Laird Wilcox, Civil Rights Worker, 1964
for freedom of speech and of the press had historically been a monopoly of liberals and
leftists -- until they began to acquire influence and power, especially in academia.
Beginning in the late 1970s I found myself having the same arguments about freedom of
expression with liberal and leftist friends that I had with conservatives and
right-wingers only ten years previously. Instead of the subversive and anti-American
speech conservatives were worried about, we now had issues of
"insensitivity" and opposition to progressive causes and crusades to suppress.
I feel we have far less to worry about when all points of view
are heard and vigorous debate and examination are encouraged. Any belief
system, cause or crusade that cannot abide opposition and criticism is dangerous if only
on that account. In each case, advocates intuitively know that the special interests
served by the cause or crusade are at risk in an open system. To allow criticism is
to risk all, and when "all" is some wonderful abstraction ---whether its
patriotism and nationalism on the one hand, or social causes and crusades on the other
--- that gives meaning to otherwise banal lives, the compulsion toward repression is
very strong. After all, why give the enemies of righteousness a weapon?
The reason why is to curb excesses, to provide a system of
checks and balances, to revise existing policies in view of new facts or circumstances, to
expose hidden agendas and harmful motives, and to prevent intolerant political
systems. Freedom of expression is the self-correcting mechanism of a free society.
Although each comes from different perspectives, these web links
are playing an important role in maintaining the freedoms we need to preserve.
On the Washington, DC, Metro, 1988.