Sometimes, the truth can be painful

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, January 5, 2017

Free speech and a free press are important American rights. They are found in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; …”

The Fourteenth Amendment recognized these rights as applying to all state governments when it was adopted in 1868.

Other nations restrict these rights. Many nations have “secret police” or “special branch” officers that spy on individuals looking for those who criticize their government or leaders. These officers provide special privileges and money to people to spy on their friends.

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There are thousands imprisoned without a trial for saying something to a “supposed” friend who reports them. In extreme cases, people are executed for making comments that Americans would make without concern.

But Americans are not aware of how free speech and the press are restricted through peer, and economic pressure. It is not uncommon for Americans to support these restrictions without understanding the damage being done.

The most damaging approach to restricting freedom of speech and the press involves labeling truthful, meaningful statements as “politically incorrect.”

But how can truthful, meaningful words do harm?

There are many politically incorrect unspoken truths about many important American issues. These truths are not spoken or published, because many Americans believe it is wrong to say anything “hurtful,” no matter how true. Such truths might cause discomfort to people that cling to false myths. This is even the case when the truths should be spoken, recognized, and acted upon to improve the well being of many.

How can speech and the press be suppressed when there are no laws against these freedoms? The main suppression comes from economics. If publishers print candid, truthful articles or books, there is concern that customers will stop buying their papers, magazines, or books. It takes a brave publisher to go against the false myths that are common today.

It is unfortunate that many Americans support repression without recognizing it or understanding the damage. Our government doesn’t have to enact laws against free speech or a press as other nations do. Naive Americans accomplish the same results by labeling myth-breaking truths as politically incorrect and shunning those who speak them.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at