It is now the unfortunate (inconvenient?) truth that cancel culture is the standard in American society today. What began as an easily ignored annoyance widely known as political correctness has mushroomed into a full-scale attack on individual freedom. Punishing people professionally and/or socially for their sincerely held personal or religious beliefs is completely antithetical in a country built upon the foundational cornerstones of freedom of thought and freedom of speech. 

"Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another; and this is the only check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know … Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech, a thing terrible to traitors." – Benjamin Franklin

To be clear, Franklin wasn't an early advocate for safe spaces. He was asserting that the basic right to free speech was sacrosanct; even unattractive or offensive minority opinions are to be tolerated in order to preserve the right of those deemed tolerable by the majority.

In a society that now demands "safe space" for every conceivable societal ailment (real or imagined), we are habitually trading creature comfort for truth. Americans are giving away our freedom to be right, earnest and accommodating when we cede our freedom to be wrong, obnoxious and offensive. We have reached a crisis of freedom. Attacking and destroying people's lives for daring to dissent or support the wrong candidate is contributing to that crisis; when the government does it, it is nothing short of tyranny. Thought crimes, once only written about in dystopian novels or in jest, are now a reality in America. The limitation of free expression of undesirable opinions due to the democratic powers that be (ahem, the mob) by regarding them as inferior, fallible or immoral, we deprive the entirety of our society of legitimate innovations, ideas and breakthroughs.   Americans allowing, condoning or ignoring these actions might be well-received at cocktail parties and in virtue signaling social media circles, but they are killing our country. Not only are they hastening our governmental demise, citizens will die and have died due to the recent intentional suppression of thought and speech.

Free thought and speech are the only way society will inch closer to the truth over time. Frederick Douglass asserted that free speech was "the great moral renovator of society and government." In other words, only the free flow of ideas can challenge existing orthodoxies and improve society. 

Freedom of expression is vital to successful societies because new ideas are necessary to create and sustain growth. When you stop growing, you start dying, and the only thing growing is government. When only governmental authorities are big enough or wise enough to solve society's problems, we have tacitly acquiesced to being a socialist state. If government or its agents interfere with individual rights to exchange knowledge and experiences, how will new ideas be created and emerge? They won't. That's intentional.

Further, the ever-changing and never-ceasing oppressive rules of engagement in our strangely secular yet legalistic culture have created a new problem: self-censorship. Self-censorship is the logical next step in the wake of the culture war we find ourselves unwittingly mired in. Truth dies with the silence of those who keep it to themselves.

Today, freedom of expression is, to a large extent, imperiled by the neglect of those who hold it. Self-censorship driven by cultural pressures erodes our collective reach for truth just as if it was driven by government. Freedom of thought and speech are being met not only with aggressive animus but with selfish silence. Self-censorship driven by fear of the governed due to the actions of the government is soft-totalitarianism. 

Silence enshrines the status quo. As John Stuart Mill said, "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

Demands for restrictions on the free expression of our thoughts are gaining ground with many Americans who defer to the comfort of safety over the danger of truth. Wrapping certain demographics of the citizenry with protective layers of speech limitations is wrong. Guaranteeing the elevation and acceptance of that same demographic's "individual truth" without any regard to objective truth is not only harmful, but it's also nonsensical. False protection is given to today's chosen while government and its corporate allies in big banking and big tech fact check and tag soccer moms (sometimes referred to as domestic terrorists depending on if they have attended a school board meeting lately) for misinformation. The continuous call for forced social outcasting and prosecution of any purveyors of "fake news" reveals the chosen losers for who they are. What is the definition of fake news if it is not the pre-paid propaganda of the authority over the ruled?

Voltaire famously asserted, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."

When federal government officials take time out of their day to threaten state legislators and their supporters, you know that freedom of speech and the 10th Amendment are under attack.

When the US Attorney General uses the power of his collective might against non-profit groups of volunteers because he doesn't like the group's brand of politics or the laws they've been able to pass in their state, you know that the freedom of petition is under attack.

When the government, aka Mr. Science, uses the power of the bully pulpit to silence doctors, teachers and parents sounding the alarm about COVID-19 protocols and mitigation strategies, you know that medical freedom is under attack.

When government lists the qualifications for who is an enemy of the state and that list then encompasses the sincerely held religious beliefs of millions of Americans, you know that the freedom of religion is under attack.

When government colludes with international mega-companies to suppress certain stories or political ideas that might impact an election during election season, you know that our ability to participate in free and fair elections is under attack.

Thucydides stated, "The secret to happiness is freedom. The secret to freedom is courage." May we all have the courage to speak up for objective and biblical truth regardless of the personal (worldly) consequences. Our country and, more importantly, our individual freedom to think, speak, and act according to our own conscience are depending upon it.

Stephanie Holden Smith is an experienced policy analyst, political commentator, and public speaker. Smith has worked and volunteered in Governmental Affairs in Alabama since 1997, including lobbying for a Fortune 500 company and serving as Deputy Director of Finance for the State of Alabama. She is currently the principal of Thatcher Coalition LLC. To contact Stephanie, please go to The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information

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