What The Parkland Tragedy Has Taught Us About Freedom Of Speech [Opinion]

J. Scott Applewhite / Rich SchultzAP Images

The nation remains in shock after the shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida, a little over a month and a half ago. Although there is a consensus that action must be taken to stop such tragedies from occurring, what exactly should be done has divided opinion. David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez continue to push for what they argue is sensible gun reform. Their celebrity status, however, has outgrown any debate on gun violence. They, along with some of their classmates, have spoken out on other issues. Self-styled leaders of a flurry of activity that has been hyped as a revolution, Hogg and Gonzalez have emerged as moral authorities whose words and actions are unassailable.

The dustup between David Hogg and Laura Ingraham allowed observers to see the Florida teen flex his growing political muscle. Last week, USA Today reported that Ingraham taunted Hogg over the rejections for several universities to which he had applied. The high school student quickly responded by tweeting a list of twelve companies that advertised on the Fox News host’s show, The Ingraham Angle. He urged his followers to “pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #.” The backlash against Ingraham was immediate as several companies, including Miracle-Ear and Office Depot, severed ties with her.

According to The Hill, Ingraham apologized to David Hogg. Nonetheless, businesses continued to pull advertisements from her television program. As for Hogg, he refused to accept her apology until she held her colleagues accountable for their coverage of him and the other Parkland student survivors.

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This development is worrisome. It would be wrong to dismiss it as mere petulance. It is a calculated and vicious act, which has been initiated to muzzle critics of Hogg and his friends. Certainly, this boycott of Laura Ingraham should be seen for what it is: an attack on freedom of speech.

David Hogg, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, addresses the crowd at the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington on Saturday, March 24, 2018.Featured image credit: Andrew HarnikAP Images

In the current climate, it is acceptable to disparage the messenger if the message is considered unpalatable. Further, living within the confines of an echo chamber has sadly become a very desirable goal for many people; unfortunately, it is now easy to shut out and shut down other points of view.

The situation is compounded by the dangerous distribution of the labels “good” or “bad” based on political predilections. There is then the push to grant some immunity because of their race, gender, age, etc. This immunity is meant to enable them to speak freely without having to encounter any challenges or criticism.

This is not the manner in which freedom of speech functions, though. It transcends politics. Furthermore, it is not reserved for a select few. While Ms. Ingraham’s behavior is, therefore, debatable, the morality of David Hogg’s efforts to silence is not.