Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Freedom of Speech Includes Freedom Not to Listen

America is free. We do not have to go into the back rooms of our houses to discuss controversial topics. There is no fear of government officials invading our homes. No one is being carted off for what they are saying, no matter how stupid, vulgar or blasphemous.

Along with our freedom of speech we must retain our freedom not to listen. When government schools tell our children what to believe or when government does not fulfill its responsibility to keep public airwaves open to all viewpoints it has nullified our freedom of selecting what we hear.

Standard programs from Animal Planet to pornography deliver what they advertise.

“Shock-jock”, Don Imus’s remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team that they were “nappy headed hos” was worthless and disgusting although the listening audience was well aware of what to expect from the program.

Imus has done us all a favor of shining the spotlight on one of our freedoms. We have the freedom not to listen. We can be the censors by turning off the television, radio or CDs and not watch objectionable movies. We have the freedom to walk away from people whose influence is negative or evil.

The standard of freedom of speech as only responsible and thoughtful is a utopian dream. Humans being human means we are imperfect creatures. We can make bad as well as good choices in what we say and how we say it.

Anointing any one person to censor speech or allowing self-appointed censors like the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson or Bull Bennett will be the end of freedom of speech. Who will censor the censor when the individual uses his power for his own agenda?

Rather than giving any one individual or group the power of censorship we adults in America must perform the task to discriminate what we want to see or hear. We must struggle to create a safe and wholesome world for our children. This is a difficult job for each adult although the accumulated choices of each person is far more just and effective in keeping America a free and vital civilization than relying on the government.

We Americans know we are lied to by Madison Avenue through fraudulent advertising. “Take this product and you are guaranteed to lose fifty pounds in a month.” “This beauty cream will wipe away all your wrinkles.” “A new wonder drug will cure any mental or physical ailment you possess.” The consumer has to see through the smokescreen of deceit.

Politicians of all stripes through their campaign advertising distort their record and everyone else’s as a standard operating procedure. This is true for the vast majority of elected officials.

The citizen has the responsibility to listen carefully, research and make educated decisions. We alone should have the power to turn off the television, not buy the product for $19.95 or choose a candidate on a local, state and national level. It is our decision to make, not the government’s.

Our government has the responsibility to prohibit speech of those who are plotting to destroy our nation or do violence to others. When government controls schools it has. a responsibility to set levels of decency. They set the standards in dress, physical contact and speech to insure an environment conducive to learning. Local, state and federal governments have no right to cross the line into indoctrination of students for the greater good of society.

The responsibility of inculcating values to children in a free society belongs to the parents. Adults can protect themselves through their choices while parents have the duty to do the same for their children.

Education is teaching necessary basic skills to function in today’s society. The moral values instilled in our children should continue to come from the family.

Propaganda from government and media elites cannot replace the family’s role in a free society. Even when attempting to reach a noble cause like eliminating ethnic, religious and racial hatred, local and national governments setting standards for politically correct speech is a “slippery slope”.

This path of political correctness has already led to repression of speech that will ultimately end in totalitarianism.



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