This past weekend, I spoke at a huge rally in Wisconsin. Organized by Mike Lindell, the charismatic founder of MyPillow, the rally featured speakers such as Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, the black social media duo Diamond and Silk, my daughter Danielle D’Souza Gill, who is hosting a new weekly show on Epoch TV, and Lindell himself. Donald Trump called in and spoke to the audience via the Jumbotron. The atmosphere was festive, energetic, electric.
The theme of the rally wasn’t voter fraud—a topic close to Lindell’s heart, and one that came up several times during the rally—but free speech. In my view, this is the most important issue in the country today. It’s bigger than the economy, bigger than COVID-19, bigger than voter integrity laws, bigger than Antifa and transgenderism and identity politics.
Why? Because none of the other issues really matter if we can’t speak candidly and openly about them. Free speech is the basic currency of a democratic society. It’s the mechanism by which contested positions are aired, through which debate and discussion take place, and from which public opinion is formed. Without free speech, America isn’t a genuine democracy.
Even more, free speech is part of what makes us human. It’s how we communicate not merely in the political arena, but in all arenas. In modern society, we express our individuality—which makes us distinct—through how we think and how we feel and what we say. To repress free speech is to deform the human personality, to reduce humans to something less than human. Censorship is a form of barbarism.
In my speech at the rally, I spoke about how digital censors—a handful of personalities such as Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and a couple of others—basically control the speech of Americans in the public square. Who can deny that the technological platforms from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter are today’s public square? Once largely free, today’s public square is now tightly controlled.
The arbitrariness of this control can be seen in some recent strikes against me. I received a Facebook strike merely for posting Joe Biden’s statement that Antifa is merely an idea. He said it. Yet Facebook tagged it as “lacking context.” What context? Did Biden say other things about Antifa that I omitted? No. In any case, how can one reasonably require that all quotations provide full context? If this were the case, no one could quote someone else without providing their full remarks.
Facebook and other digital censors also shut down legitimate debate about the origins of COVID-19. They took down literally millions of posts because they contradicted the position embraced by Facebook’s fact-checkers. According to the fact-checkers, COVID-19 came from a wet market in Wuhan, not from the Wuhan lab. It was a naturally occurring virus, not one potentially souped up through dangerous “gain-of-function” research.
Now, obviously, the fact-checkers checked no facts in arriving at this conclusion. We know this because there are no facts to check. There is zero evidence that COVID-19 came from the wet market. By contrast, the clues suggesting a rival thesis were simply ignored. So this is a rigged, fraudulent review process that bears no resemblance to authentic fact-checking.
Some people think free speech is the same thing as the First Amendment. But this isn’t true. The First Amendment merely protects free speech from direct government intervention. With digital media, the government does coordinate with the digital moguls. At hearings, Democrats demand that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter censor more. The government provides Section 230 legal protections to the censors.
But censorship is also a problem outside the government realm. Think of an Islamic radical who tapes his wife’s mouth shut and refuses to let her speak. Or an institution that only lets women participate, or blacks, or whatever. These are free speech restrictions even though they occur in the private sphere. Or consider a local community that forces Christian bakers to make cakes with messages that they find morally reprehensible, that they don’t want to say. Compelled speech is no less abhorrent than prevention of speech.
Another theme I stressed at the rally was the danger posed to free speech by a partisan, dishonest media. With the mainstream media, we’re no longer dealing with “bias” or honest mistakes. This isn’t simply a matter of people with a left-wing disposition spinning the stories their way, to support their perspective. Rather, these are brazen liars who cheer digital censorship, use intimidation and humiliation to destroy the lives of people with whom they disagree, and who function like propaganda vehicles of the ideological left and the Democratic Party.
My remedy: “Don’t believe what you read and hear, even when it’s true.” It’s that last phrase, “even when it’s true,” that might rankle some people. Why would I say that? Well, think of a person who is a habitual liar. This person lies most of the time, say 75 percent of the time. Of course, the rest of the time—the other 25 percent of the time—what he says is true. But it’s simply too much trouble to try to tell the difference. A good rule of thumb is, don’t believe a thing that the guy says. Assume it’s a lie, and most of the time you’ll be correct.
America will not be a normally functioning society again until free speech is restored. This means that people are free to speak their minds on issues, including controversial issues, without getting expelled from school, or fired from a job, or canceled and ejected from social media. It also means we once again have a press that provides critical scrutiny of the government, operating as a check on power rather than a propaganda vehicle for it. Until then, we’re an unfree society, whether we realize it or not.
Dinesh D’Souza is an author, filmmaker, and daily host of the Dinesh D’Souza podcast.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.