There’s so much talk about free speech these days. But what does “free speech” even mean? Why does it matter?
As Americans, free speech is our “first right,” from which our other rights flow.
Free speech is constitutionally guaranteed in the First Amendment, arguably one of the greatest codification of fundamental human rights in existence, as one of our God-given rights.
Even if you don’t believe in God, you have the right to free speech by nature of your being a human.
Despite the importance of free speech to American society, even those not “plugged in” to contemporary politics and culture can sense a narrowing of what is acceptable speech and what is not, about political correctness and the unwritten list of things one can and cannot say.
Is the government behind the increased stifling of free expression these days? Or is this political correctness and silencing of the “wrong” speech coming from somewhere else?
These are the questions asked and discussed in Silenced: Our War on Free Speech, the new documentary film from Loren Feldman (director) and Mike Cernovich (producer). And as an original Kickstarter backer of the film, I was lucky enough to have the chance to watch the film before it’s release.
As Harvard professor and First Amendment lawyer Alan Dershowitz says in the movie, we’ve largely won the free speech battle against the government. Our current culture of censorship, silence, and intimidation is coming from ourselves.
I’ve written about Mike Cernovich before, the mindset expert who made a name for himself with his book Gorilla Mindset, and, most recently, with his journalism and political activism. Silenced, his first film, explores Americans’ current obsession with censoring each other and what it means for the future of our politics and culture.
And while Cernovich himself is on the political right, don’t think this is a “political” film. There are many guests on the left, in the center, and those whose politics no one knows. And regardless of their personal politics, they all share a common belief: Free speech is vital to a free and open Western society. Choke it at your own peril.
Silenced features people a broad range of fields–science, religion, medicine, law, comedy, art, journalism . . . There are plenty of names you’ll recognize, including:
- Law professor Alan Dershowitz
- Conservative intellectual David Horowitz
- Tech titan Pax Dickinson
- Writer James Altucher
- Artist Bosch Fawstin
- Cartoonist Scott Adams
- Computer hacker Andrew Aurenheimer
- Journalists Dave Rubin and Milo Yiannopoulos
- Comedian Paul Provenza,
- Radio host Anthony Cumia
- Online personalities Ricky Vaughn, Uncle Ruckus, and my man Lord Aedonis.
Get the full list here.
The important thing is that Cernovich and Feldman let their subjects speak for themselves.
Silenced is skillfully edited, each segment crafted to create a coherent narrative with a definitive through-line discussing the importance of free speech to a given field, and how this silencing has affected it.
And while I would have preferred a little more context, mainly so those who will watch after 2016 or who aren’t paying attention to the current culture could understand the issues Silenced seeks to address, the film still makes sense on its own.
I also wish Silenced were longer. Some speakers tended to dominate the conversation, and there are others I would have liked to have heard more from. I get the feeling, though, that unused footage will be used in some way in the future.
Themes emerge in Silence, commonalities among the speakers, a huge one being that most of them have felt the ugly lash of censorship and stifled speech, some even losing their jobs over words.
Universities come rightfully under fire as hotbeds of intolerance–“safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and the cowardly professors who coddle and bubble students from anything resembling a challenging thought take a deserved amount of blame as the sources of much of these censorious attitudes.
But there is hope. Free speech is cool again, and those pushing the envelope in their respective fields are fighting back against this “you can’t say that” mentality.
Maybe I’m biased, but one of the most interesting speakers was Greek Orthodox priest Father John Bakas of Los Angeles. Father Bakas discussed the free speech tradition of the Church, using the examples of Christ, the Apostles, and the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament, who stood up to authority and told it not what it wanted to hear, but what it needed to hear, boldly proclaiming the word of God and facing the consequences.
And that is Father Bakas’ point, which gets to the crux of living in a free and open Western society: Free speech comes with responsibility.
Continuing the religious perspective, Rabbi Moshe Taub of New York City provides the Talmudic free speech tradition, as well as closing the movie out on an emotional, yet uplifting, note.
Silenced features Jews, Christians, Muslims, Nazis, anti-Semites, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, men, women, straights, gays, the young, the old, liberals, conservatives, and everybody gets a chance to talk.
It’s a fascinating movie, and well worth your time. Check it out when it gets wide release. It will make you think and give you a newfound appreciation for how brilliant our Founding Fathers were for implanting the idea of free speech into our cultural DNA.
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