The Gates of Hell
A gate has been opened. Fringe beliefs and extremist ideologies have become mainstream. Objectively despicable people, once relegated to the dark corners of the internet, are now operating out of the shadows. Who was it that empowered these people? When did it happen? Historians and journalists will debate the specifics for years, but everyone can agree that it didn’t happen overnight. Donald Trump didn’t descend that escalator in 2015 and then instantly ignite the populist mayhem. The gateways to insanity were pried open through years of economic frustration, identity politics and racial resentment. Trump merely took advantage of the situation.
Free Speech is Under Attack
Regardless of where or when or how this societal phenomenon exploded into our lives, Americans have to deal with its consequences every day. Free speech has been at the center of this ideological tornado. Political parties on both sides of the aisle claim that they are champions of the First Amendment, but they have failed to stand up for true free speech principles. The Republicans have been complicit in Trump’s relentless attacks on the press. Their condemnation of peaceful protests at football games is political theater disguised as patriotism. Meanwhile, the liberal obsession with political correctness has alienated half of the country. Democrats are so terrified of offending anyone that they appear weak to the blue-collar electorate.
As a liberal, I’m concerned about the harm to free speech that my progressive comrades’ philosophy risks. Comedians won’t perform at college campuses anymore because the students are too easily offended. No one can take a joke anymore. Controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson stated that the ability to think involves the risk of being offended. I think he’s right. Liberals have taken their standards of political correctness to a counterproductive level. It is a threat to free speech and now is a time when we need free speech more than ever.
Never Censor, Never Surrender
The great nineteenth century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, believed in absolute freedom of speech (with the exception of ‘fighting words’ intended to incite violence). He believed that by allowing the free, uncensored expression of any viewpoint, no matter how heinous it might be, society would be better off. Pushing radical views underground allows them to fester. Mill believed that if disgusting ideas are shown out in the open, society will eventually see them for what they really are: disgusting.
I identify with Mill’s logic. A big contributor to Trump’s ascendancy was progressives’ ‘snowflake’ sensitivity. This alienated the entire Midwest (except college campuses). Liberals have great ideas but they’re more worried about identity politics and offending people than being relatable to middle-America. These disenfranchised voters, while admittedly can be rough around the edges, got justifiably turned off by the growing list of words that they couldn’t say. A large part of why Trump’s supporters like him is because he talks like them. Liberals’ preoccupation with political correctness pushed these alienated voters into the arms of the world’s greatest threat to free speech.
Let the Monster Out
Many progressives say that hate speech isn’t covered by free speech. It is. I despise hate speech. It makes me sick. But when we silence voices just because we don’t like what they’re saying, we’re setting a dangerous precedent. That’s exactly what Donald Trump tries to do every day. We can’t let vile ideas metastasize in the shadows. They need to be shown to the world, along with all of their grotesque details.
The Charlottesville Neo-Nazi march last year was a good example of this philosophy. The chants of “Jews will not replace us” and rabid faces illuminated by torches were burned into our memories. We were angry. We were horrified. When white supremacists (thinly disguised as pseudo-intellectuals) like Richard Spencer or Jared Taylor lecture in public, the whole world sees them for what they are: disgusting.
When she performed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, comedienne Michelle Wolfe took flack from all sides for her jokes. News flash – her jokes were hilarious. We have bigger problems to worry about. Liberals are too easily distracted by this silliness. More and more words are being blacklisted from our colloquial vocabulary because they might offend someone. This needs to stop. We need to wake up and acknowledge the danger heading right toward us. We need to protect free speech, even when someone is saying something that we don’t like. Society will be better off.