I, like Thomas Jefferson, “have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Most forms of tyranny can only chain a person outwardly. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “You can imprison me; you can torture me; you can even destroy this body – but you will never imprison my mind.” A person can be wrongfully searched, or arrested without cause and due burden of proof, or segregated into subpar conditions, but the tyrant cannot actually control what goes in their target’s (I know better than to impose the condescending label “victim” on anyone) mind.
But a censor can. Censorship denies advocates the right to advocate, and denies would-be fighters for an idea of the knowledge that the idea even exists. A censor can stop a revolt against cruelty before it can even begin. Even if there's no large-scale injustice to combat (which, throughout the centuries, there always has been), censorship stops the mind from growing and therefore stunts human development. Censorship undermines the core principles of freedom and independence, implying that humans are all incompetent, flailing creatures who cannot determine for themselves what books to put down, and therefore need a board--or, God forbid, an individual--to determine this for them. Worms choose for themselves whether to crawl upward or remain underground, and censorship places humans at below the level of worms. Henceforth, the most depraved form of tyranny is the oppression of an individual’s right to freedom of expression.
Think about it. If the government abused your Second Amendment, or Fourth Amendment, or Sixth Amendment rights, you would stand up for yourself in a court of law and assert that your Constitutional rights had been violated. You would assert that, as a sentient human being living in what was designed to be the freest nation on Earth, you have the right to be safe in your person, your home, and your liberties without any intrusion without the due process of law. With the publicity gained through freedom of expression, other supporters could take up your cause and help advocate on your behalf.
But you could not maintain your rights as such if you were silenced.
In addition to protecting our ability to defend all our other natural rights, free speech has always provided the solution to each historical problem. For example, when racial minorities and women suffered discriminating, subhuman recognition, no law swept the problem away overnight. In fact, the unethical treatment of over 50 percent of the population (women and minorities combined) WAS the letter of the law. Equal-rights advocates such as Rosa Parks; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Susan B. Anthony; and Booker T. Washington used the power of freedom of speech to draw nationwide awareness, acceptance…and action. Had the government been allowed to suppress them for creating controversy, or for offending the majority’s pre-established beliefs, no social change would have been achieved, and we would probably be suffering under the same inequality today.
In the words of founding father Samuel Adams, “It does not require a majority to prevail…but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people’s minds.”
No brushfire will survive when extinguished as a spark. If you are in a position of power, remember the importance of free speech. If you are in a position to censor, think about its effect before doing so.
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