Leone’s Chronicle: The decay of the freedom of speech

By Tanner Leone

What happened to the freedom to express ourselves? Freedom of expression is a natural right. Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” We as humans are born with the ability to express ourselves. This ability is not granted by the Bill of Rights, but protected by it.

Freedom of speech plays a fundamental role in American society. Our democracy relies on the ability for the minority group to advocate their viewpoints to the majority. Unfortunately, our democracy, has turned away from freedom of speech for what many believe is a new right: the right to feel comfortable.

College campuses are by far the worst offenders. They claim they have done an excellent job at ensuring diversity through race, gender and sexual orientation; however they fail to have diversity of thought.

As we have seen through the nearby Berkeley riots and protests on other college campuses, students and faculty members push for and demand the removal of those they consider “controversial” speakers, such as Ben Shapiro and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Note that these protesters have full right to express their demands. What I see here is the hypocrisy of protesters utilizing their freedom of speech to prevent other students from executing theirs.

The issue here is that the word “controversial” is unique to each individual. While a group of people might believe a speaker is provocative for example, another group may not

A study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) claims about 54 percent of public universities have adopted speech codes, policies that prohibit forms of expression that would be protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately, new Department of Education guidelines might have all universities adopt these speech codes.

Speech codes have a far greater impact than preventing freedom of expression. Under these strict codes, major voices of satire, commentary and public criticism would be silenced. Students would begin to feel they have a right to always feel comfortable and induce a feeling of self-censorship, preventing our society from changing.

How has freedom of speech allowed for our society to change? In the past, freedom of speech has directly led to the emancipation of millions of slaves through the abolitionist movement, the ability for women to vote through the female suffrage movement, and for civil rights to be installed in American values.

A nation which does not educate in freedom will crumble. We have seen this theory take effect with the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and other totalitarian dictatorships around the world. Our society thrives off of candor, as it always has. Once we as Americans have given up our freedom of speech for the feeling of comfort, then that is the time when we have lost our country.