Deep Dive on the Battle Over Free Speech [Photo of microfilm hidden in an ordinary loaf of bread by Norwegians suffering under Nazi oppression.]
Free speech and a free press. It’s American as apple pie…or so it used to be.
In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant, declared: “Let us all labor to add all needful guarantees for the security of free thought, free speech, a free press.”
But today the left seems to have free speech in America by the throat. We see this in the recent example of corporate giant AT&T cutting off the conservative network Newsmax from satellite distribution through DirecTV, about which I commented recently. This appears to the tip of the iceberg.
Today there is ongoing debate on free speech. One headline proclaimed, “Analyst with PhD discovers conservative podcasters are out there, just saying whatever they please!”
“Free speech for whom?” writes law professor Jonathan Turley about Congressional hearings of fired Twitter executives grilled for their censorship of conservative speech. Elon Musk observed that in buying Twitter, he ended up with “both a social media platform and a crime scene.”
Examples abound. For instance, the Washington Examiner reports on the secret major push by the left to de-platform conservative voices in the media—in the name of fighting “disinformation.”
The Daily Caller directs attention to President Biden’s former press secretary declaring: “Psaki Urges MSNBC Viewers To ‘Think Of The Danger’ Posed By Free Speech.”
The Media Research Center keeps track of the ongoing censorship of conservative perspectives. They have thousands of examples to report.
World is a conservative, Christian magazine that has served its readers for at least three decades. Last week they opened an office in Washington, D.C., and had a speech for the occasion delivered by Dr. Peter Lillback, the founding president of Providence Forum (now a division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, for which I serve as the executive director).
Dr. Lillback said, “May the deadening force of monolithic Leftism with its cancel culture, ad hominem irrationality and suppression of reason and logic never find a foothold here, because the great freedom of the First Amendment is celebrated and defended.” Hear, hear.
But what happens when a free society is completely taken over by the forces of totalitarianism, dedicated to complete squelching of opposing viewpoints? Can citizens in such a society still find ways to communicate light in the darkness?
Bring the Nazis into any argument today, and you may be fulfilling “Godwin’s law,” which says, “the longer an internet argument goes on, the higher the probability becomes that something or someone will be compared to Adolf Hitler.”
However, what follows are examples of communicating despite an imposed blackout from the actual Nazis. My wife is from Norway, and I’ve been able to visit there multiple times.
From April 12, 1940 to May 8, 1945, the Nazis occupied Norway, though the Norwegians resisted the best they could.
When the Nazis took over Norway, a country full of “pure Aryans” (in the Nazi mind), they expected the Norwegians to fully participate in their attempts to glorify the “master race” and purge the “undesirables” from humanity, such as Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.
The Norwegians would have nothing to do with this and with the curtailing of their freedoms.
In Oslo there is a museum dedicated to the resistance of the brave Norwegians against the Nazis during that time. The exhibits show the creativity of the Norwegians to communicate even as the Nazis controlled all levers of the press. The Nazis made shortwave radios highly illegal because through them one could receive the BBC or other forbidden sources of more accurate information—as opposed to the pervasive Nazi propaganda.
I took photos in that museum, showing such things as:
- Microfilm hidden inside cans of fish, loaves of bread, the heels of shoes, metal containers to go in bodily cavities, etc.
- Secret radio receivers with headphones hidden inside birdhouses, phone books, varnish cans, irons used to press cloths, and even dentures.
- Home-made newsletters hidden inside logs.
The museum has a sign that says in English, “On all military fronts Hitler and his allies won great victories. In Norway Nazi ideology was defeated by the democratic forces rooted in a national, Christian culture.”
Obviously in modern America we’re still a long way from that kind of scenario. But the same impulse that silences free speech for the “greater good” can take us in unexpected directions. Once we have lost the true value of free speech—even for speech we find abhorrent—we have put the logical mechanism in place for propaganda to rule the day and dissenting speech to be punished. That punishment may begin as mere economic penalty—but it rarely stops there.
We live in a free society—for now. We need to stand up against those who claim to believe in “free speech,” but in reality they hold to “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”
Editor’s note: Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz wrote a column in Newsweek about the cancellation of Newsmax, “As a liberal, I am truly troubled that a major conservative cable news channel—and one that is reliably pro-Israel, like Newsmax—was silenced by AT&T. If AT&T and DirecTV can get away with silencing Newsmax, who will be next?”