Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The death of free speech

I'm not exactly sure what date needs to be placed on the tombstone. April 19, 2009 is not that date. No, it was merely the latest evidence that free speech is dead and buried in the United States. In case you missed it, Miss California lost the Miss USA contest after answering a question regarding gay marriage. Rather than pander to the judges, and rather than fill the next two minutes with meaningless fluff that would offend no one (and not answer the question), she spoke her mind. Believe it or not, she answered the question. She exercised free speech. The openly gay judge who had asked the question was aghast. He later said that if she had won the title, he would have run up on the stage and ripped the crown off of her head. Later, on the Tuesday, April 21 edition of the Today show, he explained his outrage. In short, he said she should have answered her question in a way that would not offend anyone, except, of course, Miss California's own conscience. He basically told Matt Lauer, how dare she speak her mind! How dare she actually answer the question! How dare she speak freely!

The Miss USA controversy is only the latest round of criticism leveled at one who dares to go against the rising tide of accepted belief. We expect such dissent only from those on the far right fringe, from the Limbaughs and Becks of the world. Not from real people. I'm told that a law against "hate speech" is winding its way through the Congress. The law will bring into the legal code that which is already the prevailing sentiment. If and when the law passes, it will merely be the final nail on the coffin of free speech.

As I ponder the question of what killed the first amendment, I find only one logical answer. Political correctness did not kill it. Nor did politicians. And neither did bloviating social commentators on the left or the right. No, I think something far more insidious, something far more difficult to root out of the culture dealt the final blow to what was, in truth, a rather fragile right. I believe the collective immaturity of the American culture and people killed free speech. Tolerating dissent, engaging in an intelligent conversation with those who see the world in a completely different way, and allowing those with whom we disagree to speak freely and openly, all require a level of maturity America has not seen in nearly a generation. Instead we puff up like a toddler whose favorite toy was taken away whenever anyone disagrees with us. We shout and try to drown out dissenting opinion rather than enter into genuine debate. Worse yet, we feel personally attacked whenever anyone thinks in a way that forces us to rethink our own positions. 

I have long believed that independent thought is the most dangerous thing in the world. The angry reaction to one lone beauty pageant expressing something other than the company line shows how true this is. Since independent thought can only be expressed through free speech, we must eliminate the latter to protect ourselves against the former. The fatal blow was dealt long ago. Today we are merely free to say that which will offend no one, no one that is, except ourselves.


  1. Interestingly enough, I've been discussing this very topic with people here at Rose for the past couple of days. Just yesterday I found another intriguing blog written by a reverend on this as well. I'm quite glad to see this post here!

  2. i want more maggie type blogs! the writings of a brain dead father. i love your post-book or right before deadline dad.