Let’s talk about the First Amendment for a second. Now for those of you who love to throw the verbiage of that first, most elementary facet of American life into the conversation - have you ever stopped to actually look at the words?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I put that there because there are things to unpack - especially given the climate of cancel-culture and social media platforms silencing seemingly only the conservative voices.
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.
That’s crucial into what is actually going on right now. Congress has made no law regarding the language we, as Americans, can use. This isn’t a scene from the book 1984 where there is doublespeak and the thought police monitoring your every movement.
These are groups of people essentially putting their fingers in their ears and stomping their feet akin to Veruca Salt wanting the goose that laid the golden egg.
They don’t like what is being said - so therefore - en masse they are going to do everything they can to stop the person who is saying it.
That’s not the encumbrance of free speech.
That’s a group of people utilizing a social media platform to silence others.
It’s ridiculous and a trend that needs to go away.
Astronomer and author Carl Sagan writes: “The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the silencing of ideas.”
There have to be two sides to a discussion, well three really; the left, the right and the truth.
As a writer, as a defender of the freedom of speech and the press, what’s going on now with companies choosing which voices to silence - is alarming.
But - again - these are companies. And companies, just like restaurants, have the right to refuse services. If you become drunk and belligerent at a bar, the bartender in their purview, can say “that’s enough Carl or Muffy or Mo. You’re drunk, I’m calling you a cab.”
Or - to quote an eponymous character from pop culture: “No soup for you!”
The adults are chuckling, the kids are now looking for it on TikTok.
To me this First Amendment debate goes back to the 80s when flag-burning was a thing. Congress had all the power in the world to make flag-burning a crime and it should be. But through the better angels of the Supreme Court, anything appearing as legislation saying that would be deemed unconstitutional because you are prohibiting free speech.
I don’t agree with those that choose to take that action, but I will support their right to do it. It’s a constitutional mandate that speech be protected. It’s also a constitutional right of the Marine or former military that you burn the flag in front of to punch you in the mouth for being a moron. But that’s another conversation for another day.
Speaking of morons - my view applies to Colin Kaepernick and his need to kneel during the anthem.
That’s him taking a stand and exercising his rights. My problem with him is that he was a mediocre quarterback who was not going to be signed and chose his contract year - after making millions not being a racial martyr - to become a martyr for undefined racial injustices across the country.
His actions were a well-coordinated marketing campaign orchestrated to spark controversy and disharmony while at the same time keeping his name in the news for years to come - but because what he was doing was protected by the First Amendment, he’s well within his rights.
Controversy creates cash.
Where I have an issue though is with big tech silencing conservative voices. In my 40 years, I’ve never seen a president have press conferences cut off to return to soap operas. I’ve never seen a president fact-checked or even silenced. Now I realize that when this publishes, he will be the past president, but to have his voice shut down on various platforms, that gives me pause and disheartens me as to the future. Then to see other congressional leaders have their voices silenced, that’s setting a dangerous precedent.
New England area communications professor George Gerbner posits: “Fearful people are more dependent, easily manipulated and controlled; more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures … they may even accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities.”
Big tech, right now, is like the bar at midnight with a guest whom the bartender believes has been overserved and is making half the guests laugh and the others uncomfortable. It’s their call whether they stay or go. And it will remain that way until they’re subject to some sort of across-the-board regulation.
Right now, I don’t see that happening. Across the board - conservative voices are being silenced and if this trend stays the course for four years - what’s going to happen when the pendulum swings back and Republicans take over the house in 2022 and then the Senate and the Oval in 2024?
I’m not going to get all patriotic here - but the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights really, was what this country was built upon. If voices can so easily be silenced and laughed off as nothing but intolerant gibberish - what’s next? Where will the line be drawn?
Quick - before everyone gets banned - what’s your CB handles? (click and a radio crackle) Breaker 1-9: It’s that simple.
Griffin Pritchard is a Tallassee resident and weekly columnist for The Tribune.