Freedom of Opinion in Democratic America
More than one hundred and fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion: within these barriers, an author may write what he pleases; but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” The United States have become much more democratic since he wrote these words, and the liberty of opinion has shrunk even more.
In this land of freedom where variety of diverse opinions are published, intolerance of dissent grows. A person who proclaims that one race, especially the white race, is innately more intelligent than another, especially the black race, he will meet an impregnable barrier of intolerance and ostracism — and if he is in the public eye, he will loose his job. (Jimmy the Greek lost his job when he made the unforgivable mistake of arguing racial inequality when he proclaimed that blacks were superior to whites as athletes.) Likewise, one needs only to aver the virtue of apartheid or advocate denying the right to vote to women or blacks to discover the intolerance of the American mind. To denounce Martin Luther King is an unforgivable sin. Other examples are questioning the commitment of the United States to Israel (fortunately, this is becoming less unforgivable), not maintaining one’s yard to the standards desired by one’s neighbors (hence, this a principal reason for zoning), and advocating the abolish of the public school system (the public school system is essential to a democracy for it indoctrinates the right way of thinking, i.e., thinking the thoughts and doing the acts of the mediocre majority, and to become a docile subject of the majority). To condemn homosexualism is now becoming unacceptable, for homosexuals are becoming part of the majority coalition. If a person’s opinion differs significantly from that of the majority, he expresses it with peril.
In a democracy there is one subject that can never be discussed openly and honestly. That subject is democracy itself. Criticizing democracy cannot be tolerated. It is forever forbidden.
An honest writer in the United States suffers a fate similar to that of an honest writer in the Soviet Union. He is not banished to Siberia or a mental institute — at least not yet — as is his Soviet counterpart. His books and articles are not published by any publisher of note. He does not acquire tenure at any eminent university. He is snubbed by his colleagues. All of this is done while the hypocrites who ostracize him are preaching the glory and virtue of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and the free circulation of ideas.
If a person is politically inclined, he ought never express his opinion when it differs from the majority. To freely express opinions contrary to those of held by the rulers, that is the majority, will end his political career. (For this reason, in the South, candidates prior to 1960 who advocated integration seldom won, and candidates after 1970 who advocated segregation seldom won. Also this explains why nearly all presidents of the United States since the Jacksonian revolution have been mediocre at best.) It denies him his chance to be a celebrity and many other forms of compensation. He faces scorn, ridicule, and ostracism.
As the United States become more democratic, the expression of opinions that deviate significantly from the majority’s opinion becomes more hazardous. Expressing dissenting opinions becomes more difficult. Freedom of opinion eventually dies. Free thinkers become strangers in their own land and among their own people.
Copyright © 1988 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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