Archive for the ‘Freedom of Speech’ Tag

The Freedom of the Press   1 comment

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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–The First Amendment (ratified in 1791) to the Constitution of the United States


It is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

–Donald Trump, October 12, 2017


Donald Trump, who puts the bully in bully pulpit, is frankly disgusting.  The First Amendment is a crown jewel in the crown of freedom.  Freedom of the press is an American as the First Amendment.  The fact that certain news stories are not flattering or politically helpful does not strip them of their status as protected speech under the freedom of the press.  If one does not approve of a certain story that is neither libelous nor slanderous, so be it; one should suck it up, so to speak.

Here I stand.  I can and will do no other.  The First Amendment matters that much to me.  It should matter that much to all Americans.




Those Who Oppose Free Speech Are On the Wrong Side of History.   2 comments

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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Ratified in 1791)


As I wrote in a recent post, freedoms–not even of speech–are absolute.  For example, I have no constitutionally protected right to commit slander or libel, much less to incite violence via my speech or any other form of expression.  Those exceptions leave much room for peaceful expression of protest, however.  Thank God for that!  I embrace the nonviolent expression of protest, whether by carrying a sign, kneeling, writing a letter to the editor, publishing a weblog post, or speaking in public, among other options.  My opinion of the content of that protest is irrelevant to my affirmation of the right to make it.  I therefore decry the condemnation of such protests.  After all, life together in a free society entails much mutual forbearance.

I affirm freedom, for I rejoice that those who disagree with me strongly have the right to make points that offend me.   They have that right for the same reason I have the right to make my points peaceably.  Enumerate me, O reader, among the partisans on the side of freedom of expression.  If I do not want to hear that free speech, I usually have that option; I can be somewhere else more often than not.  I do not, however, scream and shout.  Sometimes audiences are captive, due to policies such as mandatory attendance, however.  Whether one’s attendance is mandatory or voluntary, some form of non-disruptive protest is fine with me, regardless of the point of view thereof.

Those who oppose free speech are on the wrong side of history and of the First Amendment.

Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (in office 1957-1963) exemplified the toleration of diverse perspectives.  He knew what he believed and made vigorous defenses of those positions.  He debated points of various policies with political adversaries, whom he acknowledged as being loyal Canadians.  Diefenbaker also gave his country its own version of the Bill of Rights–albeit by an act of Parliament.  That measure stood until 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not subject to repeal by Parliament, superseded it during the administration of Pierre Elliott Trudeau (in office 1968-1979, 1979-1984).

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • (a) freedom of conscience and religion;

  • (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

  • (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

  • (d) freedom of association.

–Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)

The right to express oneself peaceably is sacred.  More people should affirm it unconditionally.




Protected Speech   1 comment

Or, Away with Jingoism

Nonviolent expression–especially protest–is a form of speech the Constitution of the United States protects.  I rejoice for that fact.  Yes, freedom of speech is finite; it does not apply to slander, libel, and any (private) attempt to incite violence, for example.  (On the other hand, during World War I, when the federal government was inciting violence as a policy, some pacifists and socialists went to prison for attempting to cite nonviolence.  That was an abuse of federal power.)  I grasp the reasonable limits–mainly public health and safety–on freedoms.  I may not drive legally on the wrong side of the road, for example.  Professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem do not transgress any constitutional lines, however.  Those who choose to engage in that form of protest are within their rights to do so and should face no penalties, regardless of what the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury think.  Besides, the republic is strong enough to survive some athletes kneeling during the national anthem.  Furthermore, one should cease and desist from making nationalism an idol.

I stand, as a matter of high principle, on the proposition that life in a free society requires a plethora of mutual forbearance from all of us.  To recognize the freedom of those with whom we agree to protest, speak, or write is easy, but how eager are we to extend that license to those whose opinions offend us?  As I tell my students, the test of whether one affirms freedom is whether one extends it to those with whom one disagrees.  This test catches many people on both the left and the right; I stand in the middle and remain intellectually honest.  I note that many people (regardless of their policy positions on a host of issues) who identify themselves as champions of freedom seem quite eager to deny the freedom of peaceful expression to those with whom they disagree, or at least to advocate penalties for that peaceful free speech.  This is rank hypocrisy.  Anyone who does so is therefore, by definition, a hypocrite.  I refuse to make any statement to the contrary.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.  I will do no other.  Besides, dissent is frequently among the highest forms of patriotism.