The United States has always been known as the land of the free. However, if you look at what is going on in the country right now, you can’t help but wonder if it is not the case anymore.
Americans are getting ‘triggered’ like never before. All it takes is a wrong word or a wrong gesture to offend someone. You have to tiptoe around everyone – especially ethnic and racial minorities – lest they get offended and accuse you of being a racist, sexist, fascist, misogynist, homophobe, transphobe, or any other ridiculous label they can think of.
We all know they are the ones who caused the real estate crisis and turned their cities into monstrosities.
Assault on Free Speech in America
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the assault on free speech started with the election of Donald Trump in 2016. While left-liberals have never hidden their disdain for the First Amendment, they used to pay lip service to the idea of free speech just for the sake of maintaining a cloak of neutrality and objectivity. However, ever since Trump got elected, the gloves have come off completely.
The left no longer believes that people should be allowed to express their thoughts freely. They believe that words can be violent. They say that we need laws to deal with ‘violent thoughts’ and ‘violent language’, just like we have laws to deal with ‘violent action’. In other words, the left believes that offending someone with your words is no different than assaulting someone physically.
The Brouhaha over Tom Cotton’s Op-Ed
Take, for instance, the op-ed that Tom Cotton wrote for the New York Times last month. In his op-ed, Cotton had argued that state governments – especially those under Democratic Mayors and Governors – had failed to stop the large scale looting, arson, and violent attacks that were taking place in broad daylight. So, he called for President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and send in the troops to crack down on the violent mobs that were terrorizing ordinary people.
In response, over 300 staffers staged a walkout and demanded that the op-ed should be retracted. They also asked for James Bennett – who was the editorial page editor – to be fired. They illogically stated that the op-ed ‘literally put the lives of black staffers in danger’.
That’s right folks. An op-ed calling for strict action against rioters somehow puts the lives of hotshot NYT journalists in danger.
The Tweet That Stirred Up a University Campus
Similarly, last month, a student at Kansas State University made a sarcastic tweet on George Floyd. He had tweeted: ‘Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug-free for an entire month’.
Now, there is no doubt that the tweet was in bad taste. To make such a tweet when a section of the population was literally protesting on the streets was highly irresponsible. However, the student was well within his right to tweet it, as it was not against the law.
The response to the tweet was quite unprecedented. The student started receiving threatening messages and death threats on social media. K-State football players stated that they ‘felt threatened’ by the tweet and will boycott all of their team activities until the student is expelled.
So dire was the situation that K-State President himself had to reassure everyone that he will take all the necessary steps to promote a culture of tolerance within the university campus.
The Remark That Led to a Resignation
Earlier this month, Gary Garrels, who served as the senior curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, had to resign following an innocuous remark he made at a staff meeting.
The museum apparently had received several complaints about the ‘lack of diversity’ in their art collection. In plain talk, it means that a vast majority of paintings and sculptures displayed were made by white men. At the meeting, there was a presentation about the efforts taken by the museum to collect more artwork from people of color.
Garrels ended the presentation by stating that they will continue to collect artwork made by white people, as not doing it would amount to reverse discrimination.
The innocuous remark made the employees go nuclear and launch a relentless attack against Garrels. As a result, Garrels not only apologized to those who had been ‘hurt’ by his remarks but also resigned from his position.
Are First Amendment Rights No Longer Non-Negotiable?
What these incidents show is that a large section of the country no longer believes in the concept of free speech as defined by the First Amendment. They believe that people should be punished for wrong thought and wrong speak.
Now, I am not saying that people should not face any consequences for what they say on a public forum or platform. When someone crosses a line, they should pay the price. A good example is Nick Cannon, who was recently fired from ViacomCBS over the vile remarks he made about Jewish people.
But the question is – where do we draw the line? A private company firing someone for anti-semitic remarks is completely different from a university student getting death threats for a distasteful tweet.
Moral outrage is a good thing in moderation. When an unspeakable injustice is done, it is normal for people to outrage over it and demand justice. However, when you outrage over every single thing on a daily basis, you tend to lose the moral high ground. People tend to get desensitized. As a result, you might not find any supporters to rally behind you if and when you outrage over a genuine issue.
One of the things that make America the land of opportunities is the right to say things freely without any fear of retaliation. It is why we manage to attract the sharpest minds and the brightest talent from many different countries, where the concept of free speech is virtually non-existent.
If we allow Chinese loving and California destroying liberals to set our political discourse and decide what can be said and what cannot be said, our country will no longer remain a bastion of free speech, as the Founding Fathers had intended it to be. This is something that every right-thinking American needs to keep in mind.