• Tag Archives 1st Amendment
  • Without Free Speech, All Speech Becomes Government Speech

    When I viewed this video, I wondered if it was a hoax. I thought it must be a group of actors trying to make a point about how far restrictions on speech have gone. Unfortunately, the video captures reality in Scotland in 2019.

    The video picks up an exchange between a Scottish high school teacher and a student. The class was asked to sign up for a website, and according to the student, the teacher commented on how old fashioned the website was for listing only two sexes. The student, Murray, remarked, “But sir there’s only two genders,” and the teacher insisted they continue the discussion outside the classroom.

    Murray recorded the encounter on his phone. Here are some of the lowlights of the recorded dialogue:

    Murray: “Why did you kick me out of class? It’s not very inclusive of you.”

    Teacher: “I’m sorry, but what you were saying is not very inclusive, and this is an inclusive school.”

    Murray: (referring to the teacher’s viewpoint that there are more than two genders): “That’s your opinion.”

    Teacher: “That is my opinion, and that is an opinion which is acceptable in this school.”

    Teacher: “Will you please keep that opinion [referring to Murray’s view that there are two genders] to your own house, not in this room?”

    Murray: “So you got to put your opinion out in class, but my opinion has to stay inside my house?”

    Teacher: “I am not putting my opinion out. I am stating what is national school authority policy.”

    Teacher: “I know what you think, and I know what the authority thinks.”

    Following the UK “national school authority policy” on the number of genders, children are taught there are 100 “gender identities.”

    Murray wasn’t sent to a reeducation camp, but the school suspended him for several weeks.

    As for the teacher, he’s trying to be a proper government functionary. Perhaps he’s dreaming of retirement or at least the day when students like Murray will no longer dare to challenge him.

    If you’re sure this sort of incident couldn’t happen in America, think again.

    A new survey conducted in the United States by the Campaign for Free Speech found 51 percent of Americans agreed with this statement: “The First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.” 48 percent thought, and a majority of millennials agreed, “hate speech” should be outlawed. An astonishing 54 percent of millennials thought jail time should be the consequence penalty for hate speech. Hate speech was not defined in the survey.

    57 percent of Americans are ready to have government “take action against newspapers and TV stations that publish content that is biased, inflammatory, or false.”

    These findings are not out-of-line with earlier surveys such as a Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, which found that 40 percent of Americans think the government should prevent hate speech.

    Recently, Richard Stengel, a former editor of Time, called for limits on the 1st Amendment. In a Washington Post op-ed, Stengel wrote “the intellectual underpinning of the First Amendment was engineered for a simpler era,” and without defining hate, he called for laws prohibiting “speech that incites hate.” For Stengel it’s a bad thing, not a strength of America, that our “First Amendment standard is an outlier.”

    If you thought anti-free speech sentiment is limited to college campuses, you would be wrong.

    Perhaps there are flaws in the survey design by the Campaign for Free Speech, yet the findings warn of waning support for our constitutional rights.

    There is fundamental confusion on the source of our right to free speech. The right to free speech codified in the 1st Amendment is not a grant of the right of free speech; it is a prohibition against government interfering with an inherent right of Americans:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.…

    When the first amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights—were being debated, Madison and other Founders initially feared enumerating rights would later be interpreted to mean only rights named in the Constitution would be protected.

    Madison addressed those fears with the 9th Amendment to the Constitution:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Madison was adamant on the absolute nature of the 1st amendment even when the results displease some or many:

    Our First Amendment freedoms give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.

    Just as you can’t be half-pregnant, there is no such thing as government regulated free speech. If government is the arbiter of what is acceptable speech, you are on the road to a dystopian nightmare. The Founders were clear: fallible individuals, limited in knowledge, were not be trusted with power to infringe on our rights.

    Nor, Madison believed, would a democratic vote offer any protection for free speech. In Federalist Paper No. 10