Americans who subscribe to “traditional values” have had to put up with a lot of leftists in the name of the First Amendment.
From TV vulgarities (self-proclaimed First Amendment advocates have said things like “If you don’t like it, change channels”), to sex scenes in movies (“If you don’t like it, don’t don’t go” ), the ready availability of pornography on the Internet (“use blockers if you don’t want to see it”), books that offend parental values in public schools, flags being burned at protests, Cries of “censorship” were hurled at defenders of conduct and tradition.
Now comes Elon Musk, and suddenly everything has changed. Musk wants to buy Twitter and add to the diversity of opinions that can be expressed on this popular and influential platform. At first, Twitter’s board welcomed him into the company, but they quickly changed their minds and have now inserted a “poison pill” that they hope will prevent him from taking over. It’s complicated, but they would limit the number of shares Musk could buy.
Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter exposed the left’s double standards when it comes to free speech. Why does it seem that the only speech that wins the approval of the left is a speech with which it agrees? Doesn’t the word “free” imply no cost? True, but it means more than that. It’s also about not imposing the “cost” of telling people what they can and cannot say.
People mostly agree on the limits of defamation, slander, and the old-fashioned way of not yelling “fire” in a crowded theater when there’s no fire, but what happening now is different. It is a political discourse that does not fit with the secular progressive worldview that the left wants to control, even ban in some cases.
Twitter (and Facebook) have “standards” which, if violated, can result in one being suspended or, in the case of Donald Trump, banned from their platforms. They define “hate speech,” but it’s often arbitrary, and the company, in too many cases, seems to pander to the wishes of left-wing organizations.
That the censorship allegations have shifted from the right foot to the left was evident in a recent Washington Post column by Max Boot. Boot lamented that a billionaire like Musk could potentially influence Twitter’s choice of content. The irony is that his diary is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. In his column, Boot asks an entity to impose “content moderation” on certain speeches. What might that look like? Would it be a government panel?
Everyone has a point of view. It is dishonest to think that any panel or individual would be able to fairly monitor the content of anything, and should not be allowed to do so.
During the turbulent years that preceded the founding of the nation, opinions were expressed for and against the Revolution. Even so, George Washington said, “If freedom of speech is taken away from us, then dumb and silent we might be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
In an August 8, 1950 message to Congress regarding the homeland security of the United States, President Harry Truman wrote: “Once a government has pledged to silence the voice of opposition, it has no only one way forward, and which is on the way to increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror for all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear .
The same could be said of non-governmental entities like social platforms.
The answer to the speech we don’t like is more speech, not less. This is what free speech ultimately means. This is what Elon Musk seems to want to promote on Twitter if he gets the chance.
Cal Thomas is a columnist and syndicated author. Readers can email him at [email protected].
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