Freedom From Speech?

Jake Stegall, Reporter

Here in America we plead for free speech, but we fail to see that free speech is actually stifled. Yes, believe it or not, although no one is burning controversial books and executing those who speak out against the general opinion, going against the flow is just as dangerous as ever.

One of the problems with American culture in this day and age is the obsession over political correctness. If anything you say is slightly against the general consensus, you are labeled and idiot and are destroyed by society.

Taboo: A term dubbed by sociologists as a word that is politically or socially incorrect. But the extent to what we, as Americans, consider taboo is unreal.

Let me give you an example. Doug Gottlieb, a CBS sports expert, prior to the Sweet Sixteen NCAA Tournament games, made an innocent joke, one that brought him a hair’s breadth from losing his job. Here’s the scene: Greg Gumbel, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony and Charles Barkley–four black men–sit at the the table pleasantly awaiting the CBS pregame show. Greg Gottlieb, the white newcomer, was introduced by Gumbel. Gottlieb’s opening comment was almost his last.

“I don’t know why you guys ask me, I’m just here to bring diversity to this set, give kind of the white man’s perspective.”

If you’re saying something along the lines of, “What? He almost got fired for that?,” I sympathize. Not only was Gottlieb almost fired, Twitter exploded with shouts of ‘stop the racism!’ and ‘Gottlieb should be canned!’. Gottlieb ended up keeping his job, due only to an avid defense by Charles Barkley, who insisted that the people on twitter were being idiots and needed to “get a life”.

Nevertheless, this is a clear example of how, in America, there is an almost tangible speech code. Break this unwritten rule, and you are blasted by society, overwhelmed with the throng of avid “free speech” advocates who beg for your crucifixion.

Many people don’t understand the difference between the general opinion, or consensus, and the actual fact. Many times, in sensitive topics, like abortion or gay rights and marriage equality, there is no mathematical solution, no clean cut answer. But many people seem to think that if enough people, which in many cases isn’t much at all, agree with them, then their bias opinions must be true. How could they not?

We do this here in this very school. we blindly accept ideas, which many times are highly controversial, and after reprimanding anyone bold enough to stand against the tide, we pompously say ‘who would even defend this? It’s just so stupid!”

It has become too taboo to even search for a counterpoint. How can one know if his ideas are valid, and as factual as he says, if he is too egotistic to acknowledge that what he says isn’t necessarily a fact? If a sailor is building a ship, and halfway through construction, he brags to his friends, ‘look at this mighty ship I have made! Nothing can sink it, it’s invincible!’, but when his friends ask him to let them test it out in the water, and he refuses, how can they know his claims are valid?

The same is true with free speech. Everyone loves the idea of free speech, but more and more it seems like people are shackled instead of free, imprisoned by the ideas of the public. When will someone speak up? When will someone challenge an idea? It’s not the coolest thing to do, sure, but it might just be worth it.