Censorship not answer to bigotry

Tabitha Holowka and Tabitha Holowka

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of millenials (ages 18 – 34) think that the government should be able to prevent people from making statements that are offensive to minority groups.

Where should I begin?

I want to start by granting this demographic’s good intentions.

The western world, as we well know, has a terrible rap with handling diversity. We have culturally imperialised and degraded people of color for not just the last century, but millenia after millenia. Now we are really starting to see a revived civil revolution. We want people to treat people like they are people. What a novel idea.

This generation is sick of hearing our parents and older politicians and the media continue to ignore, or worse insult the diverse peoples of America. So those children of diversity are crying out all over the nation. That is a good thing.

However, censoring speech never is. In fact, it is delusional. While the anger from which this response spawns is absolutely justified, the solution proposed is absolutely not; it comes blindly from the emotional response without regard to what censoring speech actually means.

Freedom of speech is a right. When you strip rights from some people and not others, they get upset. You can bet that people would get even more disgruntled if they were not granted their bigotry.

Requiring the government to come down on those whose views are regarded as offensive could ultimately be spun right back against us. The biggest flaw with the wording, “offensive to minorities” is how relative it is. What constitutes a minority? It may seem clear to us now, but how would future generations interpret that?

In the 70s, the Supreme Court ruled that obscenities were not protected by the first amendment and could therefore be censored. What is an obscenity? Well, we form a group, like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for film and TV Parental Guidelines Committee for television, and those appointed get together and decide.

For John Waters to title his film “Pecker” he had to convince the MPAA, who considered it obscene. Hilarious right? I mean, sure, he intended to be racy, but it still seems silly.

Those rules were enacted to protect children and adults who were offended. But legislating offense is an inconceivably enormous task, and that is my point.

If you don’t like offensive and exclusionary speech, I encourage you to create your own with loving and inclusive messages. Really, I think that is more important anyway.

It’s absolutely true that we should go out of our way to prevent that bigoted offensive speech from being written into laws and constitutions.

But, inviting censorship simply has too many deeply concerning implications. Consider them. My hope is that you will come to the conclusion that free speech is the single most important right of the modern world, and limiting it in any way would be ultimately flawed and only open the flood-gates for other rights to be lost. A slippery slope, maybe, but worth considering nonetheless.

And if you don’t come to that conclusion and think that bigots should be silenced…while I can’t blame you, I will point out how fascist that is and encourage you to bone up on your 1900s history.

I am partial to the cliché, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” So even in the case of people who say offensive speech should be censored, I support your right to say so. But I hope that you will grant me my own rights and maybe engage in a discussion.