July 4th and Freedom of Speech

Americans should reflect on why July Fourth is such a special holiday. Apart from the birth of the U.S. as an independent nation they should not forget why the Bill of Rights was ratified as part of the Constitution in 1792. There is a reason why the Founders placed Freedom of Speech as the First Amendment.

In including that amendment, they had the utmost confidence that Americans would have common sense. Today, they would probably be turning over in their graves considering the rhetoric coming out of the leftists, celebrities, politicians, and the press mouths. No one is arguing that these people do not have their First Amendment rights to make these horrific comments, but where is the common sense?

After the four Republicans were shot on June 14th, there were calls to tone down the rhetoric, but it was just talk. While introducing his latest film in London, actor Johnny Depp asked the crowd how long has it been since “"an actor assassinated a president,” playing off the Lincoln murder while referring to President Donald Trump. Dan Weber, who founded a conservative alternative to AARP, is horrified that a standing senator, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “I’ve read the Republican ‘health care’ bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.” He wondered “were there any consequences…? Absolutely not!” 

Let’s not forget those who speak publicly, write critically, or satirize militant Islam. They are on the receiving end of violence, threats of violence, and/or lawsuits. Possibly because terrorists realize that freedom of speech is one of the greatest weapons to defeat them. Their response is to have those who challenge them fear for their lives. Recapping just a few instances: The firebombing of Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris in 2011 after the magazine "invited" the Prophet Muhammad as its guest editor; Comedy Central, which airs "South Park," censored a 2010 episode by excising a segment that originally had the Prophet Muhammad depicted in a bear costume and then turned him into Santa Claus; Theo van Gogh's movie, Submission, was not aired in many venues; and the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy (or Muhammad cartoons crisis) began after 12 editorial cartoons that depicted Muhammad were self-censored from most Western publications, including Yale University Press. Van Gogh and the staff of Charlie Hebdo were, of course, later murdered by Muslim fanatics. The al-Qaeda hit list of eleven names with the heading "Wanted, Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam" is meant in dead earnest.

So why didn’t the Western governments defend these individual rights of freedom of speech? Was it political correctness? The hypocrisy is overwhelming. The explanation by the media is that they want to be “sensitive” and not be offensive. The New York Times explained in 2006 that it would not publish the Mohammad cartoons because of the symbols. Yet, one day later, they ran a picture of a painting that showed the Virgin Mary covered in elephant poop. Time magazine's Bruce Crumley, the Paris Bureau Chief in 2011, wrote this about Charlie Hebdo, “Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by "majority sections" of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that "they" aren't going to tell "us" what can and can't be done in free societies?” And the Washington Post article commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Orlando shooting said nothing of Islamic extremism.

Another battlefront for the war against freedom of speech is on the college campuses. Alan Dershowitz brilliantly said, “What they stand for is the oldest notion, ‘free speech for me, but not for thee.’ Certain groups do not deserve more free speech than others.” Unfortunately, those attending U.S. colleges today do not appear to understand the First Amendment. According to a Pew Poll taken in November 2015, 40 percent of millennials are “OK with limiting free speech that is offensive to minorities.” When asked if they believe in free speech, a majority of Millennials say they believe in it except in cases of “hate speech.”

Most colleges look the other way as protesting mobs shout down speakers, depriving them and those who want to listen of their First Amendment rights. Freedom of speech does not give these people the right to prevent a speaker from being heard. Take for example UC Berkeley, which refused to provide security for conservative speakers, thus limiting freedom of speech. Yet, Berkeley has welcomed prominent radical Islamists, speakers who have openly called for violence and bigotry, because they fit within the accepted political framework.

Whether having a picnic or shooting off fireworks, Americans need to understand that one of its core values, freedom of speech, should never be suppressed. Yet, common sense needs to be considered when threatening someone else. After all, no one can yell fire in a public theater. The Founders would probably argue that when they wrote about freedom of speech they took into account the right to the First Amendment comes with some responsibility. 

The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

Americans should reflect on why July Fourth is such a special holiday. Apart from the birth of the U.S. as an independent nation they should not forget why the Bill of Rights was ratified as part of the Constitution in 1792. There is a reason why the Founders placed Freedom of Speech as the First Amendment.

In including that amendment, they had the utmost confidence that Americans would have common sense. Today, they would probably be turning over in their graves considering the rhetoric coming out of the leftists, celebrities, politicians, and the press mouths. No one is arguing that these people do not have their First Amendment rights to make these horrific comments, but where is the common sense?

After the four Republicans were shot on June 14th, there were calls to tone down the rhetoric, but it was just talk. While introducing his latest film in London, actor Johnny Depp asked the crowd how long has it been since “"an actor assassinated a president,” playing off the Lincoln murder while referring to President Donald Trump. Dan Weber, who founded a conservative alternative to AARP, is horrified that a standing senator, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “I’ve read the Republican ‘health care’ bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.” He wondered “were there any consequences…? Absolutely not!” 

Let’s not forget those who speak publicly, write critically, or satirize militant Islam. They are on the receiving end of violence, threats of violence, and/or lawsuits. Possibly because terrorists realize that freedom of speech is one of the greatest weapons to defeat them. Their response is to have those who challenge them fear for their lives. Recapping just a few instances: The firebombing of Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris in 2011 after the magazine "invited" the Prophet Muhammad as its guest editor; Comedy Central, which airs "South Park," censored a 2010 episode by excising a segment that originally had the Prophet Muhammad depicted in a bear costume and then turned him into Santa Claus; Theo van Gogh's movie, Submission, was not aired in many venues; and the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy (or Muhammad cartoons crisis) began after 12 editorial cartoons that depicted Muhammad were self-censored from most Western publications, including Yale University Press. Van Gogh and the staff of Charlie Hebdo were, of course, later murdered by Muslim fanatics. The al-Qaeda hit list of eleven names with the heading "Wanted, Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam" is meant in dead earnest.

So why didn’t the Western governments defend these individual rights of freedom of speech? Was it political correctness? The hypocrisy is overwhelming. The explanation by the media is that they want to be “sensitive” and not be offensive. The New York Times explained in 2006 that it would not publish the Mohammad cartoons because of the symbols. Yet, one day later, they ran a picture of a painting that showed the Virgin Mary covered in elephant poop. Time magazine's Bruce Crumley, the Paris Bureau Chief in 2011, wrote this about Charlie Hebdo, “Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by "majority sections" of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that "they" aren't going to tell "us" what can and can't be done in free societies?” And the Washington Post article commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Orlando shooting said nothing of Islamic extremism.

Another battlefront for the war against freedom of speech is on the college campuses. Alan Dershowitz brilliantly said, “What they stand for is the oldest notion, ‘free speech for me, but not for thee.’ Certain groups do not deserve more free speech than others.” Unfortunately, those attending U.S. colleges today do not appear to understand the First Amendment. According to a Pew Poll taken in November 2015, 40 percent of millennials are “OK with limiting free speech that is offensive to minorities.” When asked if they believe in free speech, a majority of Millennials say they believe in it except in cases of “hate speech.”

Most colleges look the other way as protesting mobs shout down speakers, depriving them and those who want to listen of their First Amendment rights. Freedom of speech does not give these people the right to prevent a speaker from being heard. Take for example UC Berkeley, which refused to provide security for conservative speakers, thus limiting freedom of speech. Yet, Berkeley has welcomed prominent radical Islamists, speakers who have openly called for violence and bigotry, because they fit within the accepted political framework.

Whether having a picnic or shooting off fireworks, Americans need to understand that one of its core values, freedom of speech, should never be suppressed. Yet, common sense needs to be considered when threatening someone else. After all, no one can yell fire in a public theater. The Founders would probably argue that when they wrote about freedom of speech they took into account the right to the First Amendment comes with some responsibility. 

The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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