Thursday, January 31, 2008


Maggie Gallagher writes about a new study finding that more Americans feel less free to speak their minds today than felt so constrained in the McCarthy era:
Between 1954 and 2005, the proportion of Americans who say "some people do not feel as free to say what they think as they used to" rose from 31 percent to 46 percent, Mr. Gibson reports. The proportion who agree that "all people feel as free to say what they think as they used to" dropped from 56 percent to 43 percent.

Americans were also asked: "What about you personally? Do you or don't you feel as free to speak your mind as you used to?"

Once again the data show Americans feel less freedom of expression now than they did in the famously conformist 1950s. The proportion of Americans reporting they feel less free to speak than they used to climbed from 13 percent in 1954 to 24 percent in 2005. ....

The mainstream Americans who perceive the most constraints on freedom of expression in the United States are Americans "sympathetic to religious fundamentalist and anti-abortion activists," Mr. Gibson tells me.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans say that if authorities decided to prohibit religious fundamentalists from holding "public rallies and demonstrations in your community to advance their cause," they would support a government ban.
Thank God for the First Amendment.
"More than one-half of these mainstream groups believe they cannot exercise full political freedom in the United States today," Mr. Gibson writes. "It is also noteworthy that the respondents least likely to perceive repression are those sympathetic toward gay rights activists and atheists." ....

...[O]ne of the great discoveries of political scientists since the 1950s is that a culture of freedom is maintained by elites as much as, or in some cases more than, the masses. It's not hard to persuade a majority of good folks to run the bad guy out of town - if they can all agree on exactly who the bad guy is.

But what happens when these same political elites decide that the views of a broad swath of Americans are no longer legitimate? You can see the cultural processes at play in the backlash against "political correctness," in the attempt to shut down debate on global warming and, of course, in the ongoing efforts to delegitimize support for marriage as the union of husband and wife by equating it to moral racism. [more]
Thanks to Gene Edward Veith for the reference.

The Bulletin - Philadelphia's Family Newspaper - Which Americans Feel Less Free? Not Who You Think

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