The Rutherford Institute
August 9, 2018
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” ― Benjamin Franklin
What a mess.
As America has become ever more polarized, and those polarized factions have become more militant and less inclined to listen to – or even allow for the existence of – other viewpoints, we are fast becoming a nation of people who just can’t get along.
Here’s the thing: if Americans don’t learn how to get along – at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different – then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).
In such an environment, when we can’t agree to disagree, the bullies (on both sides) win and freedom suffers.
Intolerance, once the domain of the politically correct and self-righteous, has been institutionalized, normalized and politicized.
Even those who dare to defend speech that may be unpopular or hateful as a constitutional right are now accused of “weaponizing the First Amendment.”
On college campuses across the country, speakers whose views are deemed “offensive” to some of the student body are having their invitations recalled or cancelled, being shouted down by hecklers, or forced to hire costly security details. As The Washington Postconcludes, “College students support free speech—unless it offends them.”
At Hofstra University, half the students in a freshman class boycotted when the professor assigned them to read Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Artificial Nigger.” As Professor Arthur Dobrin recounts, “The boycotters refused to engage a writer who would use such an offensive word. They hadn’t…