Opinion: Free Speech Falls Again

Opinion: Free Speech Falls Again

Opinion: Free Speech Falls Again

Let’s get this straight. Nowhere in the founding documents of this country is there a right not to be offended. In fact, one of the rights we have historically enjoyed is free speech. We canpretty much say whatever we want. There are limits, of course. You can’t stand up in a crowded theater and yell “Fire!”. You can lie about someone but you face the potential of that person filing a civil suit against you. However, this country once stood for the free discourse of ideas. Unfortunately, that seems to be a fading belief — at least as far as certain perpetually offended are concerned.

We have college campuses doing their best to limit free speech by setting up “Free Speech Zones”, often well away from the parts of campus where students and faculty might hear the offending ideas. They pass vague guidelines and create an atmosphere reminiscent of Nazi Germany or the USSR. It’s not even a new trend. In 2015, students at Yale demanded they not be offended. Over the last year or so, the news has been filled with stories where so-called students protested the free exchange of ideas by Conservatives like Milo and Anne Coulter. Now they are attacking Jordan Peterson. And all because they don’t want to have their tender sensibilities offended.

But it doesn’t start or stop with our universities. In Oregon, that bastion of liberal ideas, an 18-year-old high school student was suspended over wearing a “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co” t-shirt. He wore it on a day when his “People and Politics” class was scheduled to discuss immigration. After being told the shirt “offended” at least one teacher and one student, the young man initially covered up the shirt. Then he decided to remove his jacket. After all, why should his right to free speech and the free exchange of ideas be infringed upon when everyone else was getting to say what they thought?

Guess what happened? At a school named Liberty — and talk about irony — the administration didn’t call him in to ask him to cover up. Oh no. They sent a security guard to escort him from class. Wow! Who knew just wearing a Trump-related t-shirt made you so dangerous your school administrators were afraid to treat you with respect or even as a reasonable and rational person. This young man was then told to change his shirt or leave the school. When he chose the latter, the school listed his absence as a “suspension”.

Nothing in Liberty’s handbook addresses political clothing. The school district’s Standards of Student Conduct includes this provision, “Clothing decorated or marked with illustrations, words, or phrases that are disruptive or potentially disruptive, and/or that promote superiority of one group over another is not permitted.”

KPTV

Now consider what the young man was told. A teacher and a student were “offended” by the t-shirt. Where was the disruption or potential disruption?  Maybe, if you try hard enough, you might be able to make a case for the latter part of the provision but that is stretching the point. If you stretch it that far, then you might as well do away with pep rallies where students encourage their football teams to hurt — or worse — the opposing team, where they make fun of the other team, etc.

How far are we going to let the generation of the perpetually butt-hurt continue to bully the rest of the nation simply because they can’t stand getting their delicate little feelings hurt? When are we going to start teaching our kids how to stand up for themselves and, even more importantly, to understand that the world isn’t fair and not everyone has to make you feel good?

You know things have swung too far when the ACLU steps in and agrees that the young man’s free speech was abridged by the school.

“The school clearly crossed the line,” ACLU Oregon Legal Director Mat dos Santos told KGW-TV. “This shirt is mean spirited, but it isn’t a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law. . . It is disappointing that Liberty High School decided to censor the student instead of inviting the student body to discuss immigration, the freedom of speech, and the impacts of xenophobic rhetoric, . . Schools have a responsibility to teach our youth how to engage in thoughtful conversations about difficult and potentially offensive subject matters. Censorship doesn’t work and often just elevates the subject the government is trying to silence.”

Thank about that: “Schools have a responsibility to teach our youth to engage in thoughtful conversations about difficult and potentially offensive subject matters. Censorship doesn’t work and often just elevates the subject the government is trying to silence.” Instead, they are stifling discussion of anything that might — MIGHT — make someone uncomfortable, at least as long as that someone isn’t a conservative. That bias has to stop. The suppression of speech and the exchange of ideas has to stop. It is up to each of us to speak up and to vote, with out pocketbooks when it comes to supporting schools and with out ballots on election day. If we don’t, this country will continue down this very slippery slope and that is one journey we do not want to continue. Not if we value our freedom and the freedom of our children.

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14 Comments
  • Bill G says:

    Great article about a disgusting situation. But I got piqued over the ‘fire in a crowded theater’ reference. It was about falsely crying fire, and the rationale behind it was bad.
    https://www.thefire.org/a-reminder-about-shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater/

    • Snidely Whiplash says:

      Thank you, I was tempted to do the same thing, provide a link that explains the “fire in a theater” false meme. Be nice if people would stop perpetuating this false idea. Rather, it was another Oliver Wendell Holmes abomination.

      Otherwise, good article. Sorry for picking nits, but these things have meanings and influence people so it’s important to get them right.

      • Amanda Green says:

        Actually, if you look at some of the subsequent case law on it — at least on the state level — some has opened it further into simply yelling “fire” or anything else that might incite panic. But technically, you are correct.

  • WILLIAM J FRANCIS says:

    The problem we have in America is that the “public schools” have long been run by leftists and now are only left wing” indoctrination centers”, not a place where you can learn about our constitution and and the rule of laws. The “indoctrination centers” also specialize in no free speech and their opinion that the government will always take care of you at no cost to you.

    The only chance for America is private schools or home schooling.

    • Amanda Green says:

      True, but it started with parents abdicating responsibility to schools to not only educate our children but discipline them, etc. Then, in the ’80’s and 90’s, they took away the right of schools to apply effective discipline. Now we have parents who don’t want their little darlings behind held responsible for not doing their homework etc. Yes, the schools are a big problem but part of that problem still rests with parents who tie the schools’ hands when it comes to teaching that there are consequences to actions and inactions.

      • GWB says:

        Admittedly, if parents care enough to homeschool, the problem of parental responsibility is already partly solved.

  • Bitterly Resistant says:

    It’s my considered opinion that Donald J. Trump is the greatest President of all time specifically because he’s gonna build the wall ten feet higher. His plan to forcibly deport the La Raza crowd is just icing on the cake. Also, Islamovermin need to be violently removed from the country the very second they so much as yell “Allwho Snackbar” in a public place or otherwise express emotional satisfaction with their racist, pedophile death cult. Furthermore, guns in schools are super-terrific when held by hundreds of peaceful, law-abiding citizens who are willing and able to gun down school shooters before they can harm innocent children. Finally, leftists are inherently mentally diseased and need to be lobotomized for their own good and to protect public safety.

    I almost wish I were back in school so I could wear a T-shirt with all that crammed onto it in fine print. I’d also pass out more easily readable broadsheets. It would be so much fun to see the leftist heads exploding, and the lawsuit award would set me up for years.

    P.S. For the love of Mike, please stop that incredibly annoying up-and-down jitter by the side-panel blocks. It’s like sandpaper on my brain.

  • GWB says:

    You *can* cry “fire!” in a crowded theater – provided you believe there really is a fire. What you can NOT do is falsely cry “fire!” – anywhere, really. The metaphor is a poor one – as it’s often abused to mean some things just can’t be said. What is true is that false things cannot be said.

    But a great write-up, Amanda. We have to stop this crap.

  • Ken says:

    There are limits, of course. You can’t stand up in a crowded theater and yell “Fire!”.

    I get tire of reading this bullshit example, year after year. Why can’t you? What do you think will happen? You trust your fellow Americans enough to keep and bear arms, but suddenly will become a psychopathic mob trampling each other to get out of a theater that is NOT on fire? Seriously? Guaranteed, if you yelled “FIRE!” in the middle of a crowded theater … NOTHING would happen. People would look around some, maybe even get up to leave or check to see if there really is a fire, but NO riot would ensue with people trying to get out of the theater.

    You should look at who provided that example and why. It was the evil Oliver Wendall Holmes. He used this example as rationalization to deny someone their first amendment right. Holmes hated a man who had the audacity to pass out flyers speaking out against the draft during WWI. Remember that when you trot out this shit example as rationalization to curtail 1A rights.

    In short, stop legitimizing leftist rhetoric used to deny people their basic rights. Stop believing all the indoctrination drilled into you by the leftist controlled school systems.

    • Scott says:

      All very accurate comments about the example, and Holmes, the one exception I’ll make is that at the time of the ruling, yelling fire in a theatre could have caused a panic. The Iroquois Theatre fire had just happened in 1903, and it had killed over 600 people. They still used open flames for stage lights, and the risk was real..That being said, as others mentioned, it was still a BS ruling, and as Ken points out, if you yelled Fire today, most people probably wouldn’t look up from texting…

    • Steve S says:

      You can even falsely cry “fire” in a crowded theater. But you cannot use ‘Freedom of Speech’ as a defense if you are charged for causing any ensuing chaos.

  • sestamibi says:

    This and dozens of similar articles miss the most important point: that today only SOME people have the right not to be offended. If our side tried to take offense at anything they say we would be ridiculed and subject to all kinds of bromides about the First Amendment (witness, for instance, the NFL kneeling debate).

    We are not going to win this by appealing to the Constitution. The other side doesn’t even recognize it, and frequent web discussion focuses on whether or not we have become a “post-constitutional” society. The only way we will win (or at least get them to back off) is with an equal and opposite show of force: No, WE will tell YOU what YOU can say or think!”

  • Steve S says:

    “This shirt is mean spirited,…”

    Good ol’ ACLU – a humorous quip about enforcing rule-of-law is ‘mean-spirited.’
    I guess it doesn’t take much of a brain to be a mouth-breather.

  • Stacy0311 says:

    That sound you heard was hundreds of lawyers snapping their briefcases shut and calling for an Uber.
    That young man is about to have his college paid for (after his lawyers take their 30% of course)

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