The Left Used To Support Radical Free Speech. Now They Abhor It. What Happened?

left opposes free speech
Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always had a penchant for all things radical. I sometimes argue that I was born in the wrong decade as I always preferred the rock and roll and punk rock of the 60s and 70s. Now that I am retired from military service, I even sport a bright red mohawk as a nod to my love of punk rock.

There was something poetic behind some of those older rock and roll and punk lyrics that I thought were special. But here’s my point.

It used to be that the liberals and the left were the ones who were the real punks, singing and screaming at times about ‘the man’ bringing us down and flippin’ the bird to the mainstream.

However, the times have changed. The left that supported radical free speech – think Berkeley and the 1960’s – now abhors it completely.  

Then And Now

Let me take you back to when Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones were huge; for those with no musical taste, that would be the 1960s and early 1970s.

This was the age of radical free speech and the liberal complaints about three letter government agencies acting as a kind of Gestapo bugging civil rights leaders and anti-war groups to stifle social change.

Fast forward to today, and the left talks of disinformation governance boards meant to police free speech in a very creepy 1984 Ministry of Truth sort of way. You can’t go a day without major news outlets reporting about calls from legislators to regulate social media content and weed out ‘disinformation.’ 

And don’t even think about questioning the motives of the beloved Federal Bureau of Investigation or Central Intelligence Agency. Whistleblowers be damned, these are government entities that should be trusted at all costs because questioning a 3-letter agency is akin to treason!

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Ban That Boogie Sound

Now I want to take you back a bit further to the 1950s. Of course, the music wasn’t as good, but the political intrigue was arguably just as fascinating as it is now. 

This time frame was marked by what is commonly known as the Second Red Scare. This saw the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the dreaded blacklists. 

Again, since our American education system is trash, let me bring up to speed those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about. McCarthyism and blacklisting was the concept that anyone thought to be a communist, regardless of any actual proof, would get fired and more than likely investigated by none other than the FBI.

The scary part is that you didn’t have to be a communist; you just had to have different views than the government or those appointed within your industry to report on you. Sound familiar?

It should. Because now it’s called getting “canceled.” Bizarrely it’s something that’s been embraced by the entertainment industry, which was the one that suffered the most, at least publicly, from blacklisting in the 50s. 

According to a New York Times and Siena College poll, only 34% of Americans believe all Americans enjoy freedom of speech completely. This is due to the ever-present fear that stating your opinion may not just cost you friends and family but could also cost you your job.

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Games Without Frontiers

But the strangeness of the times isn’t just limited to domestic concerns.

I served in the military for over 20 years and retired honorably. I traveled the country and the world for my service and deployed numerous times, including to Afghanistan. 

I left my service with a Bronze Star to my name and disability from various wear and tear of service, both physically and mentally. I was well known when I was in uniform to be a hard-nosed type of leader that believed in a strong military.

Our job was to work as one unit, and we were meant to take the fight to the bad guys because that’s what the taxpayers expect us to do, and by God, we should do it with precise lethality. So I have not been shy about my criticisms of military leadership.

I believe they are weak; they’re corrupt, and they cannot lead our young men and women into battle. I have also been critical of how we’ve gone about supporting Ukraine.

One of my recent articles, where I bring up concerns about intelligence failures during this awful war between Ukraine and Russia, earned me some harsh words from a friend, essentially labeling me a Russian sympathizer. 

Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend if you are bold enough to question our foreign policy. So am I alone in my concerns about how we are operating in this cold, soon-to-be-approaching hot war?

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Make War, Not Love

It’s interesting to me that the ones on Capitol Hill that seem hesitant to go full board on the war in Ukraine are not the liberals but a group of conservatives, and one that appears to be growing.

For example, Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry raised the following:

“We all want to help. At the same time, you know, we’ve got problems in our own country that remain unresolved, and we have no idea what the administration’s plan is. Like, what’s the end state? Where are we headed? Are our tax dollars being used wisely?”

Seems like reasonable questions to me. Yet these are the kinds of questions that can get you labeled a Russian propagandist. By leftists.

My similar questions have earned me the ire of some close to me who have insinuated that it is easy for me to disregard the deaths of so many innocent Ukrainians. As though I haven’t had my fair share of witnessing the death of innocent people in this world.

When in reality, my concerns are rooted more in what House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said:

“I think what you’re seeing is there are a lot of members that want to see more accountability in the Department of Defense and more of a focus on the threats that are out there.”

Think back to the 1960’s again. Can you imagine anyone on the left calling you a Soviet sympathizer for supporting diplomacy and opposing war with the nuclear power? No – it was too often those on the right who said that about the left. 

Think back to just 20 years ago. Can you imagine anyone on the left calling you a puppet of Saddam Hussein for opposing the Iraq War? Again, it was almost always the opposite.

Now, if you’re on the right and you oppose escalating against nuclear Russia, leftists will accuse you of, at a bare minimum, sympathizing with Putin. 

Just take a quick look around Twitter, and see how often leftists accuse even other leftists of being “paid in rubles” for merely asking questions about U.S. involvement. 

If you had a time machine and went back to Berkeley in 1967 and told a free speech protestor that in the near future, the American left would demand government and corporate-directed censorship and accuse people of being insufficiently supportive of nuclear war, they’d demand to know where you got the world’s strongest acid.

But it’s not just questioning war that can get you blacklisted; it’s also stating obvious truths.

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Don’t Wanna Be An American idiot

Daily, I see news headlines that you’d think would only be on Babylon Bee or The Onion but are actual real headlines. For example, women are no longer women, parents have no rights over their own children, and America is inherently racist because of our whiteness.

Liberals are actually paying for people to come to their homes, eat their food, and call them racists purely because they are white. I mean, how did this happen? 

Somewhere between who we were and who we are today as a society, we’ve decided it’s more gratifying to stroke our either victimhood or inherent villianhood than it is to be individuals. Somehow we’ve all decided that it’s better to just conform to the madness than to speak the actual truth to those with power.

And those who have power these days are the same who want you to submit to their victimhood and your uncontrollable status as an oppressor. So it’s quite the power play, and it’s working, unfortunately. 


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I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Sociologist Karl Dillemar researched in 2020 and found that one in four Americans are estranged from their families. That equates to about 67 million people. 

Those are alarming numbers. Now some of those folks are estranged for no doubt valid reasons. Family members can be abusive, and in many ways, it can be better for the parent or child to remove themselves from those abusive relationships.

However, many families have been torn apart simply because of political differences. Unfortunately, I have one of those families.

I have family members that no longer speak to me and refuse to see me based solely on the fact that I am a conservative. I also have friends who have cut me out of their lives because of my political views.

I had a best friend of over 20 years who was like a sister to me. We ‘grew up together,’ so to speak, in the military and had been there for each other through deaths, divorce, sickness, you name it.

My political views hadn’t changed over time, and neither had hers. We knew we were on two different spectrums, which never mattered until President Trump won. Then all that mattered was that I was a Republican, and 20+ years of support, hugs, and friendship disappeared like dust in the wind.

I Won’t Back Down

It is sad to lose dear friends because they decide you are the enemy because of a difference in beliefs. It’s also heartbreaking when a parent loses a child because of the same. 

I’ve been told I should dial it back because it makes people who think differently than me uncomfortable. I suppose I would still be in contact with some of my friends and that my family dynamic would be different if I had just conformed.

But that’s not very rock and roll, is it? So I can’t, and I won’t pretend I am something I am not because it irritates others that I don’t believe the same things as they do.

I won’t conform to fit into some definition that is convenient for mainstream because, well, dammit, I’m just too much of a punk to do that. We need more punks in the world these days, I think.

The closest to radical free thinkers that we have these days are Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, and Russell Brand. And I’d be happy to be lumped into that group.

If you can’t still love me and accept me when you disagree with me, then you cannot genuinely love, and for that, I am sorry for you. But, this mohawk-sporting Republican will keep speaking truth to power, so deal with it.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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