Freedom of speech is granted to all U.S. citizens by virtue of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was passed by Congress in 1789 and ratified, or made a law, in 1791, according to Constitution Center.
The First Amendment also guarantees the freedom of religion and the right to assemble, so this is a big one. This Amendment is part of what made the U.S. the country that it is, a place where anyone can share their opinions without fear of legal retribution or punishment from the government.
At least, that’s what the First Amendment was meant to do. But do we still have freedom of speech in the U.S.?
Check out Twitter for 5 minutes, and you’re going to say “yes” right away. Twitter has become a digital version of London’s Speakers Corner, a place where anyone is allowed to stand on a small stage and scream their thoughts about any subject.
But for journalists, freedom of speech is a little trickier than getting on Twitter and typing in all caps. Freedom of speech was not granted to Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It was not granted to CNN reporter Jim Acosta. And in an environment where even the New York Times can be branded as “fake news,” freedom of speech no longer feels like a right.
President Trump signals he will not take strong action against Saudi Arabia or its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi https://t.co/RgcdOPY68y pic.twitter.com/ge5DjCuoPP— CNN (@CNN) November 20, 2018
Because throwing reporters out of the White House, yelling about fake news and turning a blind eye to the torture and murder of a journalist working for The Washington Post is not freedom of speech. It’s tyrannical…and we are now living under tyranny.
There is no free speech within tyranny. There is no free speech when journalists who live in America get killed because they’re trying to get some paperwork done, when a respected reporter at CNN can be tossed out of a press briefing on his ear, when a newspaper founded in 1851 can be deemed “fake” by a President who only wants to read stories that flatter him.
Saying that freedom of speech exists and actually upholding that principle are very different things, and the truth of that is being revealed with each new passing day. Because freedom of speech is more than people ranting and raving freely on Twitter. It’s most than someone with something to say starting a blog.
Freedom of speech is something that we have to continue to fight for, even though it sometimes feels like a well-established and long-standing right. It was a right not granted to Jamal Khashoggi, because he died for being a journalist while he was a legal resident of a country that has vowed since the very beginning to allow all residents the freedom of their opinions.
Donald Trump allowed that journalist to be horrifically murdered on his watch. And Trump probably couldn’t have stopped that brutality, but he certainly could show the world that America won’t stand for it. He could show the world that America is still standing behind its First Amendment.
And instead, Donald Trump is trying to find ways to curtail freedom of speech at his White House press briefings. Because Donald Trump doesn’t like free speech. Donald Trump likes screaming about fake news, and he likes his highly lucrative relationship with Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t like CNN.
No, we don’t have freedom of speech. We have failed to uphold the First Amendment to our Constitution, a document that we have venerated and touted throughout history as a finely-crafted and highly wonderful document that other countries should use as a model.
Our government has failed to uphold freedom of speech. Our President has made it painfully clear that he isn’t going to abide by the First Amendment. One of our journalists has been murdered, and another was forcibly silenced by the President of the United States of America, where freedom is said to be guaranteed.
Nothing is guaranteed except this: we have to keep fighting for the freedom of speech, for ourselves and for voices around the world that are silenced by other tyrannical leaders. Any law, any Amendment, any belief is only strong because we choose to enforce it and uphold it.
Now, all we need is a President who is actually willing to do that.