Does Free Speech Help Minorities? – Learn Liberty

Does Free Speech Help Minorities? – Learn Liberty


When people call for censorship, they often argue that offensive speech is
harmful to the vulnerable and oppressed. But the reality is that
a system of robust and uninhibited free speech is actually
an oppressed person’s strongest weapon. Oppressed and marginalized minorities, by
definition, have little political power. Powerful majorities that are allowed to
implement restrictions on speech will inevitably do so in a way that guards the
status quo from dissent and disruption. This is why our founders considered
the right to free speech so important that they purposely
took that power away. Granting majorities the authority to
determine when speech is harmful and to censor it only invites
further oppression. And you don’t need to look too far back
in history to see how that plays out. In 1835, abolitionists mailed over
100,000 anti-slavery pamphlets to slaveholders in the South. This led to violence by slaveholders
against abolition advocates and those seen as interfering with slavery. In a letter to his colleague,
Postmaster General Amos Kendall described the pamphlets as, quote,
incendiary missiles intended to inflame. He went so far as to say that it
was patriotic to suppress them in order to protect
their local communities. Within weeks, postmasters had barred
abolitionist pamphlets from the mail and many communities passed laws
banning such literature outright. Censorship of civil rights advocacy
continued during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the 1960s. Student protesters in South Carolina and
Louisiana were arrested for disturbing the peace, not because they were violent,
but because their opponents were. Eventually, the Supreme Court overturned
these convictions on the ground that a listener’s reaction to the students’
advocacy could not be used to punish or silence an unpopular point of view. But the Abolitionist and Civil Rights
movements are not the only causes to have suffered the sting of censorship. Women in the 19th century
who wished to publish often had to write under male pen names. And women suffragettes face arrest as
they picketed and demonstrated for their right to vote. Lesbian and gay activists have seen their literature
and art prohibited as obscenity. Preventing them for decades from integrating themselves from
the culture and norms of American society. High school students have faced
obstruction from administrators when they’ve sought to establish
gay straight alliance clubs. In 1985, Texas A&M University
refused to grant recognition to the Gay Student Services club, with the
Board of Regents taking the position that quote so-called gay activities run
diabolically counter to the traditions and standards of Texas A&M University. A federal appellate court later ruled
that the University’s actions violated students’ first amendment rights. In overturning the convictions of
the civil rights protesters in the 60s, the Supreme Court reminded us that
dispute is a function of free speech, and that free speech, quote, may indeed best serve its high purpose
when it induces a condition of unrest. Creates dissatisfaction with conditions as
they are, or even stirs people to anger. The American experience has shown that
sentiment to be indisputably accurate. All of these movements have
been remarkably successful, and the world is a far different
place as a result. Minority groups have caused
huge cultural shifts and have gained legal equality
at a relatively rapid pace. History is stocked with ideas like
these that began as offensive and heretical, but
ultimately fought their way to acceptance. Some of them even became the cultural and
societal status quo themselves. But this societal change is only possible
through the power of persuasion. Which in turn relies on a system in
which ideas can be freely expressed and debated without official censorship. Gay rights and free speech advocate
Jonathan Rauch calls this a system of liberal science, where defensible truths
survive rigorous checking through public discourse and criticism, and
ideas found unworthy can be discarded. Others call this system
the marketplace of ideas. But, no matter what you call it, it’s the only system that ensures the
continuous testing of the status quo, and allows us to explore new and
innovative ideas for moving forward. Had the powers that be been allowed
to silence advocates of abolition, civil rights, women’s suffrage and gay rights, our democracy would
look much different today. Who knows what important changes we would
stifle if we don’t learn from our past. Finally, it’s important to remember that
if you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you can’t adequately guard
yourself from danger. Driving certain ideas or
thoughts underground does nothing to eliminate them, and
preventing them from being expressed only robs us of an opportunity. An opportunity to not
only persuade them but also to be aware of our own surroundings. As FIRE co-founder and chairman Harvey
Silverglate said when defending the rights of a neo-Nazi group, if there are Nazis in
the room, I want to know who they are so I can keep an eye on them.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

20 thoughts on “Does Free Speech Help Minorities? – Learn Liberty

  1. Free speech is okay unless you're a small business owner who objects to being forced to bake a cake in an objectionable fashion.

  2. one thing I should mention. Free speech shouldn't override private property right. the example of university ruled to allow gay speech is a bad example.
    And ofc I should never be forced to put up with solicitors at my own place.

  3. "When people call for censorship, they often argue that offensive speech is harmful to the vulnerable and oppressed."

    …Who exactly is calling for censorship? Who are you arguing against?

  4. free speech is what Liberals demand of Conservatives but once they are in power they block and restrict free speech. That is why we must exterminate all Liberals in America.

  5. From Patrice O Neal. A minority. "Let them say what they want. So I can say what I want."

    Private establishments may tailor expression as they please but if this fundamental amendment cant be defended, ones individual political power will go with it. Whatever arbiter appointed or self appointed to speak on behalf of all persecuted identities simply cannot do so. We are all different. Context is never discussed in this putting free speech on trial. You limit expression, you limit the lexicon and peoples ability to articulate and abstract their experiences in ways meaningful to their groups. Or you take away their choice to choose words contextually good or bad. There is no one universal doctrine of expression that fits all of us. People thinking that there is need to get out of their bubble.

    Thats why we compete, and hash ideas out. Our competition as a human species is tied to our evolution. The best stand on their own and the rest will fall.

    People must foster the strength to confront challenging ideas. Narrowing the overton window for everyone, in the hopes of hurting noone, silences everyone.

  6. So who is willing to promote a realistic "Romeo and Juliet" with Romeo and Juliet both being 13 years old and being in love(you know what that means).

  7. Liked the content. But learn to use an outline instead of a script when speaking so you are less of a robot. You should know your stuff, you don't need a script.

  8. In general I agree with this video. However, I also believe it's important to recognize that calling speech offensive is not the same thing as trying to censor it. I have had to listen to far too many people speak their minds in a "politically incorrect" manner and then act like total victims when they're called awful names for it. It might not be fair that you get called a racist for disagreeing with Obama–and I would personally consider someone reaching that conclusion simple-minded for suggesting it–but that doesn't mean they're violating your rights by calling you one. In short, what I think I'm saying is that you have a right to free speech and it shouldn't be censored, but you should also be prepared to accept the consequences for saying what you do. That's why those who complain about "political correctness" actually bug me. It's like they're saying they should be immune to backlash for saying something inflammatory, like "protected speech" is supposed to be "consequence-free speech." If the consequences included jail time or the threat of death that would be one thing, but if the consequences are that sponsors no longer want to advertise on your show, or that people don't want you to be part of a group, then you'll have to just deal with it. Some speech IS offensive, and calling it offensive is not the same thing as trying to silence it.

  9. Only one of the four activist groups he mentions are unique in regards to speech. The first three groups never sought to silence their opposition with imprisonment and death threats. Just the most recent one. That tells me a lot about the "ethics" of the movement.

  10. Most of the videos on this channel I disagree with, but I'm glad there is something that I think is right.

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