I used to believe in the saying “I don’t agree with what you are saying, but I’ll defend your right to say it.” Even in the case of the KKK spouting their hate about my race, I thought they should be able to freely express their ideas. The Freedom of Speech was inalienable and should be protected.
The First Amendment is one of the core foundations of the United States. We are all free to say what we want without reprisal from the government. It is a way to keep our democracy strong and to progress our society. Right now, I am free to say that Donald Trump is a stale cheeto given the intelligence and developmental stage of a toddler and I will not be punished for it. It’s a great feeling.
Originally, the First Amendment was a counter to England’s laws on sedition and criticism against the government. Understandably, the Founders of the United States had beef with the King and the Parliament. So they ratified the First Amendment. Of course, with it came some limitations. The United States government even passed its own sedition laws at one point. Since then, the First Amendment acted as a bulwark for those who have held less than popular views. Nowadays, the hateful hides behind the parapet.
In recent years, the idea of safe spaces entered the minds of the general public. A safe space is exactly what it sounds like. That is all it is. Some take issue with it, however. They believe that safe spaces violates the free speech. Particularly, they believe that college campuses should not be a place where safe spaces should exist. There is some merit to this feeling. College is where you are supposed to be challenged. It is where you go to learn and expand your horizons. There is an inherent value to listening to an opposing view. It is the basis of science. So why have a safe space?
Because people are assholes.
Safe spaces were created not because students and others didn’t want their worldviews challenged. They were created to escape the insidious and hateful speech of bigots, racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. After all, the freedom of speech isn’t an obligation to listen. The act of not listening to someone is protected as well. What is the inherent value
in listening to someone say that you are not a human and shouldn’t exist? How will that expand their horizons? Why should anyone put up with that kind of abuse? They shouldn’t.
These days, the issue of free speech always surrounds the worst of us; the Milos, the Richard Spencers, and the Ann Coulters. You’ll have many defending their right to free speech, but then those same defenders will spew vitriol at Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. These same defenders are nowhere to be seen when state governments try to make it legal for people to run over protesters. In fact, some even itch at the chance to potentially kill a protester. Why?
Because people are assholes.
It’s hard for me to think of this discrepancy as anything other than bigotry. One might not actually believe they are bigoted in any way and would think such a charge to be grossly overstated. But if you defend the speech of the hateful, but not of the oppressed, you are siding with the bigots. If you tell students that they cannot have a space where they are free to not experience hate speech and harassment, you are siding with the bigots. If you give the hateful a platform to shout their dangerous speech, you are siding with the bigots.
Not every idea deserves a platform. The crazy and conspiracy theorists do not need a soapbox to say that NASA has been kidnapping children and sending them to Mars as slave labor (why is this even a sentence?!). Milo Yiannopoulos does not need a megaphone to fearmonger transgender men and women. At one of his speeches at a college campus, he bullied a trans student simply because she is trans. He used a platform to do this. Yet, this is the man Bill Maher decided to have on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, a much bigger platform. A man who unleashed his followers on Leslie Jones. What do you think would happen if someone like Milo got hold of a megaphone? He will be abusive and deceitful with it. There is no need to help him accomplish that.
I said earlier that I used to believe that I might not agree with something someone says, but I’ll defend their right to say it. But why? Why should I defend the right for the KKK to call me a nigger? Why should I defend speech that is hateful towards race, sex, gender, or religion? What is the inherent use of such words? What is the utility?
There isn’t any.
I find it disconcerting that some hide behind free speech, abusing its protections. They shout from behind a locked door and decry every slight against them and their words as an attack on their First Amendment rights. They think the words formulated in their small minds must be communicated to all around them regardless if someone might be offended or not. If someone complains or tries to distance themselves, the hateful will whine and complain about it. These same twits will bristle at liberal smugness and when minorities clamor for the same rights. They try to dictate the way others exercise their First Amendment rights to achieve progress in society, but their regression must not be criticized and must be shielded.
There is simply no reason to dignify their insipid thoughts and no reason to acknowledge their backwards reasoning. The ones who cower behind the First Amendment are not the guardians of it. It’s those who speak out against inequality, governmental abuse, and corruption. It’s those that strut down the street in a Pride parade. It’s those who stand in the face of seething adversity just to shout “Black Lives Matter!” They and those like them, who push this country further using prosperity and diversity into a future where everyone is equal and equitable, they are the true bulwarks of the First Amendment.