Todd Kirby is a Beckley attorney and member of Kirby & Ashley, PLLC.
“That Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”- Thomas Jefferson
Freedom of Speech, the open exchange of ideas, and robust debate are essential to a democratic society. It was not that long ago that this statement would have been seen as a basic truth within America and the entire Western World by individuals across the entire political and ideological spectrum. Unfortunately, over the past several decades institutions which were once the most vibrant examples of Free Speech and open debate have been turned into self-righteous echo chambers where the slightest deviation of thought can be seen as offensive, problematic or even dangerous. Colleges were once viewed as the battlefields of intellectual, social, political, and ideological discourse where individuals were encouraged to think critically about issues and to challenge the prevailing view on virtually every level and on virtually every subject.
The basic idea behind the free exchange of ideas and open debate is that by allowing different opinions, thoughts, or views to be expressed on a topic everyone involved benefits from taking different arguments into consideration. Underlying the central purpose of the exchange of ideas is that no person or group’s position is ever absolutely right. Another attribute of this long held American and democratic tradition is that unbridled and vibrant debate between individuals leads to better and more well thought out policies in all aspects of government and our society in general. This understanding of the importance of free and open debate in America led to the most vibrant democracy in the history of the world and we have all benefited immensely from the once unanimous appreciation of this endangered tradition.
As colleges stifled free speech in the name of being politically correct, we were introduced to terms like “safe spaces.” While proponents of safe spaces argue that they are necessary so as to not make students feel uncomfortable by being confronted with ideas or opinions that do not comport with their particular worldview, the end result is a large swath of our society that is intellectually incapable of hearing or confronting opposing viewpoints. It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of college professors are ideologically “progressive” with most leaning toward socialism or communism. Over the past few years colleges have used these safe spaces for their own anti-capitalist and anti-American professors to have exclusive and unchallenged voices to convince millions of American students that their country is evil, their religion is hateful, and they themselves are racists if they do not nod in agreement.
Why is it such a big deal that colleges have spent so much time, energy and money on ensuring there is only one particular set of ideas being taught on their campuses? Those colleges influence and produce the journalists, lawyers, authors, legislators, teachers, and executives who shape our political, legal, educational, commercial, and social dialogue. Just as the 1970’s saw the rise of Marxist ideas on our college campuses, we are now seeing the rise of Marxist and unamerican ideas at almost every level of public education, public life, and government as we are now two generations into this “progressive” attempt to stifle debate and take exclusive control over speech and thought.
If I had written this article just a few months ago, it could have possibly been dismissed as an exaggeration or as an overreaction to the fact that colleges and their professors tend to be more “liberal” or “progressive” in their ideology. However, over the past few months we have seen the dangers “group think” and limitations of Free Speech first-hand. We have watched major American cities burned to the ground in the name of fighting institutional racism within law enforcement. Americans have targeted and beaten other Americans because they are wearing a “MAGA” hat or because they are waving an American flag, all in the name of fighting racism. We have all seen the videos from Portland and Seattle which show young middle to upper-class white people burning bibles, American flags and police stations.
We have all seen the violence and looting as we are simultaneously told by the media that the participants are “peaceful protesters” fighting injustices and white supremacy. The only problem is these are not peaceful protesters and America is not an unjust or racist country, we are instead the most inclusive, diverse and open society in the history of the world. The numbers on race-related violence, immigration and our never-ending strive to improve as a society are a testament to the fact that Americans are a loving and compassionate people. To anyone who has educated themselves about our history and our current state of affairs the media’s constant lies and misinformation are laughable. However, there are millions of Americans who rely heavily on media for their information on a daily basis.
In addition to the violence in our cities we have suffered through since June there have been two other glaring examples that illustrate the upmost importance of Freedom of Speech. COVID-19 has been an example of how dishonest and irresponsible journalists can be when given the chance. With help from Facebook, Twitter, and Google journalists and democrat leaders have successfully stomped out any competing views on COVID that do not comport with the talking points handed to them from unelected and frequently wrong bureaucrats. Any doctor or nurse who supports a nonconventional treatment for COVID is censored by every social media platform, and any individual who dares to question the need for lockdowns or other draconian measures either has their account deactivated or their post slapped with a warning from an “independent factchecker.” This is not American, and it is not healthy for our society going forward.
The 2020 election cycle has given some great examples of why diversity of thought and ideology are so important. Every major news network, except Fox News, has taken off their mask of objectivity and fully endorsed and promoted Joe Biden for President. They will tell you that it is not political and will insist that it is because Trump is an imminent “threat to our democracy.” The media often explains that their morally superiority to Trump supporters and conservatives and they are just trying to save our country and our humanity. But do not blame the members of the media, big tech or democrat leaders for their own self-righteousness. They are just executing and instituting the ideas they learned on America’s liberal campuses. Some members of the media could not name one conservative friend or family member due to their view that conservative ideas are repulsive, dangerous, and most importantly foreign to them. They cannot begin to comprehend an opposing conservative viewpoint. This incapacity is a direct threat to our Freedom of Speech.