The Death of Free Speech

Four in 10 young Americans have no idea what America is.

That’s the takeaway from a new Pew Research poll showing that 40 percent of Americans aged 18-34 say that the government should be able to prevent people from making “statements that are offensive to minority groups.”

Ben Shapiro 1

This same group of young people has granted broad awareness to the culture of “microaggression” — unintended slights taken as grave insults by their victims; they’ve also called for “trigger warnings,” alerts that certain communications may dredge up unpleasant past memories or ideas. With such ghoulish cruelties haunting the most privileged generation in human history, naturally we’d want to toss out the bedrock of Western civilization: The right to debate, to express unpopular opinions. We wouldn’t want to offend.

Unless, of course, we do.

There are those of us who find guns in our face far more offensive than the occasional taunt. We don’t like the notion that your disapproval of an opinion gives you the right to call the men with the guns; we find that perspective tyrannical and threatening. We’re not interested in your subjective feelings-world, in which you claim that innocuous statements somehow harm you in material ways. We don’t believe that self-appointed victim status grants you the ability to use force. We think you ought to develop a thicker skin — the sort of skin necessary to enjoy freedom. If your political agoraphobia prevents you from engaging in the arguments that characterize free countries, that doesn’t mean you should lock us all away in our “safe spaces.” Those “safe spaces” are called jail cells, and the only people who want to establish them are jackbooted fascists masquerading as hippy-dippy caring experts.

If all of this seems relatively basic, that’s because it is. But because America forgot to teach her children those basics, they will be torn out by the root. The American university system has become Ground Zero for the anti-free speech movement. That’s because young people always look for a cause for which to fight, an oppressive force to crush. Young people aren’t looking for comfort; as George Orwell wrote in 1940 regarding the appeal of the Nazis, “Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades.”

How can today’s young people enjoy such struggle?

Since America is the freest country in the history of humanity, the only oppression to be found is self-oppression — and the only way to free people from that is to shackle everyone else. The old rule of politics stated that your right to wave your fist ends with my nose; the leftist perspective is that your right to wave your fist ends with that waving fist generating feelings of unease. So stop waving it. Anywhere.

The real danger here is that the would-be oppressors will win. They already are on university campuses, where those labeled holders of “white privilege” can now be fired or silenced based on the color of their skin. If Americans don’t fight back against the free speech opponents, this battle will get ugly: Once one side utilizes actual aggression, it’s only a matter of time until battle truly begins.

Ben Shapiro, 31, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KTTH 770 Seattle and KRLA 870 Los Angeles, editor-in-chief of, and senior editor-at-large of Breitbart News. He is The New York Times best-selling author of “Bullies.” He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

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