Throughout my high school career I saw free speech tarnished, obstructed, and denied to individuals and organizations, both on and off campus. Making the transition into college, I thought that free speech would be more accepted and tolerated, since universities are renowned as institutions which foster the principles of intellectual diversity and healthy discussion on a myriad of different topics. Despite my optimism, my aspirations of engaging in civil and profitable discourse with fellow students was crushed underneath the weight of oppression I thought was not possible by fellow Americans.
Countless political philosophers, and most importantly, our Founding Fathers, always held the perception that freedom of speech and expression were the very foundations of our society, and that without these protections, tyranny would run rampant. I would like to elucidate two examples to prove that freedom of speech can no longer be considered “free.”
The first example, and one that I witnessed firsthand, is in regards to the advertising my UCI campus organization used a week ago to promote our first event. My fellow members of the Conservative Student Union and I convened multiple times during the week to promote our upcoming event, “Campus Rape Hysteria: False Statistics and The Assault on Due Process,” and even spent our own money to buy supplies for posters.
After the posters were complete and we dispersed them throughout campus, within the hour, we discovered that the posters had been torn down. One of our club members discovered a post on a Reddit thread that explained what had happened to them. It turns out that despite the propensity for acceptance and healthy discourse that our university prides itself on, some disgruntled and offended individuals had torn them down and tossed them over the bridge they had been placed on. Thus, all the time, effort and expenses my club members and I had made were instantly invalidated by intolerant individuals.
This isn’t just a problem at UCI, however. At a recent Milo Yiannopoulos event at UC Berkeley, rioters prevented the notoriously outspoken conservative Breitbart editor from speaking. The protesters were originally peaceful, but as tensions rose, subsequent riots occurred. The rioters tore down barricades, lit property on fire, and smashed windows. In addition, they fired propulsion devices at police officers, endangering lives on both sides.
The initial peaceful demonstrations are protected under the First Amendment. However, when individuals begin destroying property and posing a threat to individual life, it is prudent to prohibit them from enacting any more harm. At a premier academic institution such as UC Berkeley, I would think that the administration, faculty and students would be protective and encouraging of the diversity of thought and the free-flowing expression of ideas. Quite clearly however, they refuse to acknowledge and accept any and all viewpoints which don’t coincide with their ideologies.
It is apparent from these examples that freedom of speech is no longer respected as a crucial aspect of society and an inherent right.
People are afraid to speak their minds out of fear of being attacked, verbally abused or drowned in a slew of derogatory terminology. In an extremely informative video by Prager University, entitled “Why I Left The Left,” Dave Rubin, who once considered himself a “progressive,” gives plentiful examples on how the political left (the main perpetrators of free speech violations) is actually regressive, not progressive.
Rubin cites the idea of Classical Liberalism, which details how it was founded on the ideals of diversity of thought and free thinking, but nowadays some liberals have begun to regress on these formative ideas, and thus prohibit events, through force and intimidation, from reaching fruition. He describes how free speech is an inalienable right, endowed to all citizens, but also states that when force or coercion is used to silence an individual or group, tyranny commences.
I feel the same way Dave Rubin does, as I acknowledge the right of everyone to express their opinions. But at the same time, I disavow anyone who tries to rob a free citizen of their inherent right and utility to express an idea or point of view. Free speech is not a debatable or contestable topic, and frankly is incapable of any suppression due to its status as an inalienable right. If we continue down this path of suppression, there is no hope for the survival of our cherished civil society.
Jonathan Ellett is a first-year political science and economics double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.