Protecting Your First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech
Speaking Your Mind May Become America’s Favorite Pastime — Part II: Dennis Prager
You can’t say that! Or can you…
Freedom of speech. We know it’s protected in the First Amendment but what does it mean, and are we willing to give it up to be “comfortable”? Whether you are liberal or conservative, left or right, your rights are being eroded in America.
The highly anticipated crowdfunded docudrama/documentary, No Safe Spaces, starring comedian and podcaster Adam Carolla and nationally syndicated talk radio host and best-selling author, Dennis Prager. Prager also is the founder of Prager U, the most successful and most watched channel for conservative videos on YouTube, with more than 1 billion video views worldwide. The unlikely duo went on a cross country tour of college campuses exposing the root causes and the fallout from decades of politically-motivated censorship at an array of universities. The pair argue that an entire generation of minds on these campuses have been taught to eschew alternative opinions and despise debate.
Despite very different upbringings, atheist Carolla and Jewish Prager, both agree on common sense and values, and the importance of protecting freedom of speech. We talked with them in a two-part series on what sets America apart, social media censorship and the bigger conversation of choosing comfort over liberty.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Dennis, obviously, you and Adam Carolla have opposite upbringings, yet both share common sense and values. How did the collaboration come about for this film?
DP: I was quite honored to learn in the spring of 2011 that Adam Carolla had been listening to me on the radio for many years. I then invited him onto my show, and went on his. Our bonding was immediate. We are truly kindred spirits.
We soon began to be paired together for various live events, including a national tour of evenings in which Adam and I dialogued on stage about every conceivable subject, from the most personal, to the state of the world. After a series of private conversations about the decline of the primary American freedom — the one that sets us apart from the rest of the world, free speech — we decided, along with experienced filmmakers, to make a film on this topic.
RM: What was the filming process like? I understand cameras followed you around for a couple years!
DP: “Process” is the key word. As Adam likes to say, the only way to make a movie is to go and make a movie. We started with certain ideas about what this story would ultimately look like, but it grew and evolved into the terrific film it is today — thanks to the highly dedicated and talented people who made the film.
Making this film required a lot of work, but it fit into the rhythms of the lives Adam and I already led. We think and talk about life, and about the issues confronting America, for a living, and we travel for a living. Our director and producers beautifully captured all that over the past couple of years.
RM: There is a scene in the film that reflects on a time in college when you were sent to the Soviet Union – and you experienced life under a totalitarian regime (where freedom of speech did not exist). What did you learn from that?
DP: I learned many things from my time in the Soviet Union. It was a life-changing trip. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that many — and today, perhaps most — Americans do not appreciate how fortunate they are to live in America. For all its flaws, there has been no other place like it in human history. A related realization was that free societies are aberrations; oppressive states are the norm. And now I realize something else: most people value being taken care of much more than they value liberty. That’s why colleges provide “safe spaces” for left-wing children — and they are children — who need to be coddled and “protected” when a speaker with whom they may differ comes to campus.
RM: How does freedom of speech set America apart, and why is it currently threatened?
DP: The French gave America, and only America, the Statue of Liberty for good reason. No country embodied or fought for liberty as much as America did.
Whereas the French Revolution emphasized equality, the American Revolution emphasized liberty. What most people — including Americans — do not understand is that liberty is a value, not a human yearning. Most people yearn to be taken care of more than they yearn to be free. That is why the left everywhere has always had an advantage: it answers the yearning to be taken care of. And it appeals that side of human nature which resents people who have more.
It is clear — as this truly important film makes clear — that, for the first time in American history, this value is being rejected by large swathes of the American people — almost half of Millennials, all leftists, some liberals, virtually every college and university, and the mass media. These naïve Americans, having experienced only the legacy of freedom bequeathed to them by our Founders and those who subsequently fought and, in too many cases, died to protect that legacy, think the sacrifice of some degree of liberty is a price worth paying for economic security and “equality.” They can’t imagine that here in the USA, it will ever go too far.
RM: How did you pick the college campuses to highlight where freedom of speech has been under attack, as well as the individuals that have been singled out?
DP: Unfortunately, there was no shortage of campuses to highlight or people who do not value free speech to interview. We got more footage than the producers knew what to do with. When you’ve only got about 90 minutes to tell a story in this format, you have to be judicious in what makes it to the screen. Our team has done a magnificent job of putting together a compelling, balanced exploration of freedom of speech (and the lack thereof) in modern America.
RM: I think a really important distinction is that freedom of speech protects regardless of who is speaking, expand if you will on why this is key.
DP: This is the idiocy of all these young people saying, “We’re for free speech, just not hate speech.” They have been brainwashed into incoherence. If there is no free speech for what you deem “hate speech” (the definition of which is “that which offends the left”), there is no free speech. Period.
You do not have to protect “love speech.” We don’t need laws protecting kind words or good-natured people.
I recall when I was young man a Nazi march in Skokie, IL. These vile people chose Skokie because many survivors of the Holocaust lived there. As a Jew, I couldn’t imagine a more despicable march in America. Yet, virtually every liberal and Jewish organization defended the Nazis’ right to march.
That is America. Or, rather, that was America. But no longer. See the film and you’ll understand why.
RM: Being in the media industry, I find the use of technology both fascinating and frightening. With the algorithms of social media, the censorship or YouTube, the analytics of Google – “they” are skewing the conversation in their favor and dominating the space. They are too big to be ignored so how do we navigate or possibly combat what is taking place?
DP: This is the great question of the moment. Never have such a relative handful of people controlled virtually all information disseminated in the world (outside of China, North Korea, etc.). And they are all leftists, not liberals, let alone conservatives.
For example, YouTube, which is owned by Google, has placed hundreds of PragerU videos on its restricted list which means the videos won’t play on devices using YouTube’s “restricted mode,” meant to protect children from violence and pornography. We have sued, and the case (or others like it) could end up in the US Supreme Court. It may also take congressional action to force Google, Facebook and other tech giants that have become the “town square” of the 21st century to live up to their promise to provide an open forum in exchange for exemption from liability for libel, slander, copyright infringement, etc. I hope not. But these companies are not committed to free speech.
RM: What gives you the courage to speak out on this topic?
DP: I am not certain. I have asked myself this question all my life: why do I have courage and most people do not? So, in a nutshell, here are some answers (not necessarily in order of importance):
1. It is in my nature. This answer bothers me, because it would suggest that people who are not born with courage cannot become courageous. SO, I look at it that this way: some people are born with an innate ability to be piano virtuosos, but that doesn’t mean no one else can become a good piano player. Even people without inborn musical ability can learn to play a musical instrument proficiently. So, even if you are not born with courage, you can acquire at least some courage if you seek to do so.
When I was in elementary school, I used to be punch class bullies (and got kicked out of school a few times for doing so). Today’s class bullies are the left.
2. I have never sought to be loved or famous. I have been guided by religious values, paramount among them “Those of you who love God: hate evil.” I sleep very well at night no matter how much I am attacked. I wouldn’t sleep well at night if I didn’t fight.
3. I fear God more than man.
RM: What surprised you most about making No Safe Spaces?
DP: I was well aware how bad things are at the universities. I was pleasantly surprised at all the liberals who spoke out against “safe spaces” and suppression of viewpoints they don’t necessarily agree with. It confirmed my belief that liberalism and leftism have nothing in common.
I was surprised at how good the film came out. (The way I gauge that is I’ve seen it from beginning to end, with a few edits and other tweaks, five or six times by now, and each time I’ve found it riveting.) And I take no credit for it. Adam and I “star” in the film, but the directors, producers, and writers made the film. It is a great achievement.
RM: Tell us about the book that goes with the film.
DP: That, too, was a great achievement of the film’s writers. It is one of the most important books on freedom in America today. Everyone who cares about America should read it.
For more information visit NoSafeSapces.com
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