Freedom is threatened by rampant and abject ignorance

Here is proof positive that ignorance is hazardous to freedom.

The Freedom Forum’s 2018 First Amendment survey in May and June asked 1,009 Americans to name the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment — only one person could name all five. One out of more than 1,000.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of the survey was when knowledge of the First Amendment was compared to a willingness to have the government censor social media online. Fully 63 percent of those who could name not a single freedom agreed the government should censor speech, while 87 percent of those who could name four freedoms disagreed. The curve of ignorance runs counter to the curve of freedom. Knowledge is power and ignorance is hazardous.

This chart shows the just how few are those who would protect our rights to free speech:

That is dangerously close to a majority willing to let government do what the First Amendment says it may not.

For the record, the First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I been writing about this annual survey with considerable angst since at least 2000, though most of the links have long since disappeared into the ether.



12 comments on “Freedom is threatened by rampant and abject ignorance

  1. Bill says:

    It would be interesting if the survey was done of our educators from K-12 through college. . Bet that they would not do well on the survey. Kids are not taught anything about our Nation’s heritage nor the Constitution and government, except perhaps that our forefathers were bad and that big benevolent government is good.

  2. Terry Duck says:

    Great article, Mitch! Should open some eyes!


  3. Rincon says:

    You’re surprised at the ignorance of the voters?

    To some extent, the poll was designed to elicit the response it received. By reminding the respondents of their Constitutional rights, the surveyors brought Constitutional rights to the front of their minds. Naturally, those with less knowledge were prompted less than those with more. Nevertheless, the correlation is probably real. Better educated people probably place a greater value on Constitutional rights.

    It does not mean though, that conservatives are more likely to know their rights better than liberals. Of the 10 worst states for education, only 2 are blue, one is neither, and 7 are red. Of the 10 best, only 3 are red, 5 are blue, and 2 are neither.

  4. ronknecht says:

    Y’er gonna hurt some feelnigs w/ this kinda stuff.

    Ron Knecht Economist & Nevada Controller 775-882-2935 775-684-5777

  5. From the survey: “Across all the example scenarios, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to agree that the college or university should have the authority to retract the invitation to the speaker. The difference between the parties was smallest when asking about speakers who would be supported by public funds (a difference of 14 percentage points) and largest when asking about speakers who would be likely to offend some groups or individuals (a difference of 23 percentage points).”

    GOPers may not know their rights but they stand up for them more often.

  6. Steve says:

    Thing is, you don’t really know what you had until it’s gone.

    Or taken away.

  7. Anonymous says:

    GOP’ers more likely to stand up for their rights, and no one else’s. Democrats most likely to stand up for the rights of everyone.

    Funny that.

  8. Democrats are more likely to stand for redistributionism.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Republicans more likely to stand for oligarchs.

    This is fun!

  10. Democrats more likely to cower before dictators.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Republicans more likely to say that dictators are honorable and say that there’s a special place in hell for long time allies with whom this country maintains the longest undefended border in the world.

  12. Rincon says:

    Republicans guard their rights all right, but they can’t think outside the box. While obsessing about a big government that isn’t substantially bigger than it was in 1960 (with the major exceptions of Medicare and Social Security), they completely disregard international corporations which are larger than some countries that have our government dancing to their tune.

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