The Left’s War on Free Speech

The left hates words, well specific words anyway. The left believes that words are hateful and that they cause fear. Per the left, using the wrong word should open you to ridicule, get you fired, or even put in jail.

Believe it or not, the Left used to love free speech. In fact, the free speech movement started in California, at Berkeley.

In the wake of McCarthyism’s Anti-Communist sentiments during the 1950s, public universities in California had enacted numerous regulations limiting students’ political activities. At the University of California, Berkeley, student groups taking part in any on- or off-campus political activities were banned from campus. Pressured by the state legislature, Berkeley administrators issued orders that students could no longer carry out political activities near the campus.

In 1964, Mario Savio and 500 fellow students marched on Berkeley’s administration building to protest the university’s order. He and other leaders called for an organized student protest to abolish all restrictions on students’ free-speech rights throughout the University of California system – and the free speech movement was born.

Sometime over the years, the left lost its way. Maybe it was when Tipper Gore worked to ban songs she considered to be offensive – and successfully forced record companies to warn the public about potentially offensive lyrics in the mid-1980s. Regardless, we have seen a flipflop where the Left now demands that certain speech be banned or even outlawed.

The list of what we cannot say continues to grow daily. One publication has claimed that men cannot ask a female, say a hotel desk clerk, if he can speak to her manager, as it is disrespectful and implies a lack of trust in her abilities. According to the same article, a man can never, ever tell a woman that she looks tired, as this could be perceived as a negative comment about her looks. And you certainly may never ask someone if they have lost weight, because you are saying that they used to be fat.

At the Los Angeles Times, reporters are discouraged from using the word “looters,” as it has a pejorative and racist connotation.

In Houston, a realtors association announced it would no longer use terms such as master bedroom or master bathroom, because the word master has connotations that invoke slavery. It is a good thing I obtained my master’s degree before this happened, otherwise, I’d have a post-degree-degree…doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Stanford University created its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, which had the goal of eliminating harmful language, including racist, harmful, and biased language in Stanford University websites and code. Note that they want to eliminate language they do not like. Not ban, not discourage, but eliminate.

Stanford was swiftly criticized for suggesting the elimination of words like American, immigrant, and grandfather, prompting the university to first remove the list from public view and then, weeks later, to pull it from its website entirely.

Stanford’s guide recommended replacing the word American with U.S. citizen to avoid insinuating that the U.S. dominates the Americas. The guide also recommended that the phrase “give it a go,” take the place of the phrase “take a shot at” to avoid violent imagery. I guess I will have to take a shot at using give it a go.

Now, we are moving past banning or eliminating words, moving to punishing people for their use of words. Recently, a seventh-grade student was sent home from school for wearing a shirt that simply stated, “there are only two genders.”

In June, an Idaho teenager was barred from graduation for claiming that there are only two genders. He lost his job as well. Apparently, Travis Lohr, in a school assembly told his fellow students, “Boys are boys and girls are girls. There is no in between.” As a result, he was barred for walking at graduation, and lost a job offer with the U.S. Forest Service because of it.

The Left is now also weaponizing words to prosecute those who offend them with speech. Per the National Institutes of Health, being misgendered can be an extremely hurtful and invalidating experience. The intentional refusal to use someone’s correct pronouns is equivalent to harassment and a violation of one’s civil rights. Continuing, EEOC guidance states that “intentionally and repeatedly using the wrong name and pronouns to refer to a transgender employee could contribute to an unlawful hostile work environment and is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In Michigan, words can land you in jail and $10,000 poorer for the effort.

A bill that was just passed in the state could make it a felony to intimidate someone by intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns. Under the new bill, offenders are “guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $10,000.” The bill addresses sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as protected classes. According to the bill, “Gender identity or expression means having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity or expression whether or not associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth.”

Does this new Michigan law that a biology professor at the University of Michigan could be charged with a felony if she teaches her students that sex and gender are determined by the presence of X and Y chromosomes? What about a comedian doing a standup routine, poking fun at a transgender TikTok influencer. Is that now a crime?

California law also prohibits the intentional misgendering in the workplace, and earlier this year, Shake Shack was ordered to pay a former employee $20,000 after he was repeatedly misgendered by co-workers.

Sadly, the assault on free speech goes beyond random state legislatures passing bills that the rest of the country believes to be extreme or over-the-top. We are seeing the federal government take steps to stifle free speech, often, in conjunction with Big Tech.

During the COVID pandemic, Twitter, now X, and Facebook suppressed stories they felt contradicted Dr. Fauci and the government’s position on the origins of COVID and the efficacy of non-government approved treatments such as zinc.

Twitter, Facebook, and a host of other social media outlets banned President Trump from their platforms after the January 6 riot at the Capital.

The Biden administration worked in tandem with social media giant to censor statements they deemed misinformation, and earlier this month a federal judge blocked Biden administration officials from contacting social media companies in a landmark order targeting government censorship and suppression of online postings.

And who can forget, how in April 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the first Disinformation Governance Board with the stated goal to “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security.” Rapidly dubbed the Biden Ministry of Information, the board was quickly shelved…but the prospects of such an organization existing in the U.S. government is nothing short of Orwellian in nature.

I believe in the right to free speech, no matter how hateful, ridiculous, or even obscene. The First Amendment is designed to protect the speech I hate, not the speech I embrace. That is why the best way to expose stupidity, hate, and racism is to give people who espouse such thoughts a platform to expose themselves. As former supreme court justice, Louis Brandeis once said, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

The Left should return to its roots as embracing free speech and uninhibited debate. If nothing else, the Left should remember what all of our mamas taught us as children, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Once again, the wisdom of mom rings true.

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About Jim Nelles

Jim Nelles is a supply chain consultant based in Chicago, Illinois and a regular contributor to the National Pulse. He has served as a chief procurement officer, chief supply chain officer, and a chief operations officer for multiple companies.

Photo: Peter Gridley/Getty Images