With so much protests going on about us, why is there relative silence about the suppression of free speech? Such silence will surely damn America like a cancer causing the destruction of our cultural and social values. As Mark Twain said “The truth hurts but silence kills.”
What is it about Edward Snowden that scares the NSA so much? After all, what he released seven years ago is already in the public domain, and much of it disclosed what should be deemed illegal activities by that organization to begin with. He was a true whistle blower, and the American people should embrace him as a hero, not a traitor. His actions were a protest against our government’s obscene surveillance and invasions of privacy of Americans. I think exposing that scares those that are up to no good.
Amazingly Trump is considering pardoning Snowden. That is likely motivation due to his feud with the intelligence community regarding his dealings with Russia and the Ukraine, but you take whatever good comes along and pardoning Snowden would be a good thing.
Snowden had supporters in Congress, such as Ron Paul, who stated “My understanding is that espionage means giving secret or classified information to the enemy. Since Snowden shared information with the American people, his indictment for espionage could reveal, or confirm, that the US Government views you and me as the enemy.” That’s a chilling insight we need to seriously consider.
Snowden was charged under, among other statutes, the Espionage Act of 1917. That was a shameful law that was meant to silence protest about the US entry into the Great War; the most shameful episode was the acquiescence of the Supreme Court in Schenck v. United States. Schenck was protesting through the distribution of pamphlets, the same publication medium as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense during the American Revolution. The Courts twisted logic in finding against Schenck was a repudiation of free speech if there ever was one. We currently face a tsunami of forces against free speech.
Politically we face the likely revision to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Oddly enough the original purpose of that legislation was to restrict free speech on the internet that was deemed “obscene”, but it also included this section which protected social media as an open public platform against law suits about what someone may publish that anyone found offensive. Now both Democrats and Republicans want to change that as they seek to silence free voices that may criticize them.
Academically there’s the very troubling phenomenon on college campuses where opinions expressed by students and faculty that fellow students and teachers find offensive often results in censorship, suspension, firing and expulsion. How can institutions of higher learning not support free expression, the very essence of intellectual development?
Socially, we are not doing much better. Consider for a moment the Antifa movement, which openly espouses that the very concept of free speech is a tool of “liberal” suppression. The term liberal here does not refer to a political spectrum of modern politics but that of the Enlightenment. That the acronym Antifa stands for Anti-Fascism is another Bizzaro World reversal of our times. Also be aware of the “woke” movement which seeks to suppress any free expression that someone finds “threatening”; well there’s a slippery slope that can’t lead to anything good.
The mass media has not been very helpful here; they are supposed to represent an essential element of democracy as a free press but in fact have deteriorated into political advocacy contrary to objective journalism. This failure aids in polarization and provides an open door for interference from bad actors like Russian and Chinese agents. The effectiveness of those actions increases in the absence of reliable information.
Soon we will see political debates as a lead up to the 2020 elections. It’s troubling that both major parties are actively working to prevent the inclusion of third party candidates, even initiating law suits in that effort. This is not an encouraging development in support of free speech. Americans have a right to hear from all those seeking public office and a true democratic process requires an informed electorate.
Regardless of your political position, keep in mind that free of speech is the foundation of liberty which provides you with the right to even have a political position. A lack of support for free speech is a silence that will damn that right to an empty phrase.