The New York Times ran an even-handed editorial denouncing threats to free speech from progressive cancel culture and conservative attempts to legislate speech in the classroom. For a surprising number of commentators, one of America’s largest newspapers taking a moderate stance in favor of free speech was a red flag. Critics from both the left and right denounced the Gray Lady for “both-sidesism,” highlighting the very social fissures the editorial describes.
Most notable are the results of recent poll commissioned by The Times Opinion and Siena College. It found:
The Times article is long, detailed, and worth reading. It is balanced and incisive, though with many debatable points. Overall, it does a good job of summing up that this crisis is largely the result of America’s culture and ideological wars, not the kind of government censorship one finds in Putin’s Russia.
The Times observes that “the old lesson of ‘think before you speak’ has given way to the new lesson of ‘speak at your peril.’” We are reminded that the letter of the First Amendment, which forbids official censorship, necessarily relies on a widespread spirit of tolerance. And free speech is further encouraged when we have curiosity about issues in which “the other side” might actually know something we don’t.