Veiled Threats and Silencing Dissent

31 May


Some in this world hate freedom of speech. Some in this world hate others who differ with them so much that they try to silence them through intimidation and veiled threats. The actions of such people harm us all.

John Stuart Mill was a great philosopher and an important figure in the post-enlightenment era. In, On Liberty, Mill made one of the most forceful and significant arguments for freedom of speech. Mill stated,

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension of feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction from reason or personal experience.“

Today we have people who spend their time trying to prevent the search for truth. They wish to silence those they disagree with and, by doing so, they harm us all. When people are silenced by bullying and threats we are all harmed. We are robbed of discovering a potential truth that can only come about through unfiltered and unedited dialogue.

Jenny Waite is a friend of mine and an extremely thoughtful person. It is not my place to tell her personal story, but she speaks from a place of experience. By posting her statement, out of context, John Pettitt is attempting to silence future dissent. He states, “One side effect of Twitter is that the stupid, bigoted comments people used to make at the water cooler now get preserved for future employers to find using Google.” He intends to silence those he disagrees with by threatening their personal livelihood. He wants to silence them and others who wish to speak their minds. What he is doing is no different than when a police state attacks protesters.

John Pettitt’s attempt at informal censorship is no different than a Fascist government that executes those who speak out against the state. Both are trying to drive fear into the hearts of opponents. Both are trying to kill debate. At some point we as individuals are going to have to take a stand against these tactics. Informal censorship is insidious and a threat to our very way of life. Whether it come from Bill O’Reilly or John Pettitt, it is still a bully trying to undermine free expression. This kind of action doesn’t just harm the intended target. It harms us all. We are all injured when we are robbed of the benefit of the free exchange of ideas. You don’t have to agree with Jenny, but you should support her right to speak her mind without threat or intimidation. How long until your opinion is subjected to the same treatment?

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6 Responses to “Veiled Threats and Silencing Dissent”

  1. domesticdame May 31, 2009 at 7:07 PM #

    Leftists are hypocritical people. They say they hate facism, yet they ACT like they are. They compare the Right to Hitler, yet they ARE like them. They like to twist facts, censor the dissenters & so on.

    It’s no surprised that these leftists are who they say they aren’t. They preach nonviolence & compassion, but they threaten, intimidate, & at times try to harm their subjects of their hatred. The latest of course, would be anyone who opposed gay marriage. Since the Left loves abortions, they are all over the death of Tiller. They seem to CARE more about the abortionist who has performed countless number of abortions than the unborn themselves. However, they are using Tiller’s death to furthur their proabortion agenda, aren’t they?

  2. John Pettitt May 31, 2009 at 7:38 PM #

    The way to combat speech you don’t like is more speech (as you are doing here). I have no problem shining the spotlight on the words of those who endorse political murder. When you post a comment in a public forum you implicitly invite criticism of that comment. Twitter is a public forum.

    Regarding intimidation that’s pretty rich given that we’re talking about somebody who endorsed a political murder (“I’m happy Tiller’s dead”). Google indexes twitter, employers use google, these are both facts. I stand by my article, just as Jenny has stood by her comment.

    • stickeenotes May 31, 2009 at 8:00 PM #

      John you must understand the effects of what you are advocating. What you are doing is no different than what Bill O’Reilly does. He takes a statement out of context and attacks a person. This in turn has a chilling effect on free speech as it provides an incentive for people to self censor. We are all harmed by this, John. Responding to comments you disagree with is a way to challenge those you oppose without undermining the freedom of speech that we should all cherish.
      You have every right to be angry, but do not let that taint appreciation for a fundamental principle. She did not endorse a political murder. In fact she said, “Sure, I’ll denounce the manner he died, but I can’t call this a tragedy.” You can no more expect Jenny, who believes that his terminating of unborn yet viable human lives is murder, to be sad over his death than I can expect you, who believes that Tiller was a good man, to be sad about the life sentence that his murderer faces. You mourn for Tiller as she mourns for the countless lives that were denied the time that Tiller was afforded on this earth.

  3. Jennifer Waite June 6, 2009 at 2:40 PM #

    Rest assured. I am not intimidated, and I have not been silenced.

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