.Episode # 1: Free Speech
I’d like to talk to you about a subject near and dear to my heart. Free speech. Let’s dive in and deal with 4 sub topics:
- The importance of free speech to society
- Victims of the “anti-free speech movement
- Examine who is against free speech
- Suggest strategies for fighting back against those who oppose free speech
Why is it important to society?
- New ideas can be advanced (example: civil rights movement 1960’s)
- Old norms can be challenged (women’s right to vote)
- Free speech is directly related to liberty and constitutional rights.
It seems that asking the question “why is free speech important” is itself troubling.
How can a society advance to become more just and fairer if it’s citizens cannot discuss, debate and dispute issues in an open forum without fear of reprisal? I feel fortunate to have been born and raised in a country like Canada. We are the true north, strong and free, or so says our anthem. But sadly, I’ve noticed that we are incrementally chopping away at free speech. It may not be obvious to many, but if you look closely, it’s there. Most newspapers have an on-line version of their stories but often the comment section is disabled. That’s a shame because I’m just as interested in the reader feedback as I am in the article itself. Let the readers have their say!
I’ve participated in on-line radio talk shows since I was a teenager. It’s a great conduit for free speech.
In my hometown of Ottawa Canada, we have two AM radio stations dedicated to news and public affairs. One used to have up to 5 hours a day of open line shows where listeners could call in and have their say. This station has disposed of that option, only allowing listeners to participate via Facebook, twitter and text messages. The other station allocates one hour per day where the host takes phone calls. That’s more my style. Call me old fashioned but actually speaking to the host and having a friendly debate in real time beats tweeting any day.
Victims of the anti-free speech movement
Here are a few examples of Canadians who can verify that free speech is not alive and well in Canada.
Don Cherry, former Hockey Night in Canada commentator and Canadian broadcasting icon was tossed from his chair in the Sportsnet studio in November of 2019, on Remembrance Day simply for stating his opinion that citizens who have decided to make Canada their new home, should show respect for our past fallen soldiers by wearing a poppy. That doesn’t seem like an offensive sentiment to me, but even if some people were offended – so what? He didn’t infer that he hated or despised these people. He simply suggested that they participate in a longtime Canadian tradition. And he would have gotten away with it, had it not been for the twitter mob that intimidated Sportsnet’s parent company Rogers into making Cherry walk the plank.
The irony of that situation is that Don Cherry attracted millions of viewers during his 33 years as an analyst because of his no holds barred, bombastic style. Controversy was his trademark. That’s what made him fun to watch.
Example # 2 Jordan Petersen
Jordan Petersen a former professor of psychology at the University of Toronto is an outspoken critic of what he calls “compelled speech” including the mandatory use of gender-neutral pronouns. Soon after he gained notoriety around 2016-2017 for this intellectual position, his university lectures attracted protesters, who usually tried to shut down the events, claiming he was preaching hate. One would think that a university would be the one place where free speech would be ferociously defended, but these days the opposite is true.
Those who opposed Jordon Petersen, trying to silence him not only failed but actually propelled him to worldwide fame. He went on to lecture all over the globe, commanding a speaking fee of $35,000 a pop. He then went on to write a book called the Twelve Rules for Life which has sold about 5 million copies, making him a multi-millionaire and more popular than ever. That’s a perfect example of poetic justice and irony. Try to silence someone, and the world only becomes more anxious to hear them.
American author and commentator, Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak at Ottawa University around the time Petersen was gaining fame. That event was cancelled at the last minute due to a protest by a small group of agitators. The organizers felt the situation was not safe. Again, what a shame for an institution which should be a venue for higher learning.
Another victim of cancel culture is Stephen Ledrew, a political commentator whose great sin of appearing on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News in November of 2017 was enough reason for Bell media to fire him from his spot on CP24, a Toronto tv station run by the CTV network. Ledrew poked fun at the term two-spirited in the 8-minute segment and also made light of the growth of the LGBTQ acronym. CTV in a statement said Ledrew brought this on himself because he did not clear his appearance with them. If that’s their policy, fine, but I think it was his comments on Tucker’s show that really sealed his fate.
Who are the forces against free speech?
It appears to me that the people who are most likely to oppose free speech are those who think they can make the world a better place by de-platforming or censoring any person or group who they believe is preaching hate towards others. They claim the higher moral ground by being advocates for oppressed groups. Herein lies the problem. Who determines what is hate speech? How do you define it? Definitions are important. If you can’t define terms, you end up in ridiculous circular arguments that never end.
For example, if someone says “I don’t support the organization called “Black Lives Matter, does that make them a racist?
If a person does not believe in God, does that mean they hate Christians?
If you believe the government should allow non-citizens residency in your country only if they go through the proper channels, does that mean you don’t like immigrants?
Rowan Atkinson, is a well-known British actor, famous for the role he played as the comedic and ultra-silly Mr. Bean. Atkinson delivered an excellent speech on the topic of Free Speech a few years ago. You can find it on youtube and I recommend you watch it. It is 9 minutes long and well worth your time. Here is a clip from that speech:
In full: Rowan Atkinson on free speech
How do we fight back?
We can fight back by speaking up for free speech. Let those who have been cancelled know that you support them. Purchase books by people like Jordan Peterson. Support those like Stephen LeDrew by subscribing to their videos and podcasts. Call in to radio talk shows to express your views on important issues. And most importantly, resist the temptation to be silent, for fear of what the woke mob may think of you.
As I said in the beginning. Free speech is critical to insure that:
- New ideas can be advanced
- Old norms can be challenged
Former U.S. President Obama once said, “The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech.” End of quote.
I will end on this note: Free speech is directly related to liberty and constitutional rights. And those effect every one of us.