Right Opinion

Tolerance and Polite Debate Are OK, as Long as They Get Their Way

James Shott · Jul. 10, 2018

Why is it that so many Americans do not understand or appreciate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees several rights, including the right to free speech, which some credit as the guardian of all our freedoms?

The amendment says, in part: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Notice it does not specify “approved speech,” or “popular speech,” or “speech that doesn’t send people to their "safe spaces.” It is, in fact, a guarantee that protects speech in general, including, and perhaps primarily, unpopular speech, which was an important part of its design.

Our nation’s Founders clearly understood the importance of protecting speech, which many on the modern Left in America clearly do not.

Herewith some examples of higher thinking than we currently see from free speech enemies.

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.” —Benjamin Franklin in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1737.

George Washington said, “The freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”

And Mr. Franklin, again, in the New-England Courant, 1722: “In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything else his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation, must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

There is an interesting paradox about free speech. On the one hand, the news media insist that its speech is and must be protected, despite numerous instances of inaccurate, careless and sometimes even blatantly false reporting. On the other, the PC crowd wants to silence things it doesn’t like, which it tries to do by labeling it hateful, racist, Nazi-ish, etc., or by opposing conservative public speakers or resorting to intimidation and even violence.

A recent example of the latter approach occurred not long ago when a 16-year-old boy was sitting in a Whataburger restaurant and wearing a “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat. A 30-year-old anti-Trumper stole the hat from his head and threw a soft drink in his face. Following his arrest, the thug said seeing the hat had the same effect on him that a Ku Klux Klan hood would have had.

Upon learning of this criminal act, the thug’s employer promptly relieved the assaulter of his duties. We must hope he was appropriately charged with assault and is fined and/or jailed, or perhaps sentenced to training in how to behave like an adult in America.

Unsurprisingly, two people appearing in the “neutral and objective news media” thought this assault was perfectly okay. TMZ’s Van Lathan said he was perfectly happy with anyone wearing the trademark piece of Trump paraphernalia being physically assaulted. “Wish I could take the high road,” he responded to a video of the assault. “But your MAGA hat reads like a swastika to me. So ummm … hmmm. Yeah. Maybe I’m no longer a decent person.”

Well, at least he recognizes his failure as a decent human being. But another media figure, CNN contributor Mark Lamont Hill, in response to the assault, tweeted: “I actually don’t advocate throwing drinks on people. Not at all. But yes, i [sic] think MAGA hats (deliberately) reflect a movement that conjures racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. So yes, it’s a little harder to feel sympathy when someone gets Coca Cola thrown on him.”

Hill, a Temple University professor, must have learned intolerance from the owners of the Red Hen restaurant. Or perhaps they once were his students.

The political Left, increasingly enraged by its failure to persuade millions of patriotic Americans to the Left’s very narrow view of things, has abandoned all efforts toward persuasion and open-mindedness and now has signed on to using force to get its ideas accepted.

Intimidation and violence are now seen as appropriate weapons in the Left’s efforts to force its views on those who still believe in freedom of thought and speech.

Many of those who once called themselves tolerant and caring made a U-turn and have ordained themselves as “right” and labeled everyone with different ideas as “wrong.” And if you don’t agree, you better watch your back.

But where free speech and independence of ideas are concerned, the Right is right and the Left is wrong. And those on the Left would be strongly against their own tactics if the roles were reversed.

Adults are supposed to know how to behave when presented with contrary ideas; to debate and overcome ideas they dislike with words, facts and reason rather than violence, censorship or government suppression. And children should learn that at home and in school. It’s called being a responsible, open-minded and tolerant American.

Unless the violent, intolerant wing of the political Left abandons these strong-arm tactics to get its ideas accepted, more violence will result, and that is a sad prospect for our future.

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