The First Amendment is more important now than ever before


Photo by Valerie Kibler

In February of 2021, the first block Newsstreak class wrote out the first amendment to celebrate scholastic journalism week,

Maya Waid, Editor-in-Chief

Even in the wake of what should be an era that relies so heavily on social media, I feel silenced. Often, I don’t even have the energy to open my mouth anymore. I am learning, though, always striving for better, and can only hope that in the future we shall all possess the freedom and will to speak yet again. 

Censorship is a threat. It is one that has risen, in recent months, to be more violent than I can ever remember. Media outlets suppress information, citizens only get one side of the story and nobody has the knowledge to form their own opinions anymore. I fear what our society will become if we continue down this path. 

COVID-19 started almost two years ago. Maybe it could have been stopped. We will never know though because of the cover-up in 2020 that enabled the virus to spread at an exponential rate among citizens of the world. When the outbreak was first discovered in Wuhan, China, medical professionals and others who shared the information via social media were quickly silenced. With the overshadowing fear of their government silencing them, anyone with information that could have mitigated the rapid spread of COVID-19 was quietly hidden. The suppression of such information and the detainment of journalist Zhang Zhan made it near impossible for people to stay informed on a constantly changing situation. 

Even as a freshman journalist, it was my goal to get the toughest assignments. The first personal encounter with censorship was when I was asked why I was “asking too many questions.” But, what is a journalist without questions? Merely an observer. In our society, there can be no such thing as overly curious. We should want to question, want to gain knowledge and want to stay informed. 

The First Amendment right to the freedom of speech overrules such oppression of the free exchange of information. Yet, millions live each day feeling unheard and invisible. The First Amendment protects us from the consequences against speaking our minds. In order for our society to continue as our founding father intended, we must relearn the importance of respect. 

In today’s society, politics are a dangerous topic. Political discussion has always been heated. However, following the insurrection of the United States Capitol, and reactions against social movements, it’s becoming so that no topic is safe to discuss. On January 6, 2021, right-wing extremists stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt and delay the certification of the election results. In a mob like manner, they violently seized control of a federal government building, all for a political statement. For our free society to operate correctly, we must understand how to tolerate the opinions of one another without reverting to such extreme acts of force. As stated in Students for Liberty, “An environment in which people can be criminalized for expressing their point of view will only serve to promote bitterness and resentment.”

Likewise, we must also learn the boundary of arguing and demolishing. As social media has become more integrated into our lives during the pandemic, we have developed what is known as “cancel culture”. The line between disagreement and bullying has been blurred. The idea of silencing someone and their platform for expressing their views has become a norm. We have lost all sense of what it means to have the freedom to voice your opinion without fear of repercussion. 

Cancel culture, especially in the high school setting, has become more evident in recent years. Students are targeted for their political views or social media content and then talked about across various people’s platforms in an effort to encourage other people to dislike or unfollow them. Social media and the internet have made it easier than ever to ostracize a specific person and silence them altogether. This is a clear violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. As teenagers and even adults in today’s society we must relearn how to respectfully disagree with someone’s point of view without completely burying their perspective. 

We need to grasp what it means to have freedom of speech. If we are unable to change our mindset and revert to the society our founding fathers intended, we will forever be lost in a world of censorship. The consequences this may present are already evident in our world today. Change needs to occur. It needs to occur now.