According to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, the concept of free speech – so vital to the foundations of American democracy – is under assault by liberals who want to curtail any opinions that go against what they believe. Pai, who has consistently fought to limit the FCC’s ability to censor online content, said there is a cultural shift occurring that could have disastrous ramifications for the future of American discourse.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Pai said, “I think that poses a special danger to a country that cherishes First Amendment speech, freedom of expression, even freedom of association.”
Pai went on to say that the tone at America’s universities was an omen of problems to come. “Largely what we’re seeing, especially on college campuses, is that if my view is in the majority and I don’t agree with your view, then I have the right to shout you down, disrupt your events, or otherwise suppress your ability to get your voice heard,” he said.
Pai said that it was a mistake to put too much faith in the Constitution. “The text of the First Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, but there are certain cultural values that undergird the amendment that are critical for its protections to have actual meaning,” Pai said. “If that culture starts to wither away, then so too will the freedom that it supports.”
That cultural erosion has already begun. According to a November Pew Research poll, 40% of millennials believe the government should be able to prevent people from making statements which are “offensive to minority groups.” In Europe, which appears to be where many of these millennials would prefer to live, so-called “hate speech” laws are already being used to silence anti-refugee opinions. Private companies like Twitter and Facebook are in solidarity, cracking down on speech they deem offensive.
The problem, of course, is who gets to determine which statements are “hate speech” and which aren’t. No statement is universally offensive. No statement is universally inoffensive. Furthermore, who gets to hide under the protection of “minority group” status? Is there a theoretical future where no one can criticize a female politician without risking a fine?
It’s sad to see that this generation, which grew up taking the free and open internet for granted, now believes that it’s more important to protect feelings than it is to protect ideas. Ideas, if they are good ones, can thrive even when there is loud opposition. That millennials have so eagerly embraced censorship could be a sign of just how terrible their political ideas are.
Not that we needed another one.