By JAMIE ALLARD
Freedom of speech: Is there any right more paramount to a free society? Without freedom of speech, there is no freedom of thought. And without freedom of thought, there is no wisdom. And without wisdom, a government will crumble. For to govern with wisdom, you must set the ideas free and the good ones will rise to the top. Just as truth will always find the light of day, so too will the good ideas rise above the scrutiny of public discourse. The restriction of speech is a red flag of tyranny.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” – Benjamin Franklin
If a bad idea cannot be challenged, nor a good idea tested, then we are left with a vacuum filled by power hungry politicians, who espouse their own agendas and would silence those who dare to disagree. Leaders who resort to censorship are threatened by free speech, because the power of the people would shut down their self-interests and politically biased decisions.
On several occasions, and lately becoming more the norm, I have been censored in public meetings. I have had my microphone muted, I have been ignored, deemed “out of order,” when it was within my right to call a point of order, and told to stop talking.
As an elected representative, when they silence me, they silence you. The question is why? What are they so afraid of? Are my words really so scary? Does listening to my point of view pose such a threat? If they can’t hear what I have to say, they certainly don’t care what you have to say.
My colleagues on the Anchorage Assembly have been allowed to ask questions, interrupt, imply motive, make comments out of debate, debate testifiers during public comment periods, and generally not been held to the same standards and rules of decorum as I have been held.
Now, I am not suggesting we throw rules to the wind and let chaos control an Assembly meeting. I am suggesting that silencing someone when it is their turn to speak because you do not like what they have to say is just plain wrong. Less than the glaringly obvious political bias, what concerns me most is this the naked censorship. We may not agree on how to govern this city, but we should agree on the fundamental principles which we have pledged an oath to uphold.
The line between a free society and the Gulag is as narrow as the stroke of a pen. For one act of censorship requires another and another until all speech is regulated to conform to an ideology. Free speech has fueled every great advancement the human race has ever achieved. But censorship is the slippery slope to all tyrannies perpetuated on people since time immemorial. We must do better. Do I like to sit and endure the name calling and accusations that sometimes come from the public? Of course not. But I will defend to the death their right to say it.
If we cannot preserve the fundamental freedoms of this nation, we have failed in our duty as public servants.
Jamie Allard is an Anchorage Assembly member representing Chugiak and Eagle River.