What happens when we all grow too fearful to speak?

What happens when we all grow too fearful to speak?

The powerful will reign. Injustice will reign. Secrecy will reign. 

The people will be shackled, enslaved and deceived by those who seek to silence them. The power of the truth lies within journalism and it far exceeds the power that lies in governing bodies — be it an administration, be it a government or be it the tyranny of the majority. 

To what extent do we allow the people in power to determine what constitutes free speech? Is it really “free” if we must alter the truth out of fear of retaliation? Is it really “free” if we cannot speak without consultation? 

How long will it take before any sentiment of free speech has been eradicated?

A voiceless journalist has become a fixture at this college and in the nation. We save face before we inform our people. We save reputations before we ever place a pen to paper. We save relationships before we ever speak out against those in power. For what? For our people? For those in power? For relationships that are nothing more than a figment of our imagination?

 If I cannot speak and if I cannot share the truth without fearing what might happen next, free speech has been damned — journalism has died. 

Question anyone that tells you to blindly believe those in power. Question anyone who places relationships above integrity. Question anyone who tries to silence a journalist, a student, a voice.

How long do you really think free speech has if those who try to use it are coerced into silence? 

Silence is deafening and it reveals more than any story ever could. Be mindful of the moments when a journalist fails to speak or when a story feels empty. If it is too quiet then someone, somewhere has something to hide, and the truth has been compromised. Silence will only suffice for so long before people demand answers. Who will be there to give them?

People have the right to know what directly impacts them. People have the right to question those in power. People have the right to speak out against tyranny. Yet, here I am, selective with my words as not to offend, to challenge, or to grow too bold. Here I am, being mindful of a relationship that never should have existed before telling a story that needs to be heard. Here I am, advised to be mindful of my words in a story and be selective of my details for they may tarnish a relationship or upset those we are told to appease. How is that journalism? How is that free speech? 

When did we all become so fearful? 

We seek to be transparent, but only so much so as not to elicit too much attention. We seek to be beacons of truth, but only so much so as not to overstep our superiors. We seek to be the voice of those unheard, but only so much so as not to speak too loudly. 

The powerful can only maintain their power so long as we allow it. Our voices could resonate far beyond this campus, this nation, or this continent if only we would just speak. Fear is far more powerful than the drive to tell the truth, especially on a college campus. Coercion will always triumph if we continue to perceive those in power as superior to us and our fundamental liberties. What happened to “for the people”? 

We say that we stand for every liberty a student could have, but only so much so as not to encroach upon our own self-interest. We say that we want to be a transparent institution, but only so much so as not to allow the students to be too informed. We say that we care, but only so much so to avoid exposing our flaws. 

These are just observations from a student’s perspective. While this holds true for one individual, it might not for the next — a reality that must not be overlooked. One’s words may be powerful and full of promise and reassurance, but one’s actions dictate how the people perceive them. 

“Ask this, not that.” “Include only this, not that.” “Tell the truth here, but not there.” An altered truth is still fabrication. A framed truth is still fabrication. An omission is still fabrication. 

When did the powerful dictate the press? When did the press grow so timid? When did telling the truth become so controversial?

Was it when we allowed a relationship to muddle our integrity? Or maybe it was when we allowed ourselves to be bullied into submission out of fear of retaliation. 

Within you is power. Within you is liberty. Within you is hope. If we choose to only present half of the facts then we have enslaved ourselves, our people and our progress. I encourage you to speak loudly, boldly and fearlessly as not to become a puppet of the powerful. Nothing worse can happen to you than to lose the power within your own voice. 

Do not let free speech die, for with it goes hope.