Silencing the opposition.
Polling released by Pew late last week reiterates a disturbing trend among the millennial crowd — the desire to censor free speech.
Pew looked specifically at statements offensive to minorities.
We asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups, while 58% said such speech is OK.
Even though a larger share of Millennials favor allowing offensive speech against minorities, the 40% who oppose it is striking given that only around a quarter of Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%) say the government should be able to prevent such speech.
The findings also show women are more likely to want government censorship of offensive speech than men and that the belief in limited free speech increases as level of education decreases.
Despite millennial preference for censorship, America’s first amendment love is still well above the global par. 95% of Americans polled believe being able to publicly criticize the government is a-okay. That number shrinks to 67% when it comes to public speech offensive to minority groups. Interestingly, people are less tolerant of sexually explicit speech than anything that might offend minority groups.
Even though broad democratic values are popular, people in different parts of the world have different ways of conceptualizing individual rights and the parameters of free expression. Publics tend to support free speech in principle, but they also want limitations on certain types of speech. While a global median of 80% believe people should be allowed to freely criticize government policies, only 35% think they should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or that are religiously offensive. Even fewer support allowing sexually explicit statements or calls for violent protests.
Americans, however, are more willing than the rest of the world to tolerate these forms of speech. Large majorities in the U.S. think people should be able to say things that are offensive to minority groups or their religious beliefs. About half (52%) say this about sexually explicit statements, and more than four-in-ten (44%) think calls for violent protests should be allowed.
These are among the main findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted in 38 nations among 40,786 respondents from April 5 to May 21, 2015.
Collectively, we have our work cut out for us. Free speech, regardless of who it offends, is an essential component to the longevity of the great American heritage. Finding a way to communicate the importance of free speech, even the most offensive variety, is something we must do and quickly.
[Featured Image: Brown University protesters shout down former NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly]
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