Before last year’s election, I posted something on Facebook in support of an action by President Trump for which a complete stranger berated me. While I had no problem with his disagreement, I was appalled by something that he wrote in conclusion: that my Facebook posts had revealed my true colors and that I would be held accountable for them in the future.
I didn’t serve in the Trump administration, although I supported Trump when I thought he was right. But according to this individual’s barely concealed threat, I should expect my views to be scrutinized in the future to determine . . . what?
Since the election, we are beginning to understand what such a threat entails: the possibility that those of us who hold certain views may be denied certain benefits of citizenship. Do I exaggerate? Ask those who have served in the Trump Administration and are now being advised that their prospects for future employment are in jeopardy. Ask those whose Twitter and Facebook accounts have been suspended. Ask those whose online fundraising sites have been closed.
Free speech has long been understood to be a cornerstone of free government. Freedom of speech is not a right granted by the Constitution. It is a natural right that the Constitution protects, transcending the First Amendment, which only prohibits Congress from passing laws that limit free speech.
But what about truth? Did not Trump and many of those who worked for him lie to the American people? Are we not obligated to suppress falsehood? In his Areopagitica, John Milton provided the best rejoinder to this argument: “Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.”
Of course, the very concept of free speech has been under assault for some time. It began in the universities but has spread to corporate America and popular culture. The concept of “political correctness,” the very negation of free speech, which has long infected academia, can be traced to the late Marxist philosopher, Herbert Marcuse, who among other things advocated something called “repressive tolerance.”