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The Value of Free Speech


Microphones I live in a society that has forgotten the value of free speech. When someone says something we don't like, we shout them down with names like racist, Nazi, feminazi, liberal, radical, terrorist, or white supremacist. Being incapable of understanding the men who founded our country, not only do we no longer revere those who gave us, at great personal cost, the free speech we are throwing away, we actually mock, belittle, and accuse them of atrocities. In this way, we are little children, and as a result, we live under the thumbs of organizations that treat us like little children--internet companies that are in the process of removing all speech that is at odds with corporate sales agendas, employers that have the gaul to tell us we are not allowed to criticize them in any way, and a government that conducts its business "off the books" and behind closed doors. And, being little children, we let them get away with it.

So, little children, although you will probably choose to shout me down rather than listen, I will explain to those of you who will listen why free speech has such great value. It has great value, because before a society can begin to fix a problem, its people must acknowledge publicly that the problem exists.

Here is one example. In the 1980's, Mikhail Gorbachev saw many problems with the way socialism was being practiced in the Soviet Union, and he understood that these problems could not be solved until the country was able to talk about them openly. So, he began promoting "glasnost" or "openness". By this, he meant greater candor from the government and unstifled, public political discussion. The country responded more energetically that he could have imagined. Ultimately, the people spoke loudly enough to tear the Soviet Union apart. Massive political reform ultimately led to the end of Soviet control of Eastern Europe, and Russia became a federation with a president and a parliament. The result of free speech, or "openness", resulted in the dissolution of one of the only two superpowers on earth. This is something the Germans failed to do in World War II, though they managed to kill more than 20 million Russians by some estimates. This is something the United States and Western Europe failed to do during four decades of Cold War. All it took was one man in power who was willing to allow people to say what they felt to be true.

There are many other examples of free speech leading to immense societal improvements and even to the toppling of governments. I've already alluded to the American revolution. Another was Woodward and Burnstein's investigation of the Watergate break-in that lead to Richard Nixon's resignation. Brexit is coming about because the British people voiced their dislike of being under the thumbs of the leaders of the EU, who they have no power to either elect or remove. At nearly the same time, Donald Trump became president of the United states, because US voters were fed up with the US political leadership crushing their economy, sending their jobs overseas since the 1970's, and flooding their borders with illegal aliens.

Have we learned from history? No. Today, we want more fairness in our society. We want everyone to have equal opportunities. We want to end discrimination for good. We want to end poverty. We want decent health care for everyone. Yet, when someone dares to disagree with us, instead of investigating and discussing the facts, we shout down opponents and call them names. We accuse them of being liberals or conservatives or radicals or terrorists or whatever we can think of, as long as we don't define what the terms mean. We do this instead of sitting down with them and discussing issues in a way that may lead, not only to their enlightenment, but also to ours. Rather than admitting when we are wrong, we throw out some name or accusation to take the light off of our mistakes. We stomp out dissent wherever we find it, whether it's on campaign trails, in the congress, on 8Chan, or from whistle blowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. In other words, we act like little children. So, instead of getting what we want, we are doomed to continue on as always. As Albert Einstein is purported to have said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of thinking that created it."



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