The Cultural Attack on Free Speech

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
February 15, 2022

The Freedom of Speech is what made America. It is what has made America. Without it, there would be no discourse in our democratic republic, and there would most likely be nothing but a spastic majority rule.

Whether it be a media personality, a private citizen, a college professor, or a public official, no one seems to be safe from cancel culture nowadays. Cancel culture, many say, is simply more free speech holding others accountable, and while I see where they might be coming from, it's to the extent that many go with it that truly bothers me – silencing those you disagree with to the point of ruining lives and exiling them.

If one is offended by something's unjustness or immorality, then they may boycott it or do whatever they want with their freedom of speech to call out whatever it is they're calling out. But, if people feel afraid to express their views because of cancel culture, if they stop their ideas before they’ve even taken form, that’s a chilling effect. People from both sides of the aisle are guilty of it, but over the past decade or so, the Left has increasingly taken advantage of this form of bullying.

One of the most recent examples here in Mississippi was at the collegiate-level when the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at Ole Miss took part in Young America’s Foundation’s Freedom Week, an event held on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The students constructed a mock wall and spray-painted it with “microaggressions,” “safe spaces,” and other terms leftists use in their attempts to squelch free speech. There, they were questioned by university administrators who expressed disapproval.

A month later, the chapter received a letter from the university’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct notifying them of a report alleging that the organization had held an “unregistered event." Ole Miss YAF’s Berlin Wall event did not meet any of the criteria to require registration, but out of an abundance of caution, the group did submit a registration form four business days before the event, but they never received a response and went ahead with the event.

The organization was informed that they would be subjected to a judicial review process to determine whether they had violated any university policies and whether any punishments should be imposed, or, they could agree to an administrative punishment which would prevent them from registering any events for thirty days.

The Mississippi Justice Institute then stepped in with a letter to Ole Miss stating that the chapter, "considers the free speech rights of its members to be of the utmost importance to the members themselves, to the mission of Ole Miss YAF, and to society at large, and is therefore prepared to take further action to protect the rights of its members."

After back-and-forth discussions, Ole Miss terminated the unfounded administrative proceedings against the chapter.

What this all really boiled down to was there was one party who did not like what the other was saying and they tried to shut them down for no justifiable rhyme or reason. What happened at Ole Miss though, was not a government mandate, but a cultural one. The First Amendment itself isn't under attack with any laws or mandates, but its spirit is. This is not a problem that can be solved in court room but at town hall meetings and public squares. This is a cultural issue that only We, the People, can address. When your surrounding culture is so toxic and so hostile to differing opinions that they would rather completely cancel you than debate you, your democracy is at stake.

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