Home Opinion The Cost of Free Speech

The Cost of Free Speech

by John O'Brien

If you Google “the first amendment,” something very American occurs; the page shows several advertisements.

Corporations flaunt their access to free speech files and religious freedom lawsuits, showing us their money. The search engine algorithm calculates several things including the relevance to your topic, the number of clicks and how much an organization will pay to be seen when you search for something.

The Citizens United case has given new power to any group formed by citizens. It is in this instance where equality of speech has been jeopardized. I’d love to live in a world where my speech is just as valuable as the words of Jeff Bezos, but I know when I’m beat. Fame takes part in this, but money makes it.

Speech is inherently weighted differently, and the billion dollar super-powered organizations that exist will overwhelm any person’s coveted thoughts and beliefs.

It has been written in The Montclarion that “speech that incites violence should not be given a platform to do so.” This applies fine to hate speech, but what about declarations of war? Legislation like this is written by our elected representatives who are acting as our hand when they write and sign it.

We can always preach about ideals and the well-cultivated society we intended to build, but the cost of free speech and every other freedom guaranteed to us has been the same for 243 years.

The cost is life.

Historically, the U.S. government has not always honored the amendment’s protections. Today, our government demonstrates continued vulnerability to private industry, and the rules change when you become an employee. Your employer can deny some freedoms, as the NFL did to Colin Kaepernick.

There are uniform regulations in schools and workplaces. If someone pushes the limits of their constitutional rights of expression they may not be arrested, but they can be fired, or not hired at all. And if they have no funds, constitutional protections will mean little.

James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the Constitution begrudgingly because he thought that those rights were inherent. He also believed that a Bill of Rights could limit the freedoms that we have access to.

We are in a great era for individual free speech, yet it has become waves of empty noise. People only justify their own viewpoints. Conversations are about proving oneself right, not about understanding the truth of an issue. Like the preference to challenge an institution’s free speech policies rather than acquiring a permit to protest.

Thanks to their lawsuit, the Young Americans for Liberty have received more publicity than they may have ever gotten otherwise. So perhaps they should feel indebted to the school for giving them a platform where they can challenge their political opponents. All of this calamity still feels like noise. What does this lawsuit do but delay an already clogged justice system?

The idea of mature political discussion is slipping away. Expression is wonderful, but there is a greater need for concise speech. Indecision stifles our government. Our own speech has already been overpowered by corporations, so what are we going to do about it?


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