It was my senior year of High School in my computer graphics class that I was introduced to the “shock jock” himself, Howard Stern. This class was an easy A and had a lot of down time working on computer projects. I was surrounded by senior boys who in all their worldly wisdom loved Howard Stern. Our teacher seemed too preoccupied to even care what was on the radio or even realize what kind of foul mouth language was coming through the airwaves. I am sure it gave some of the guys’ complete satisfaction to know I had to endure Howard Stern while they all laughed at his crass jokes and sexist humor. Free speech took on a whole new meaning to my 18 year old mind.
Fast forward twenty some years later and free speech really has the same meaning for me. As a teenager in that class, I was minding my own business and a part of an environment that thought and believed quite differently from me. There was never any doubt in my mind that Howard Stern did not think anywhere on my level (and yes, I say that piously). However, I never asked for them to turn it off or was outraged that I had to listen to what I felt was complete trash. If free speech is to truly be free than how can I control what others think or say.
I am grateful that I live in a country founded on the rights of the individual including free speech. I am not going to listen to comedians and commentators like Howard Stern, Bill Maher, or Keith Olbermann. I disagree with them but I never want to silence them. They actually just add fuel to my conservative banter and for that I am grateful. I am on the complete opposite side and that is freedom.
What is the most troubling for me is not that there are voices like Bill Maher in the world but that we have leaders and companies who might possibly want to control what kind of commentators we have in this country. The recent example would be with Rush Limbaugh’s comments about the Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke. He made a mistake and apologized but our own President had to give his own opinion on it and companies bailed out in advertising. I remember Howard Stern using derogatory terms for women many times and his ratings kept going up in the early 90’s. Maybe free speech is only free depending on what side of the line you are on?
I like the quote by Herbert Hoover when he says, “It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own”. I hope we never come to the point in this Nation when speech is ever threatened no matter what side of the line you may be on. In that computer class my senior year, I was on the other side of that imaginary free speech line. I kept silent and kept my own opinions to myself. I am now taking the liberty to voice my opinions here. The words of Howard Stern, Bill Maher or any liberal or conservative voice have no power over any of us. It is when speech is threatened and silenced that power comes into play.
I think I will end with a quote by a man who couldn’t possibly think any more differently than me. However, his words ring true even though we are on complete opposite sides.
“The worst way to defend our freedom is to let our leaders start taking away our freedoms! It is exactly during times like these that we need more freedom of speech, a strong and critical press, and a citizenry that is not afraid to stand up and say that the emperor has no clothes.” –Michael Moore
I would hope that Michael Moore would agree that his statement is true no matter who is in power and no matter what liberal or conservative commentator voice is represented. After all, free speech is freedom on any side, right?