Most of the people I meet are totally unaware that our Constitutional rights have been disappearing. Few people are even aware of what our Constitution says, and what the Bill of Rights, those first ten amendments to our Constitution, actually say, and how they are supposed to protect us, the citizens of this country, from the predations of an overly demanding government.
This writer knows a number of people who would be very happy if many of our rights simply disappeared, as long as it would mean they would be safe from whatever threat the news media promotes. I could perhaps empathize with these people, if they were not so ready to pick fights with anyone who has a different opinion from theirs. However, judging by what is happening in our country today, with the riots in our streets, it may become necessary for many of us to own and learn how to use a gun — something I have never thought I would need to do. Circumstances can and do change the way we feel about such things.
Even so, I sat down to write about free speech. It appears that many people are sadly confused over what free speech is and what it is supposed to mean to have that right. The truth is, we should all be deeply concerned over being able to speak and write what we believe is true. Self censoring in order to serve a government that has run amok does not make for good writing, whether you are writing fiction, or, what you understand to be fact.
I believe that the confusion over what free speech is, dates back to the 1960's when Hugh Hefner was put on trial over photographs and comics he published in his Playboy magazine. His nude photographs of young women were beautifully rendered, but they distressed many people. His lawyers based their argument on the rights specified in the First Amendment, which states: “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.” Hugh Hefner, of course, won his case.
The result of this case meant that many people believed that the Right of Free Speech referred to the freedom to depict and publish descriptions of sex, in all its messy details. However, we are now living in a time when censorship is becoming the law of the land. Young people coming out of college are promoting the idea that what we have always considered free speech is hate speech. Hate speech used to be defined as speech that promoted riots and killings. There are numerous court cases that set the precedent for what was meant by that term.
Now, any idea expressed that is not what some people want to hear, those people claim to be hate speech. And those people can often become downright hateful when they tell you this, as they scream that you should be killed for saying what you know to be true. The frightening aspect of this is that their behavior is sanctioned and encouraged by certain members of our government. People run the risk of losing their jobs if they express values that are considered right wing, or Republican. People’s lives have been threatened, when they dared to express such views.
As writers, both of fiction and nonfiction, it is our duty to say what we see, and to protect our right to do so. When people are not free to say what they believe and what they see, their ability to think and reason is impaired. As writers it is our duty to waive the banner of free speech and the freedom to think and reason for ourselves high, for everyone to see.