Freedom of speech is one of the great cornerstones of American democracy.
This liberty coveted across the globe didn’t come by accident — our Founding Fathers knew, from personal experience, the dangers of censorship and suppression. There’s a reason freedom of speech is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—at the very top of the Bill of Rights. The Founders created a framework to purposefully prevent tyranny by protecting speech in America’s newly-formed government. The value they placed on freedom of religion, speech, and the press is undeniable.
But these well-designed privileges are not universally respected. In a 2020 survey, more than 60 percent of students said they believe free speech is limited on their college campus. This limits students’ exposure to various viewpoints and ideas that empower our nation’s future leaders to become independent thinkers. Our students should be taught how to think — not what to think. Freedom of debate and ideas is the left’s worst nightmare because they believe in a bigger government that uses controlled speech to control actions. And they are working to eliminate dissenting views from the conversation.
We are seeing instances play out in every sector where speech is free unless you disagree with the radical left. Big Tech, corporations, and universities are trampling on traditional American values, all while promoting woke ideologies. There has been a dramatic shift from principled rejections of falsehoods, to partisan restrictions on speech that contradicts the political views of the people in control.
The most recent instance of this is AT&T and DirecTV removing conservative channel Newsmax from its platforms under the guise of cutting costs. Yet, the company has no issues retaining other liberal channels with lower ratings than Newsmax, which calls DirecTV’s true motives into question. While television companies are private businesses free to make their own decisions, this move is indicative of the broad range of sectors moving to silence conservatives, from media and entertainment, to the government itself. Businesses restricting speech they don’t like should concern all Americans.
Sadly, Newsmax isn’t cancel culture’s first — or only — target. Twitter banned the leader of the free world from its platform in 2021 and took similar action against other conservatives. The social media platform cited safety as the reasoning for its actions, even though tweets comparing the United States and Israel to the Taliban didn’t warrant the same concern.
Twitter also took issue with those defending women’s sports, suspending former U.S. Representative Vicki Hartzler’s account over a post about biological men competing in women’s sports. But this was just the tip of the iceberg — we’ve now learned of even more Twitter censorship that occurred over the last few years, some potentially at the direction of government agencies, which would be a shocking violation of the First Amendment. I’m thankful for Elon Musk’s efforts to correct Twitter censorship, but it’s still alarming to see how a handful of leftist Twitter employees had free reign to silence opposing viewpoints.
Universities and social media platforms aren’t the only ones refereeing by the left’s playbook. Big banks are caving to pressure from woke activists who oppose loans being given to businesses that don’t fall in line with the liberal agenda. In 2020, five of the country’s largest banks announced they would deny loans and credit to companies drilling oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though the drilling was congressionally approved.
More recently, Capitol One, Apple Pay, and Pay Pal updated their policies to prohibit gun purchases for its customers. I supported legislation to ban big banks from making financial backing decisions solely on partisan lines, and will continue to push back against the left’s censorship crusade. Financial access discrimination based on political beliefs is un-American and wrong — but it’s happening because of the example set by our own government.
Societal decline begins by limiting the free exchange of ideas, and it’s up to all Americans to ensure our rights aren’t stripped away. We must stand up to attempts to overtake our schools, media platforms, banks, and government agencies so America continues to guarantee freedom of religion, speech and press to all who come after us.
Tommy Tuberville is the U.S. senator from Alabama and a legendary college football coach.