The Internet, Amusement Parks, and Everything In-Between: The Erosion of Free Speech

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-8-29-07-amIt suddenly hit me as I was driving to work one day this week. As an American, do I really have the right to free speech? Am I really free to express my opinion? Assuming I don’t say anything to incite violence, anything traitorous, anything slanderous…what protection do I have from repercussions?

Suppose I decide to post on Facebook that I oppose same-sex marriage. What would happen?

Assume I say ‘I believe every person deserves to be treated equally. I would never in any way single out a person and mistreat them. I would never bully or use abusive language to anyone who practices a lifestyle I don’t support. In fact, I don’t believe in hating anyone and I’d defend anyone who was attacked by someone because the attacker disagrees with their lifestyle. I despise violence. That being said, in accordance with my religious beliefs and my beliefs towards the natural order of things in nature, I don’t agree with same sex marriage.’

Further assume that in my dealings at work and everywhere else, no one has ever observed me acting disrespectfully to anyone. In fact, suppose I promoted a person who is in a same sex marriage because they earned the promotion and I focused on that, because in that setting unbiased professionalism should prevail. In other words, all things being equal, my behavior above reproach, what would happen if I made an honest statement about my beliefs and that was it? Suppose I make such a statement with no malice and no intent to intimidate anyone.

Is it unreasonable or unrealistic that such a statement could get me fired or blacklisted?

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be willing to risk my job by making such as statement.

Would you? If the First Amendment is truly in place, shouldn’t I be allowed to express my feelings without worry of immediate and severe persecution?

Sure, there are always consequences for things we say. If a drunk person walks into a family restaurant and starts cursing and creating a scene, I don’t have a problem if they are arrested. If I shout ‘fire!’ in the middle of a crowd to create panic when no fire exists, I should be arrested. There has to be common sense. I don’t advocate using the First Amendment to protect things like child pornography. Like any law, the right to free speech is subject to certain limitations to protect society as a whole. The one thing the Founding Fathers failed to consider was the possibility that we as a Nation would lose our minds.

I am terrified that each day we lose more and more of our right to free speech. Every time see a person or company doing something to address a complaint by someone else I see the erosion of our free speech.

Here is the latest example:

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-8-21-15-amI’m not in favor of hurting people with mental illness and I’m not one of those people who denies the existence of mental illness. My point isn’t even about mental illness. It’s about a larger more terrifying issue. A person, company, or government is forced to do something in response to complaints. Knotts Berry Farm simply designed a ride based on an insane asylum. Perhaps Knotts Berry Farm should have been more cautious and used better judgment, but no matter how you look at it, it is virtually impossible to make decisions that won’t offend someone. As we try to appease everyone, we lose our freedom to be unique. We start to become a soulless society that stands for nothing. Marx would be proud.

The investment in a new attraction is lost because people complained. The better solution would have been for people offended by the attraction not to buy tickets to their park or simply avoid that ride.

This country is virtually becoming a police state administered by sanctimonious moral crusaders looking for anything and everything that might offend someone. Companies such as Knotts Berry Farm are bullied to comply. I can only imagine what would have happened had they said ‘If you don’t like the attraction, don’t ride it or look at it…leave us alone!’ To me that would seem reasonable. I’d even go as far to say it would be reasonable if Knotts Berry Farm agreed to post a formal letter of protest about the ride, at the ride’s entrance. That way individuals could decide for themselves if the attraction was too offensive to ride.

If the ride encouraged people to attack mental asylums, then I’m right there with you if you want it banned, but that wasn’t the case. Before they knew it, Knotts Berry Farm would have been hit with boycotts and their business partners would have severed ties. Once you are labeled ‘politically incorrect’ or ‘offensive’ by the moral crusaders you become toxic until you give in to the complainers. From a business perspective it is better to give in and let other people dictate what you can/cannot say than to fight it. The loss of an attraction will hurt the bottom line and hurt profitability, but the damage would be far more severe if they had refused to comply. The moral crusaders are vindictive and swift. The more you resist, the more they will do to harm you.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It happens time and time again. Someone complains that something offends them. 100,000 people might walk by a statue and see nothing offensive, but if the 100,001st person perceives something offensive, you might as well hit the statue with a wrecking ball. Here would be a good example: Suppose a municipality erected a statue to honor a deceased prominent citizen and the statue depicts the person holding the Bible. What harm does it do if the person is holding a Bible? None whatsoever. If Faith was a significant part of the person’s life it would be appropriate to have them holding a Bible. Suppose the person had founded a homeless shelter and had dedicated their lives to helping other people and had helped people of all races, genders, and religions.

I wouldn’t give that statue a year before someone complained. A non-Christian would cry foul: ‘How dare the City erect a statue of someone holding the Bible! It is an endorsement of Christianity and an invitation to attack non-Christians!’ The next thing you know someone would organize protests and people who don’t even know what the heck they are protesting would show up, because aren’t all protests for worthy causes? In the ensuing chaos the life of the person being honored would be tarnished post-mortem for something they didn’t even do.

Ultimately the statue would be dismantled or altered to remove the Bible.

That is what would happen but what should happen? No one knows if he said it or not but French philosopher Voltaire is often credited with the phrase: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” If only our country would keep that in mind. Civility. It’s a lost form of behavior in present day America.

In the case of the statue, the sensible thing would be to do nothing. Leave it alone. If 1 out of 100,001 people cries foul at a detail no sane person would perceive as harmful the appropriate thing to do would be to listen to that person and be respectful, but explain they are in the vast minority. It’s totally unreasonable to ascribe some sort of sinister intention to a statue of a person holding a Bible. If you don’t like it, too bad, but if you are the only one bothered by it, the civil and sensible thing to do would be to let it go and not make an issue out of it. Follow what Voltaire said and be respectful. Doesn’t it ever occur to anybody to pick their crusades carefully? Doesn’t it stand to reason that by impeding the free speech of another, you may be setting the stage for your own censorship?

This country can’t keep going down the road it’s going. The person who is ‘offended’ by the statue can call the media and various organizations and before you know it, the complaint of the offended person becomes a cause célèbre and gains a voice disproportionate to the actual wishes of the majority and the complainer get what they want. At which point, the voice of the majority has been effectively silenced. Is this a victory for the First Amendment? Absolutely not.

We have become a country of complainers. We have become a people whose will is malleable and weak. We are no longer a people given to intellectual thought, capable of seeing the larger ramifications of people being bullied into submission. Imagine going to Cuba and complaining that a statue of Fidel Castro offends you. Your complaint would most certainly be duly noted and likely repeated to you as you stand before the firing squad.

The moral crusaders would see orchestrating the removal of a statue of a person holding a Bible as a righteous endeavor. Once the protestors get their way and the voice of the majority is silenced, it’s hailed as some sort of victory. At the same time, the State of North Carolina is seen as evil and worthy of boycotting because they said that people with male anatomy are to use the Men’s Restroom and people with female anatomy are to use the Women’s Restroom. Gotcha. Basic rule. Makes sense. I would bet the vast majority of Americans agree with that rule. However, the moral crusaders have decided everybody can use whichever bathroom they want.

The logic in this nation has become incredibly twisted. The removal of the Ten Commandments from public property is seen as a victory, which escapes me because even if you believed in nothing, how can you disagree with commandments such as ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ and ‘Thou Shall Not Kill.’ I suppose it’s imperative to insure we don’t offer thieves and murderers. The passage of a law preventing people to use any bathroom they wish is seen as a defeat. The moral crusaders make us dumber every day.

If you think your activity on Facebook or Twitter isn’t being monitored, you are probably incorrect. If you think your e-mail is secure, you are almost certainly incorrect. If you want to criticize Hillary Clinton on national radio…don’t expect your show to be broadcast any longer. Post something on YouTube that is against the status quo and watch your video be removed.

The mainstream media is controlled by large corporations all of whom now appear to be left-leaning. The rank and file are quickly losing their voice and the vast majority seems blissfully unaware.

Oh well, those with dissenting views can always turn to the Internet. Right? Ask Senator Ted Cruz about that. The Obama administration is placing control over the Internet into international hands. Justifiably concerned, Cruz asked the CEO of the corporation which will basically control the Internet whether they are bound by the First Amendment. The answer? No.

Better say what you think while you still can….there is no guarantee you can do the same tomorrow.


Michael Russell

A native, of Indiana, Russell has always been interested in politics. He is a Libertarian and strong supporter of conservative causes. He has spent the last 20 years as an investment analyst. Russell and his wife Ginger have 3 children.

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