Despite his professed love for the Constitution, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly seems to have very little appreciation for what “freedom of speech” means.
“The left does not want to hear dissenting opinions, and if you put them out, they will try destroy you,” O’Reilly said on his program Monday evening.
How, pray tell, will the left destroy you? By signing a mean petition about you on Change.org, a liberal organizing site.
O’Reilly noted that CNN’s Don Lemon and “The View” host Raven-Simoné recently were subjects of Change.org petitions calling for them to be fired after they expressed unorthodox views about a recent video showing a cop manhandling a female high school student in class. When the story broke, Lemon advised viewers to reserve judgment of the officer until all the facts were known. Simoné said that while the cop’s actions couldn't be justified by whatever the student had done, the student should have stopped talking on her phone when asked.
You could say the people who drafted the petition and those who signed it are being absolutist in their views. But O’Reilly seems to believe that a bunch of Internet users signing an online petition disapproving of something you said is an infringement of free speech.
“Freedom of speech in this country is under attack, [and] it's under attack primarily from the left,” O’Reilly said.
O'Reilly's guest, radio host Laura Ingraham, then chimed in, claiming that people disagreeing with you on college campuses also violates free speech.
“This is a left-wing shaming industry that seeks to shut down dissenting opinions,” Ingraham said. “We see it happening with the speech codes on college campuses, with the changing of the pronouns. If you say something that is even slightly objectionable to one person, you are a hater, you are branded as disloyal to the sense of community on campus.”
O’Reilly interjected, devolving into self-parody.
“That is the beginning of a totalitarian society,” O’Reilly said. “Every totalitarian society started there.”
Freedom of speech does not mean people can’t react badly to what you say, even if they go as far as signing a petition against you. Nor does it stop you from being thought of as a jerk for refusing to call transgender people by the pronouns they prefer. And having either of those things happen is certainly not the “beginning of a totalitarian society.”
Bill-O, the First Amendment of the Constitution forbids the government from interfering with your freedom of expression. Nowhere does it say other citizens aren’t allowed to disagree.