One of the rights that has been suppressed the most throughout history has been the freedom to express an opinion without fear of being prosecuted – or persecuted.
Time after time, we have seen that men and women who dared to criticize members of the ruling class or share ideas that challenged the establishment of their time were often punished.
In countries where citizens have suffered under the rule of more authoritarian regimes, free speech takes a very long time to emerge. Even today, there are countries in which those who criticize their political leaders are punished severely.
Recently, even in countries that have upheld the virtue of free speech, there has been a concerning shift in favor of both increased government censorship as well as “cancel” or “call-out” culture, in which those expressing views that are out of step with the views of elites in government, academia, the media and Hollywood are publicly shamed.
In response, men and women from all walks of life and both sides of the political aisle have stepped up in favor of protecting the right to speak truth to power.
Five modern-day defenders of free speech are:
In April 2022, Sage Steele took a stand against corporate censorship of free speech, when the ESPN on-air personality filed a lawsuit against the media corporation for violating her free speech rights.
In September 2021, Steele joined former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast. During the recording, Cutler asked why she had a Band-Aid on her arm. She explained that she had just gotten her COVID-19 vaccine in compliance with Disney’s corporate mandate, even though she personally felt the company’s requirement to do so was out of line.
“I respect everyone’s decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick, and it’s scary to me in many ways,” Steele said. “But I have a job, a job that I love and, frankly, a job that I need.”
When the conversation shifted to the topic of race, Steele shared her personal background and experience. She explained that she was proud to come from a family that is both black and white. As the conversation continued, Steele recalled her 2014 appearance on The View, where she was asked why she didn’t simply identify herself as Black, similar to Obama. She said she was fascinated that the former president had identified solely as Black despite having been raised by his white mother and grandmother.”
According to her filing, Steele says she was “suspended from on-air appearances,” as well as being punished by being removed from prime assignments, including coverage of the New York City Marathon, the Rose Parade, and the 12th Annual ESPNW Summit, which Steele had hosted and emceed since 2010. Steele also states that she was forced to issue a humiliating public apology and was subjected to bullying and harassment by colleagues, while Disney did nothing to stop it.
She argues that she “appeared on the podcast as a private citizen on her day off, and made it clear during the interview that she was speaking on her own behalf, not on behalf of ESPN or Disney.”
It is well-known that Elon Musk, Founder of SpaceX and Tesla, recently bought Twitter for $44 billion in the name of free speech.
Twitter and other social networks are effectively the new public square and have a virtual monopoly on information and discourse. That gives them an inordinate level of power over people’s opinions and politics. This is exemplified by the fact that many – if not most – people now get their news from social media. Social networks act as spaces where people connect and debate with each other. But they can’t serve their purpose when they, and their employees, are censoring individuals and controlling what information can be discussed.
As Musk put it: “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.”
The fact that social media networks are partisan and have overly-censored users based on political beliefs is illustrated by data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics which shows that out of the $228,000 donated by Twitter employees to midterm candidates in 2018, 98.7% of it went to Democrats.
Whether it comes from the right or the left, whether it is internal or external, the pressure for big tech to censor opinions is a serious threat.
Could this be the first move in a takeover of Twitter that transforms Twitter into a platform for free speech? It seems that way.
Elon Musk isn’t doing this in the name of politics – he simply understands and criticizes America’s ruling class – members of government, media, academia, Hollywood – with devastating clarity.
Senator Tim Scott
Tim Scott, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, has challenged the agenda of higher education as attacks on free speech intensified on college campuses.
“The fact of the matter is that liberal arts education has been celebrated for a very long time,” Scott said in an interview with Red Alert Politics. “It is very unfortunate that, on too many campuses, we’re seeing visceral attacks [and] this really questions the integrity of some of the institutions.”
Scott has been effective in the fight against cancel culture. During a speech on the first night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Scott said, “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
In the speech, Scott went on to pose the question:
“Do we want a society that breeds success, or a culture that cancels everything it even slightly disagrees with? I know where I stand, because you see, I am living my mother’s American Dream…”
“We live in a world that only wants you to believe in the bad news, racially, economically and culturally-polarizing news. The truth is, our nation’s arc always bends back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but thank God we are not where we used to be!”
“We don’t give into cancel culture, or the radical and factually-baseless belief that things are worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s. We have work to do, but I believe in the goodness of America – the promise that all men, and all women are created equal.”
In 2019, as the radical left ramped up their attempts to silence and shun (“cancel”) anyone who dared challenge their authoritarian grip on American culture, actor and stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle spoke in favor of freedom of speech while accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
When the comedian received the prestigious prize, Chappelle spoke in favor of freedom of speech. Going off-the-cuff while accepting the award onstage, he said, “(I) don’t get mad at ’em, don’t hate on ’em,” he said while discussing comedians who were considered offensive. “Man, it’s not that serious. The First Amendment is first for a reason…”
Enes (Kanter) Freedom
Boston Celtics Center Enes Freedom has been outspoken in his advocacy for Free Speech – even in the face of intense pressure from the NBA and Nike.
The Turkish-born basketball player put his career at risk to speak out against the communist dictatorship in China, and not everyone involved with the league is happy
During an interview on CNN, Freedom revealed that two unnamed NBA officials borderline begged him to take off his Free Tibet shoes prior to a game and later implied he might be banned for the move. The Celtics player asked if he was breaking any rules, and the officials admitted he was not. He added that the officials later apologized.
Freedom also issued scathing criticism of Nike – a company with enormous influence over the NBA – for the company’s silence on China’s human rights violations in the communist dictatorship. Reportedly, China was furious and the NBA hasn’t publicly supported him.
In 2021, Kanter changed his last name to ‘Freedom’ to celebrate his American citizenship.
He told CNN that the name change will reflect his “fight” for freedom throughout his life. “Here [in the United States] there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press,” he said. “I didn’t have any of those with Turkey.“
He went on to say, “freedom is the greatest thing a human being can have. That’s why I wanted to make that word a part of me, and carry it wherever I go.”