Is America having second thoughts about free speech?

Feb 12, 2018 by

Damon Linker –

The free speech wars are getting worse, but it seems that none of the warring factions quite grasp the character of the dispute — or precisely what’s at stake.

At the figurative center of the clash is the norm of near-absolute freedom of speech and expression, which its defenders like to treat as the American default. A number of ideological challenges have arisen in recent years to overturn this norm.

On many college campuses, groups of left-leaning students insist that free speech should be conditional on speakers adhering to explicit standards of diversity and avoiding the infliction of emotional harm on the members of marginalized groups through the spreading of “hate.”

From the opposite ideological direction, President Trump believes that the government should “take a strong look” at libel laws to keep news organizations from subjecting his own administration to negative coverage.

Finally, from the center-left come calls to use anti-discrimination law to punish organizations that oppose the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and accommodations for transgender people. If that happens — either by passing new laws that explicitly add to existing anti-discrimination statutes or by courts treating the members of these groups as protected classes covered by existing law — the result will almost certainly be a significant constriction of speech, as those holding more conservative views will face sanction for expressing them in public.

Those are the trends — and each one looks to the others like the onset of democratic decline.

Source: Is America having second thoughts about free speech?

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