Free Speech in America Has Died

Free Speech in America Has Died

© David Burton 2018

Freedom of Speech

     Freedom of speech in America is supposedly guaranteed by the first amendment to our Constitution which reads:

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. (Ref. 1)

    But today, Free Speech in America has died! Say something that anyone objects to and you are in trouble. Say or imply a racial slur and you are fired, ostracized, harassed, or shouted down. When I was growing up, profanity could get one in trouble. When Clark Gable uttered the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn”, in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind it caused a furor. “Prior to the film's release, censors objected to the use of the word ‘damn’ in the film, a word that had been prohibited by the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code, beginning in July 1934.” (Ref. 2) Yet today, every profanity is acceptable, whether in movies on television or in public. On the other hand, what we today call “ethnic slurs”, when said in private in years gone by, was ignored. I grew up when words, like Nigger, Negro, Kike, Hebe, Wop, Pollock, Chink, Ruskie, Limey, Jap, Spic and others were not that uncommon. But no one got fired or punished for using these words. One didn’t say these words in polite company, but they were not uncommon in the locker room or in impolite company. Times have changed. Listening to the younger generation in the street on the subway makes an octogenarian like me blush. Now, Robert De Niro can shout the F-bomb on stage and he gets applauded,[3], but, Roseanne Barr tweets a figure of speech and her television show is cancelled. These days, one is reprimanded for using the word “Indian” to describe a person of “Native American” heritage. I grew up playing “Cowboys and Indians”. But, that’s now considered an ethnic slur – still, playing “Cowboys and Native Americans” just doesn’t sound right to me.

     Our liberal colleges were once touted as the bastions of free thought and free speech. Now, our liberal colleges are mini-dictatorships where thoughts and opinions counter to the accepted policies of the liberal elite are banned and anyone with an opposing view is shouted down, banned and harassed.

     American companies now submit to the demands of un-American bullies. In one recent example of liberal totalitarianism and dictatorship, we had the following:

     The BJ's Wholesale Club store in Seekonk Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border, canceled a book signing that former White House press secretary, Sean Spicer was scheduled to hold there to mark the release of his new book, "The Briefing".

     But just before Spicer’s scheduled appearance, the store cancelled the book signing “due to the political climate”. The cancellation reminded me of the tactics used to stifle political dissent and political opponents in dictatorial regimes around the world. Would the next step be to burn Spicer’s book?

     “Spicer, a Rhode Island native, is a veteran Republican operative who served as Trump's press secretary during the tumultuous early months of his administration.” (Ref. 4) Apparently, just being a supporter of a controversial president or part of his administration is enough to get one banned from presenting his thoughts or ideas. Heaven forbid such a person’s writings should be sold or read!

     In the case of Roseanne Barr, when she exercised her supposedly guaranteed right of free speech with a Twitter, ABC promptly cancelled her TV sitcom a few hours later.

     The comedienne’s crime was that she had ripped former Barack Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and had claimed that billionaire investor George Soros was "a Nazi". The Barr tweet about Valerie Jarrett read: "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj". (Ref. 5)

     “Barr . . . later wrote that the tweet was a ‘joke’ before deleting it, issuing an apology and saying she was ‘leaving Twitter.’
     “ABC then announced it was canceling her show . . .
      - - -
     “Jarrett . . was born in Iran, and both of her parents are African-American. Barr's mention of Muslim Brotherhood refers to a Sunni Islamist organization headquartered in Egypt.
     “{Barr,} who frequently voices her conservative viewpoints — also drew backlash for her posts about Soros. . . .” (Ref. 6)

     Whether Roseanne had the facts correct or not, and whether or not her tweet was in poor taste, the question that should be asked is: Does the cancellation of Barr’s TV show constitute a denial of her right to freedom of speech? Is she, as well as many others, being muzzled by our elitist left who vehemently reject any opposition to their liberal agenda?

     John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, was forced to resign as chairman of the board of Papa John’s International. This came hours after he apologized for using a racial slur in a comment about black people during a conference call. Schnatter’s apology was prompted by a report in Forbes that described the call, which was with the Laundry Service marketing agency. Mr. Schnatter reportedly had said that Col. Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, used the racial slur to describe black people and never faced backlash for doing so. He was also reported to have talked about his youth in Indiana and the violence against black people that took place there.
     In his apology, he was quoted as saying, “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
     In other reactions to Schnatter’s reported inappropriate remarks, Schnatter resigned from the board of trustees for the University of Louisville; Major League Baseball suspended its Papa Slam promotion, which provided discounts to Papa John’s customers each time a player hit a grand slam; In Schnatter’s hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana, the mayor stripped a local gym of his name.
     Previously, Mr. Schnatter had set off an uproar by blaming the National Football League — with which Papa John’s had a sponsorship deal — for a slump in sales during a conference call with investors. He complained about the league’s handling of football players who protested racism and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. While those comments were praised by white supremacists, Papa John’s responded by saying it did not want white supremacists or their groups buying its pizzas.[5]

     Our left leaning opponents of President Trump have tried to ensure that anyone suspected of supporting his policies is prevented from airing such support. An “immigrant owner of a business who employs many immigrants, says he cannot understand why his recently opened café was the target of protests over his support for President Trump and White House immigration policies.
     “ ‘My life is all with immigrants,’ stated {the owner}, who was shocked by the anti-Semitic, anti-American rhetoric he says came from protesters outside his café. Recalling protesters calling him racist and a Nazi, {the owner} stated, ‘I don’t know what is the connection to my coffee shop.’
      - - -
     “. . . radical left protesters shouted at patrons and attempted to block the entrance to Asher Cafe & Lounge during its grand opening in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Urged on by supporters, {the owner} – together with the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, a bipartisan group that works to empower U.S. businesses – is planning a second grand opening . . .
     “A Facebook post by a group calling itself Defend Boyle Heights had demanded protesters show up to last week’s grand opening, claiming {the owner} was an ‘anti-immigrant Trump loving gentryfier! If he hates immigrants so much, he can stay…out of our hood!’
      - - -
     “{The owner’s} alleged offense was to retweet four tweets by President Trump, including one exclaiming that the U.S. immigration system is ‘broken,’ referring to the flaws in the vetting process.
     “Besides the café, {its owner} is the owner of Asher Fabric Concepts, which he says employs over 70 people, including immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala.
     “{The owner}, himself is an immigrant from Israel who says the day he became a U.S. citizen 15 years ago he ‘cried like a baby. It was so emotional.’
     “{The owner’s son}, who was at the grand opening last week, said, ‘The contrast is just so clear in the bigger picture. While these people were berating police officers to their faces for hours and cursing at them, we were welcoming everyone.’
     “{The owner’s son} continued: ‘It was very concerning to me as a millennial, as well. Because most of these protesters were millennials. And I am witnessing this growing movement in America of intolerance from the radical left. And it just begs the question of what kind of society am I going to live in?… I think civil discourse on the left is slowly eroding.’ “ (Ref. 7)

     Perhaps most unsettling of all has been the trend in recent years to close our college campuses to any hint of dissent – dissent from the politically correct dictates of the elitist Gestapo who have taken control of many of the minds of this nation’s supposedly best and brightest.

     It was reported that 2017 was not a good year for free speech in higher education. And, it’s not getting any better!

     Last year, 2017, “Students at Middlebury University, the University of California at Berkeley, Evergreen State, Emory University, Reed College, and many others have made national news for their willingness to assault, intimidate, or otherwise forcibly silence visiting speakers . . .
      - - -
     “A . . . survey conducted by the Brookings Institution {brought} grim news.
     “The study . . . asked a geographically diverse sample of 1,500 current undergraduates a series of questions pertaining to the Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects Americans’ right to free speech, assembly, the press, and worship.
      - - -
     “{One question in the study} asked respondents to imagine that a public university had invited a controversial speaker to an on-campus event, and that this speaker ‘is known for making offensive and hurtful statements.’ A student group opposed to the speaker ‘disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker.’ Are the group’s actions acceptable?
     “Here political affiliation played a role: 62 percent of those who identified as Democrats agreed that such actions are indeed acceptable, while ‘only’ 45 percent of independents and 39 percent of Republicans also agreed. Taken together, slightly over half of the students found nothing wrong with shouting into silence a speaker they might find offensive.
     “It gets worse. Some 19 percent of the respondents believe violence is an acceptable means of preventing an offensive speaker from speaking. And 62 percent believe that the First Amendment mandates that the organization hosting the offensive speaker include a speaker who presents an opposing view.
     “The final question asked students to choose between a ‘positive learning environment’ that prohibits ‘certain speech or expression of viewpoints that are offensive or biased against certain groups of people’ and an ‘open learning environment’ where students ‘are exposed to all types of speech and viewpoints, even if it means allowing speech that is offensive or biased against certain groups of people.’ The result? A clueless 53 percent of those surveyed preferred a school-wide ‘safe space’ to a free exchange of ideas.
     “Where did this concept of safe space come from? How did it take hold? When did we stop educating the young about liberty?
     “There is nothing safe about a free people with free and independent minds.
     “Speech is never more in need of protection than when it offends. Some offensive speech is just offensive, of course, but an idea can just as easily offend because it is true or just and people are not yet ready to hear it. Imagine if we had made safe spaces where the abolitionists could not offend the accepted wisdom of their day.
     “Moral and intellectual progress is only possible if individuals can speak the truth as they see it, which in turn is only possible if their right to do so is protected.
     “For all of their preoccupation with social justice, many of America’s future leaders don’t seem to understand how freedom helps us to discover, over time, what is just.
     “And the first and greatest freedom, is speech.” (Ref. 8)

     A short while back, “Ann Coulter’s speech at the University of California at Berkeley was canceled. But the debate and hostility that were unleashed by the controversy over the conservative commentator’s planned event continued . . .
      - - -
     “When student groups invited Coulter to speak, university officials tried to postpone the event until the fall because of safety concerns, then reversed course and asked her to come next week, when they could provide a safer venue for her speech. Berkeley College Republicans and the national Young America’s Foundation filed a lawsuit saying the school had violated their right to free speech. On Wednesday, Coulter announced the speech was canceled.” (Ref. 9) So much for free speech on this college campus.

     Ann Coulter's canceled speech at the University of California-Berkeley was just another example of the far left's assault on free speech. They want to silence every single conservative voice in America. College campuses in this country are no longer environments for learning and robust debate and the free and open exchange of ideas. And they haven't been for a long time. These out-of-control fascist are stifling any speech that dares to challenge their politically correct worldview. All Coulter was going to do at Berkeley was give a speech about how the U.S. should actually enforce federal immigration laws. But, if you don't subscribe to the rigid, left-wing ideology that's being pushed by the so-called “tolerant alt-radical left”, you're going to be shut down and you'll be silenced by any means necessary.[10]

     Coulter was the second right-wing speaker whose Berkeley appearance was scrubbed over security concerns. In February of 2017, so called-liberal protesters started fires, broke windows and clashed with police, forcing Milo Yiannopoulos, then a senior editor for the conservative Breitbart News website, to call off his appearance. Two comments in regards to the cancellation were: When a small group of violent, extremists decide who can and who cannot speak, the country is going to hell in a hand basket. and This is what fascism looks like![11]

     “The University of California at Berkeley is synonymous with free speech—or at least used to be. The home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s just succumbed to the latest campus effort to shut down unpopular views.
     “. . . University officials cancelled a speech by conservative performance artist and Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos after protestors turned violent. The rioters, led by 50-75 ‘Black Bloc’ anarchists, destroyed property, shattered windows in university buildings and neighboring stores, set fires, attacked campus police, and set upon suspected Trump and Yiannopoulos supporters.
     “Claiming they could not safely protect the speaker or those who wanted to hear him, campus administrators ‘reluctantly’ cancelled the event. Given Mr. Yiannopoulos’ posturing and provocateur’s persona—which runs counter to the prevailing political positions on the Berkeley campus—the administration’s capitulation to mob rule was not terribly surprising. But it was depressing: a bedrock principal of the First Amendment is the unlawfulness of the ‘heckler’s veto.’
      - - -
     “College campuses in general—and Berkeley in particular—used to be places where diverse opinions could be heard and debated. Alas, no more.
     “One Berkeley professor . . . justified the rioting and shut down of speech by arguing, ‘Mostly this was typical Black Bloc action, in a few waves — very well-organized and very efficient. They attacked property but they attacked it very sparingly, destroying just enough University property to obtain the cancellation order for the . . . event and making sure no one in the crowd got hurt.’
     “Good to know property and people were just ‘sparingly’ attacked.
     “Soon after the cancellation, President Trump tweeted, ‘If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?’
     “Not surprisingly, that generated an even more hysterical reaction from apologists for campus speech codes. California{‘s} Lieutenant Governor tweeted, ‘As a UC Regent I’m appalled at your willingness to deprive over 38,000 students access to an education because of the actions of a few.’
     “President Trump probably can’t—and shouldn’t—restrict federal funding to UC Berkeley. But he is not wrong to decry the suppression of free speech or the quick capitulation of administrators to protestors. [Emphasis mine]
     “A similar incident, happily with less violence, occurred last week at NYU. Protestors succeeded in forcing the cancellation of a seminar to be held by {a} conservative actor and Vice Media co-founder . . .
     “All of this reminds us of another era and another politician’s reaction to campus protests. Ronald Reagan, in his first (and successful) run for public office—the California governorship—promised to ‘clean up the mess at Berkeley.
     “Today there is indeed a mess on far too many college campuses, an intolerance to unpopular or opposing viewpoints. Neither violence nor the suppression of free expression of those viewpoints should be coddled.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 12)

     What about the faculties at our colleges and universities, those brave souls who are supposed to value the freedom to debate and champion sometimes-controversial ideas? Where are they when mobs of student make wild accusations against their school without any real evidence? Where are they when students shut down conservative, libertarian, and not-progressive-enough Democrats or Republicans from speaking at their schools? Are America’s college students so intimidated, so uninterested, so brainwashed, or are they just not very idealistic about the right of free speech? If so, it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country. Is it possible that one of the major reasons for our college students’ apparent ignorance of the meaning of the phrase “freedom of speech” is their brainwashing by the overwhelming majority of liberal public-school teachers? What exactly are American students taught in civics classes and in classes on American history today? By the time our young matriculate to college have they already been taught to oppose any dissenting points of view without giving those with opposing views a chance to explain their positions? Have their minds already become closed?

     We are all becoming victims of a tyranical few who can stand nothing that smacks of opposition to their views, opinion and biases. Too many people are being forced to keep their mouth shut because of fears of reprisals from these intolerant members of the thought police. Critical analysis and thoughtful exploration of honest research and unbiased information are being suppressed by the liberal left if the conclusions drawn from such facts are in opposition to their preconceived views. “On CNBC, an entrepreneur . . . was asked what kind of people he prefers to hire for his businesses. Here's what he said: ‘We look for more females than males, by design. I happen to believe that females, particularly in the sales oriented positions, are better. They're more empathetic. They're better listeners.’
     “Ho hum.
     “But if he had said, ‘We look for more males than females by design because men are better,’ there'd be demands from the intolerant left that CNBC never allow such a monster on TV ever again.
     “Exaggeration? Well, you tell me.
     “At Google, an engineer . . . who has a Ph.D. from Harvard, just had a run-in with the intolerant left. He wrote an internal 10-page memo that basically said the reason there are more men than women working in Silicon Valley has less to do with sexism than it does with fundamental differences between the sexes.
     “He said the gender gap was partly due to biology; that men have a ‘higher drive for status’ and that women are ‘more prone to anxiety.’
     “How crazy do you have to be to believe that women are more prone to anxiety? Except a publication called Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Review states that, ‘female-biased conditions include depression, anxiety disorder, and anorexia nervosa.’
     “Note: ‘female-biased conditions.’ But hey, they're only scientists. What do they know about these things? Besides, it's a generalization. It's not about 'all' women. You can say men generally are taller than women but that doesn't mean some women aren't taller than some men.
     “In any case, when the internal document was leaked -- and went viral – {the engineer} got canned.
      - - -
     “But let's not pretend that if he had instead written a 10-page document saying that Google should hire more women because they make better engineers than men, he not only would not have been fired, there's a good chance he would have been promoted.
     “You don't have to agree with anything {the engineer} wrote to notice that in some liberal quarters certain views are just not tolerated. Try delivering a conservative speech on a liberal college campus sometime and let me know how it goes. [Emphasis mine]
     “Liberals may not like generalizations about gender, but they have no problem generalizing about inequality -- figuring that it's usually linked to discrimination. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it isn't.
     “Here's an inconvenient piece of information that the holier-than-thou crowd might want to think about. When women get Masters degrees, by and large, they're not in computer engineering, which would go a long way if you want a job in Silicon Valley.
      - - -
     “There's something else {the engineer} wrote in his internal document . . .
     " ‘Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50 percent representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.’
     “By ‘discrimination to reach equal representation’ he means outreach programs that target women and other groups whose numbers in the workforce don't comport with their numbers in the general population.
     “And he says, ‘Open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow.’
     “If Google had fired {the engineer} for being naive, they'd have a case. But they didn't. They fired him for having an unacceptable opinion, and that just can't be tolerated at such an open-minded place as Google, a place that welcomes a wide array of points of view -- as long as they're acceptable liberal points of view.” (Ref. 13)

     Our First Amendment has largely protected us from any government interference in regards to speech. Rarely has our government imprisoned people for speaking freely or imposing any laws that limit speech. But the same cannot be said today about non-governmental groups and individuals.
     The Bill of Rights was made solely to limit the long arm of our government, of Uncle Sam. The Bill of Rights did not place restrictions on the actions of the citizen or groups of citizens. Up until the last decade or two, there was a generally a tolerant attitude toward the presentation of opposing points of view. People may have disagreed, but for the most part, there was still a sense of respect and understanding from both sides. Unfortunately, the birth of political correctness and the recent popularity of socialism in the United States have carved a path to closed mindedness and mob/majority rule.
     What we are seeing today is a movement of the left toward more and more authoritarianism as it relates to free speech. Since the left can’t restrict free speech through law, they are doing it by attempting to establish societal standards. Much like dictators, they aren’t silencing people because they have offensive opinions, but because those opinions challenge their leftist beliefs. Today, in America, a safe space for the left has become a place where free speech is shunned, when in reality, a safe space should be a place where debates are openly held without discrimination.
     However, much like communist and authoritarian dictators, the Left isn’t trying to block speech they find offensive, but to remove political opponents. The Right can be accused of doing the same thing, but not nearly to the same extent. The Left’s political ideology has taught them that they can control our democracy. If the government can’t restrict free speech, then they can. As perhaps the largest and loudest political group in America, they are beginning to enforce their own rules. They are attempting, with some success, to silence those with differing opinions, such as the owner of Chick-Fil-A for saying he believed in traditional marriage; or you politically assassinate icons by digging up something in their past.
     Lastly, if all else fails, the Left will simply attempt to smear their opponent by using trigger words to label their opponent as something bad (sexist, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc.). This was displayed when liberals across the world declared that all Trump supporters were all of these neat little insults bundled into one. Their reasoning was that everyone that voted for Trump must all share in his perceived racism, sexism, and all the other isms.
     Those universities, protesters, and groups that seek to restrict free speech are hurting our country. We are a country of ideas. Even if you don’t agree with an idea, giving that idea a platform allows you to debate it and give an opposing opinion, which does far more to sway others than silencing said opinion.[14]


  1. First Amendment, The Free Dictionary br Farlex, Accessed 3 August 2018.
  2. Robert De Niro said 'f--- Trump' at the Tony Awards and got a standing ovation, Rebecca Harrington,
    Business Insider, 10 June 2018.
  3. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn, Wikipedia, Accessed 1 August 2018.
  4. Seekonk BJ's cancels Sean Spicer event , Ted Nesi and Kim Kalunian,, 25 July 2018.
  5. Racial Slur Leads to Papa John’s Founder Quitting Chairman Post, Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times,
    11 July 2018.
  6. Roseanne Barr fired after racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, post claiming George Soros is a Nazi, Peter Sblendorio, Daily News, 29 May 2018.
  7. Quick Takes – Israeli Immigrant Baffled By Protests, Aaron Klein, The Jewish press, Page 14, 27 July 2018.
  8. No clue on free speech, Editorial, The Blade, 25 October 2017.
  9. There was no Ann Coulter speech. But protesters converged on Berkeley., Susan Svrluga, William Wan
    and Elizabeth Dwoskin, The Washington Post, 27 April 2017.
  10. 'This Madness Has to Stop': Hannity Says the Left Is Stifling Free Speech, Fox News Insider, 28 April 2017.
  11. Ann Coulter cancels speech at Berkeley amid safety dispute, Lisa Fernandez, Reuters, William Wan
    and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Yahoo!, 27 April 2017.
  12. The Death of Free Speech, The Editors, Observer, 7 February 2017.
  13. Say the Wrong Thing at Google and You Will Get Fired, Bernard Goldberb, SOTT, 12 August 2017.
  14. How Free Speech Died in America, Braden Paynter, Being Libertarian, 20 March 2017.

  9 August 2018 {Article 331; Suggestions?_13}    
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