Defiance is the opposite of submission. When submission is demanded, the only available options are absolute, unambiguous defiance, or some degree of compliance with the demand. Once you’re in compliance, only the degree of submission remains to be debated.
This is particularly true when the demand for submission concerns a core principle, a veritable pillar of civilization, such as the right to free speech. Few Americans understand just how atrophied freedom of speech has become around the world. Rarely do even our staunch allies embrace free speech to the same degree we do. Or, rather, the same degree we did. America’s commitment to free speech has unquestionably wavered over the past few years. We’re growing quite comfortable with the use of force to restrict speech. It’s usually not violent force, but it’s compulsion just the same. When Internet flash mobs can get people fired from their jobs, or cause them to break down and offer tearful public apologies and retractions for the expression of unacceptable ideas, free speech is under attack by tyranny.
It doesn’t matter if the tyrants think themselves righteous. They almost always do. It also doesn’t matter if the tyrants are self-appointed and lack the direct support of government officials. This is commonly misunderstood by those who brush off vigilante speech restrictions by saying, “Well, it’s not censorship or a First Amendment issue if the government isn’t involved.” Does anyone doubt that the Charlie Hebdo massacre was an assault on freedom of speech, an act of censorship, even though the government of France obviously did not sanction the attack?
Free speech is a principle, and no principle of such importance survives for very long unless the people hold it close to their hearts, allowing it to illuminate their decisions as individual citizens. They must reject demands for submission, whether those demands come from politicians or rabble-rousers, terrorists or “activists,” if they wish to remain free and independent. There is a difference between even the liveliest, most passionate argument and a demand for submission. The difference is that you are allowed to disagree with a passionate argument, without facing punitive consequences. Free people do not submit. It is their defining characteristic.
Once free people become comfortable with submission, it is a bargain they never stop making. The marketplace for the sale of freedom …read more