical race theory, a common but rarely defined cry from the right. That is not allowed. Discussing how slavery impacted generations of black people, is unnecessary. Better to ignore that history than to learn about it.

Here is a passage from the bible from Leviticus 25:44-46 “your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever.

This passage suggests that the practice of slavery was not limited to North America and was not invented by white people. That statement is not allowed to be part of the discussion. It does not absolve those who committed slavery, but it does suggest that slavery was not invented in North America though you would not know that by listening to some on the far left.

Heading back to the political right, does the bible mean that slavery was okay. Those on the right love to pick and choose which parts of the bible to use. No passage in the bible speaks about abortion, even though forms of it were practiced back then. But that does not stop the right from waving the bible in their quest to abolish this practice throughout the country, while at the same time trying to increase and speed up executions. Life is important except the lives they want to end.

Should the use of slaves to build the United States, the Civil War conflict, Jim Crow laws and lynchings be part of the school curriculum? No, say those on the right who instead use their time in political office deciding what books to ban.

JK Rowling the creator of Harry Potter, also came under fire from the left “jury” when her comments about trans people did not fit the proper narrative. I won’t post her remarks, but she did not conform so the social media outrage began. I suppose she forgot to check in with the “juries” before expressing her opinion on what a woman is. Being a woman herself, she probably wasn’t qualified to have an opinion. Can we still use the term woman? Asking for a friend.

Florida, the birthplace of all things “reasonable”, that handed George W. Bush a highly questionable Presidency and the country, two wars, has banned over 350 books since last July. Some contain LBGQT characters. The moral police saved us from the horror of reading about a human being who is trans.

Imagine teaching children that homosexuality has been around for thousands of years? You expect “team right” to treat all people with dignity and kindness, how foolish. You want to discuss with children that there are some families with two mommies, or two daddies? Nope not allowed.

In Abbotsford British Columbia a grade 12 teacher was instructing his students about residential schools when a student commented that “the priests murdered and tortured children and left them to die in the snow”. The teacher advised the class that “the majority of the deaths were from disease, mainly Tuberculosis”. Within an hour that teacher was walked off the school property and suspended.  Those two statements are galaxies apart. Is anyone allowed to ask why there is such a huge disparity on what should be a very serious discussion in a classroom?

Could a discussion about the treatment of Indigenous people have been far more appropriate than walking this teacher out of the classroom. Will other teachers simply avoid this topic all together and will our students be better or worse off for it? By the way, this teacher has a doctorate in Education with a speciality in Indigenous Studies if anyone feels that is relevant.

Everyone is walking around with a muzzle today out of fear or indifference. Our media is being pushed to the extremes as each side is looking for their market share, becoming less news and more entertainment. The explosion of internet blogs only hastened this movement, driving crazy coverage on topics that need to be discussed fully for the public to be properly informed. Just by writing this article I risk becoming the subject of keyboard rage but hopefully people take the time to accurately read the entire article and not just the parts that anger them. I think I am being more hopeful then realistic.

So let me be perfectly clear before I become a target for that social justice keyboard rage. If you review this article, you will notice that it does not contain any opinions or support of any issue or person. I am simply commenting on the “new norm”. My goal in writing this was to present disdain for both the extreme political left and right, two groups that get most of the attention but do not represent most people. Yet both extremes continue to claim their team alone stands for democracy and free speech.

The opinion I am giving today, is the frightening reality that we can no longer question, or comment without risking a societal backlash from whatever team feels offended. In this corner, we have those on the far left, who will attack anyone that doesn’t conform to their definition of “how society should be”.

In the other corner we have the far-right team. They are okay not treating everyone equally, don’t want anyone but “straight people” teaching their kids, and want books banned if the characters are not heterosexual. Are any of you worried about either “mob” being able to dictate your right to push back, or even question policies you may not agree with?

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of a democracy. It allows journalists to expose government corruption, the discussion of topics of societal importance and helps ensure democracies do not change to dictatorships. But for this to work properly, it requires you, me, and everyone to be vigilant against this nonsense, and to not accept the noise simply because you cannot be bothered or are scared.

There is a thought provoking saying about staying silent created by German Pastor Martin Niemoller connected to Hitler’s atrocities:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Now apply this same logic to freedom of speech when your ability to speak freely on a topic is restricted. The “mobs” do not care that your right to speech is being curtailed, they only want to ensure that their voice is the one getting the attention. The morally superior can be found on both extreme sides of the political spectrum.

Comedians are being asked to sanitize their routines before appearing on some college campuses to not risk hurting someone’s feelings. Here I thought colleges were supposed to make young people think. Obviously, great comedians of the past like Pryor, Williams, Carlin, Murphy, and countless others should have been classified as enemies of the state and banned from appearing while society wants everyone to live wearing bubble wrap. We must protect everyone from being offended.

What happened to turning off the TV, or not attending the show. Having a drag queen show in your city? Time for a protest by the right. Having a conservative judge attend a college to give a speech? Time for a protest by the left. All in the Family, was one of the greatest shows to combat racism, bigotry, and gay issues, by intentionally portraying Archie Bunker as a racist. They hit you right in the face with it. That show would never make it on the air today. How is that improving our lives?

Our ability to speak to each other but more importantly to listen to each other must return if we wish to continue our society. These wild swings to the political left or right only make the other team more entrenched in their positions. Returning to Jordan Peterson let me share a quote with you that he made during an interview with a reporter who twisted almost every comment Peterson made during the interview while pursuing the agenda of her team.

Peterson stated: “In order to think, you have to risk being offensive”. Consider that before condemning things you do not agree with because that is the sole point of this article. I care less about what your opinion is, and far more about your right to express it. Too many people no longer understand the importance of that last sentence but that is the singular issue worth fighting for. But here is one more message to both teams. If you are so convinced that your position is the correct one, why not engage with the other side to prove your point, otherwise people might suspect that your position cannot stand up to scrutiny.

If you lose your right to speak freely out of fear or indifference, then don’t be surprised that at some future election, the ballot may already be filled out for you. Because if you do not care about the issue of free speech, how long do you think you will hold on to those other rights that directly flow from that one? There was a reason the people who crossed the Delaware in 1776 made this the first amendment. Ignore it at our peril. Just a thought.

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