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Commentary: As progressives falsely claim ideological victory, free speech is in peril

Op-ed

There is too much at stake

Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Free speech is in peril, with big tech behemoths seemingly treating ideological diversity and free expression as futile social antiques — relics to be discarded at their discretion.

And as these self-coronated arbiters of moral truth seem bent on ensuring that anyone who dares defy their cultural lexicon pay the price via cancellation, social punishment, or a toxic amalgam of fear and uncertainty over what can and cannot be said, we're at a grim crossroads.

Americans have robust ideological, theological, and conceptual disagreements on a plethora of issues, yet some progressives are behaving as though these complex disputes are settled in their favor — and as though their liberal positions are synchronously sacred and sacrosanct.

Social media giants like Twitter have purportedly taken to punishing those who don't fall in line with the progressive mantra. Jim Daly, president of Christian ministry Focus on the Family, recently encapsulated this dynamic when he lamented "big tech titans" as the "new emperors of the twenty-first century, wielding an inordinate amount of power by silencing individuals and organizations that don't comport or cave to their political or social point of view."

Daly knows the weight of this reality, as his organization's media arm, the Daily Citizen, recently faced retribution for posting a Jan. 19 tweet describing Rachel Levine, President Joe Biden's nominee for assistant secretary of health, as "a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman."

Twitter didn't take too kindly to this characterization, reportedly accusing Daly's organization of violating Twitter's rules that prohibit "hateful conduct." Weeks later, the Daily Citizen's account remains locked.

"We have appealed the decision, but have been told by Twitter that, unless we remove the tweet that prompted the freezing out account, it will remain locked down," Daly told me.

He argues that his organization merely "pointed out a biological fact about Rachel Levine," yet it seems facts have become tricky things in the modern era, particularly when ideals don't align with progressive proclamations.

A similar fate befell Catholic World Report, an outlet that described Levine in a Jan. 19, tweet as "a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman." Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, told Catholic News Agency that he believes Twitter deemed the description "not just offensive, but even hateful" and, in turn, briefly locked the outlet out of its account.

These events only add to the angst many are feeling in the midst of cancel culture, free speech blunders, and menacing assaults on truth that rival the dystopian malfeasance perpetuated in Oceania of "1984." As Daly aptly notes, "Twitter's action has a chilling effect on free speech."

The issues surrounding these examples are certainly complex and controversial, but understanding what's at stake doesn't require agreement with Daly, or anyone else for that matter. It simply demands recognizing our indispensable American values of free speech and expression in the public square — ideals that are actively being violated and diminished.

Sadly, big tech bigwigs now seem interested in suppressing the expression of those with whom they disagree. This exacerbating demand for ideological compliance is perplexing, especially as Biden and other progressives are on loop rhetorically calling for "unity."

"This call for unity while demanding uniformity is taking deeper root daily in liberal circles, from politics to big tech," Daly said. "It is not the American way."

Standing up to this systematic silencing is the responsibility of every American, regardless of his or her ideological tribe. After all, you never know when you — like Daly and others — could find your own sincerely held beliefs on the chopping block.

Reasonable and decent Americans disagree about a great deal of issues, and that's OK. But social media's newfound role in marginalizing and suppressing views rather than allowing open discussion is a tragic blight on the values our nation holds dear.

As Daly pertinently proclaimed, "We must continue to engage the culture's gatekeepers to ensure that the freedoms our founders built into our 'more perfect union' remain robustly available to all who hold to and express ... truths those founders themselves believed to be self-evident."

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