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?