When you threaten freedom of speech, you threaten democracy

The rise of intolerance today is unprecedented. The democratic world has made ‘tolerance’ its number one social mission and as victimized groups rightly continue to lobby for laws that remove stigmas against them, they also wrongly, impose these laws on their so-called oppressors. 

Are you better than your bully if you stoop to the same level to make your case? I would argue no. The glaring irony is that social warriors are trying so hard to protest the most essential element of a tolerant society while also killing it at the same time – Yes I’m talking about freedom of speech. How can you claim to want to be against the horrors of bullying while simultaneously apply the same tactics against those whose opinions you disagree with? 

We seem to be open to every kind of diversity except for when it comes to diversity in thought and speech. We are not allowed to say anything that could potentially cause tangible harm to people’s bodies or property, but this rule seems to not protect those on the other side. Those who we no longer respect because they are hateful bigots or this or that. People believe that they hold the universal truth and feel entitled to kill others (metaphorically but sometimes literally) who say things they find offensive. So many of us have suddenly become experts at reading intent if something is said that upsets our world view. 

Freedom of speech is not an attack on personal safety, it is the only way we can preserve our humanity and democracy. Without it, we lose everything that makes us human. When we seek to end dialogue, we become tyrants. Are you so afraid of someone disagreeing that you need to mandate laws against their opinions? The solution to emotional misery is not, by force of law, to create a society in which there are no imbalances of power. A very basic understanding of philosophy and human nature should be enough to comprehend that a society in which everyone is always nice and considerate to everyone is impossible. It doesn’t mean we can be callous, inconsiderate jerks, but no government has ever been able to, nor should strive to, make its citizens morally virtuous. In a desperate attempt to protect people’s feelings at any cost and sometimes without insight or reason, we have unwittingly created a less tolerant society. We are teaching people that it’s extremely important to be tolerant of everyone but if anyone shows you any kind of intolerance, we will have no tolerance for them. 

I find that the most tolerant people do not want to forcefully insist on a society in which no one is intolerant or offensive. Freedom of speech requires us to respect your right to say what I don’t necessarily like to hear – even if it insults and humiliates me – just as it requires you to respect my right to say what you don’t like to hear. The fear shouldn’t be to be unacceptable to each other, we are not enemies because we are different but we will be enemies when we punish each other based on our own virtues. The lack of freedom of speech has created a very intolerant society in fact, many people today are entirely unable to tolerate criticism, insults or views opposite to their own.

We should not be attacking Freedom of Speech, we should hold everyone responsible to live up to what it truly means to be tolerant, liberal and kind. As John Milton said; 

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” 

Photo by Emily Molli/Sipa Images

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