What are your political views?
If this question makes you nervous, you’re in good company. A recent survey conducted by the Cato Institute found that about 62 percent of Americans have political views they don’t want to share in the current political climate. This has increased significantly from the last survey they conducted in 2017.
As the study says, “self-censorship” is on the rise. And it is no surprise why.
‘Cancel Culture’ Kills Free Speech
If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past few months, you‘ve likely witnessed vicious political squabbling and the presence of what is known as “cancel culture.” Internet mobs try to silence those with whom they disagree by attempting to get them censored, shamed, and even fired from their jobs.
Look at what happened to popular author J.K. Rowling after she shared her beliefs about biological sex. A Twitter mob came after her. Several websites based on the books Rowling had written severed ties with her. Popular actors who appeared in movies based on her work also came out publicly against her. All of this happened simply because she shared her beliefs on the internet.
It isn’t just people on Twitter doing the canceling. A few weeks ago, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss resigned from her position because she felt she couldn’t share her true beliefs with her co-workers who mocked and even threatened her for expressing certain views.
In light of all this, it‘s no surprise that the Cato Institute survey also found that 31 percent of Americans support firing a business executive for donating to President Trump and 22 percent support doing the same to a Joe Biden donor.
It seems we can no longer have discussions with those who hold opposing views. Instead, many prefer to demonize and silence those with whom they disagree.
This is what “cancel culture” looks like. And it is antithetical to a society that prizes free speech and the free exchange of ideas.
So what can we do about it?
Stand Up for Free Speech and Debate
One way to foster a culture of free speech and debate is quite simple: break the silence. Start speaking out.
At Alliance Defending Freedom, we are privileged to know so many remarkable Americans who have done just that. Take for example Chike Uzuegbunam. Chike wanted to share his Christian faith with his fellow students at Georgia Gwinnett College by speaking to willing students and handing out literature. But the college shut down his speech at every turn.
First, administrators told Chike he could only share his faith after reserving one of two tiny “speech zones” that made up less than 0.015 percent of campus. To put this in perspective, if the entire campus were the size of a football field, these zones combined would be the size of a piece of paper. Chike complied with these restrictions, but then administrators told him he could not speak at all because sharing his faith might make other students “uncomfortable,” thus violating the college’s speech code.
What the college did—denying students their free speech rights on campus—is unconstitutional. So Alliance Defending Freedom came alongside Chike and challenged Georgia Gwinnett College in court. The college tried to change their policy just enough to get off scot-free after violating Chike’s, and other students’, constitutional rights. That’s not fair. ADF pursued the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and on July 9, the Court agreed to hear Chike’s case.
Chike did not allow anyone to silence him. Instead, he took an important stand for every American’s free speech.
We can follow his example by speaking up too—no matter how small the matter may seem—in our everyday lives. Because free speech isn’t just for those we agree with—it’s for every American. And we must fight to protect it, or we risk losing it forever.
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