Many years ago I went with a large group of protesters to the Virginia State Capitol to tell our legislators how we felt about a particular issue. We did not have appointments, but we did not need them. The Capitol was a public building, and we arrived during business hours. We simply walked in. Some of the legislators were busy and closed their doors. Others welcomed us into their offices and listened attentively to our concerns. All of us were dressed appropriately and spoke respectfully. In the end, the majority of legislators voted the way we had hoped they would. We not only felt vindicated; we felt heard.
On Thursday, a few hundred of the estimated one million people who attended the rally in Washington DC committed an assault on the Capitol that was horrifying and deadly. And wrong.
Those of us who love this country were appalled by what happened at the Capitol this week. We were appalled by the incidents that led up to it. And we were appalled by the incidents that have followed it—the purging of tens of thousands of voices from social platforms, and the deliberate decision of tens of thousands more to leave those platforms voluntarily.
Within hours, social media had:
- banned President Trump indefinitely, if not forever.
- shut down the #Walkaway page silencing the stories its more than half a million members who have “walked away” from the Democrat party for various reasons
- banned every volunteer and paid employee of the #Walkaway page
- purged tens of thousands of followers of conservative celebrities such as James Woods and Kirstie Alley
- Blocked former congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul from his page, with no warning or notice that he had “violated community standards.” Ron Paul!!
All weekend long we read posts of friends who were saying their goodbyes and leaving Facebook, many of them going to Parler, an alternative to Twitter.
By morning, Google and Apple had banned Parler from their app stores. And then, lest Apple’s phone sales be harmed by the move, Google banned Parler from its Android app store as well. Amazon followed suit with its hosting site, essentially shutting Parler down. How long this will last, and how much it will escalate, no one knows.
Where Do We Stand?
Over the weekend, many asked us where FreedomFest stands on this issue of being targeted and silenced. Are we afraid? Should we “lie low if you value your job, your fortune, and your family,” as one sincere and concerned attendee recommended?
As we considered the possible threats of remaining public and outspoken, the safety of lying low did look appealing. But safety has never been our priority when liberty is at stake.
- We stand against violence.
- We stand against the initiation of force.
- We stand against the silencing of American voices, even those with which we don’t agree.
- We stand by our decision to hold the biggest FreedomFest ever in South Dakota this year—with nearly a thousand people already registered and many more signing up every day.
- And we will not stand down in our mission to teach the principles of liberty and non-aggression, and to persuade others to live by those principles.
In fact, we are increasing our media presence with an exciting new feature you’re going to love. Watch for our announcement about FreedomFest Forum Live on Fridays!
Meanwhile, here is where we stand on free speech, and why all of us should care that Trump’s Twitter account of nearly 90 million followers was toppled and hundreds of thousands of others were silenced, even those who despise Trump, even if your personal reaction was “Good riddance.”
Why Free Speech Matters — Even “His”
Why should you care that people who don’t vote your side of the aisle are being silenced?
Because free speech is the lifeblood of change.
Suffragists were speaking out against government policy and laws when they protested for women to vote.
Gay activists were speaking out against government policy and laws when they protested for the right to be teachers, be soldiers, be married.
Free speech is fundamental. You may despise what others have to say. You may argue vociferously against them. You may jail them if they actually break the law. But speaking out must never be against the law.
You must defend their right to speak, even when you don’t like what they say, even when they offend you, even when they say hateful things.
Both of you. All of you.
Because if you don’t, you and your cause could be the next ones silenced.
Jo Ann Skousen is co-producer of FreedomFest and founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival. You can attend both at one low price at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, July 21-24. For ticket information go to www.freedomfest.com or call 1-855-850-FREE (3733) ext. 202
P. S. Join us for Friday Forum Live….details to follow!