Free speech has become anything but.

Instead of engaging in productive dialogue to understand different viewpoints, people are lining up to shut down conversation. Sadly, these days the exercise of “free speech” comes at a price—bodily harm, verbal abuse, etc.

This trend is most evident on college campuses via the “safe space” movement.

Students at DePaul University refused to let conservative author and activist Ben Shapiro speak on campus for “security reasons,” yet they rolled out the red carpet for a convicted Palestinian terrorist (and leader of the Women’s March), Rasmea Odeh, who murdered Israeli college students.

This “free speech” hypocrisy can also be seen at recent congressional town hall events, where several representatives and senators have been shouted down and booed off stage.

For the left, free speech is free speech so long as they agree with its content. Say what they want to hear, and they’ll let you continue. Try to explain a disagreement and why, and they’ll shut you down.

This is problematic to say the least. So how can you advocate the importance of free speech when the other side refuses to listen? We have a few ideas.


 Common Ground

As always, start with common ground.

This will be especially helpful as you confront someone who is unwilling to validate your perspective and the fact you have one. Common ground is disarming because it makes you seem reasonable, and reasonable is a great place to start.

A debate of every issue is good and necessary. We have to give voice to all sides in order to make an informed decision. It’s helpful to know where others are coming from and how we can ultimately work together to find a solution that benefits everyone.


The good news? You have lots of examples to cite. The bad news? You have lots of examples to cite.

The two incidents mentioned in the introduction are great, but also let’s talk about Charles Murray.

Murray is a visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute with a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just last week, he was invited by several Republican students to speak on the campus of Middlebury College in Vermont.

Sadly, he was never permitted to speak. The students shut him down. They shouted insults and pulled fire alarms.

When Murray and a Middlebury professor tried to leave the event, they were physically assaulted and the professor ended up in the hospital.

Using this example (or similar ones) highlights just how dangerous this intolerance toward free speech can be.

Don’t just rely on the reasons why it’s important to have free speech—show it. Examples, personal anecdotes, and stories are the best way to win people to your side.


The words you use are especially valuable. One misstep and you risk fielding insults from the offended party.

The policy and history wonks among us (I’m one too!) love to make the constitutional argument for the openness of debate by referring to the “First Amendment.”

Unfortunately, in the world of Kardashian pop culture and TV shows like “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”, many Americans don’t know the First Amendment from the Fifth Amendment.

Stick to “free speech” to prevent confusion, but also make it uncomfortable for others to argue against free speech.

Free Speech. It’s fundamental to the American way of life. No one wants to be on the losing side of that argument, so make them make it.

Free speech isn’t free, which is why we have to talk about it. The only way to restore it is to keep having the conversation. Start with common ground to disarm, lean on examples to illustrate, and choose your words carefully.