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The Death of Free Speech is the Real Injustice

by Joe Miller


I am always dismayed when I see videos of college students chanting slogans that equate speech to violence.The sign above is one example of this terrible idea:


It's not about “Free Speech.” It's about bigots trying to normalize hate.


Their goal, it seems evident, is to shut down dissenting views they deem hateful. Even more troubling are those who feel justified in using physical violence to silence disagreeable speech. While slogans like this can be powerful and persuasive, the question we need to ask is this: Are they true?


The current movement to silence speech perceived as "harmful to the public" is not only short-sighted, but is itself is the real danger to those who seek a just society. Democrats (and modern Leftists) have always looked to silence speech as a way to protect their power. As I've written before, when Democrats realized the Electoral College endangered their power to keep slaves, they tried to use the power of the big states to silence the voices of the smaller states, in hopes of preventing the election of Abraham Lincoln.


More than two decades before that, the Democrats in the US House of Representatives used their majority powers to silence the speech of those who opposed slavery. As reported on the official website for the US House of Representatives:


On this date, during the 24th Congress (1835–1837), the U.S. House of Representatives instituted the “gag rule,” the first instance of what would become a traditional practice forbidding the House from considering anti-slavery petitions. Representative James Hammond of South Carolina first proposed the gag rule in December 1835. Speaker James Polk of Tennessee referred the issue to a special committee to resolve the problem which tied up floor debate for weeks. Committee Chairman Henry L. Pinckney of South Carolina reported back that all petitions, memorials, or resolutions regarding slavery should automatically be tabled and that no further action be taken upon them.


History teaches us that our bumper sticker slogans and pithy signs are wrong; it is about free speech. History makes clear that the death of free speech is the greatest injustice. Free speech, in and of itself, is the moral good. And yes, free speech means we must choose to tolerate hateful speech. Free speech means that even bigoted people have a right to public speech.


Deplatforming hate speech is, in fact, the real enemy of the justice we seek. Why? Because it is the free exchange of ideas that enables us as a society to tear down terrible systems like slavery. Without free speech, those in favor of slavery would have won. They would have silenced their opposition and forever protected their power to dehumanize black people.


The only way to "normalize" hate speech is to silence hate speech. But if you choose to pursue justice, you must protect everyone's inalienable right to free speech. So . . .


if you are passionate about ending injustice . . .


If you hate racism and bigotry . . .


then you must defend the free speech for everyone—even those whose voices you despise.


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