The Biggest Threat To Free Expression Isn’t The Government

Scott Greer Contributor
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The last full week of June was one long victory lap for the cultural left. The Confederate flag is coming down in the South. The Supreme Court foisted gay marriage on all 50 states.

For the losers in these fights, it might seem like the government is set against your cause — which could very well be the case. But, fortunately, the government is not seeking to confiscate all privately-owned Confederate flags nor force churches to recognize same-sex marriages…at least, not yet.

Flying a rebel flag in your own backyard and a church’s right to not host a gay wedding are both protected by the First Amendment.

However, there is one element in our society that has done its utmost to infringe on this free expression of private citizens: corporations.

Through denial of service and economic boycotts, corporations have cemented one opinion in these cases at the expense of other viewpoints.

And while these large, multinational corporations might flaunt their right to deny service, they don’t like it when small mom ‘n pop stores do the same thing to gay weddings.

After the tragic shooting at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. two weeks ago, Walmart, Amazon, eBay and several other retailers removed the Confederate flag from their catalogs. In the words of Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, “We just don’t want to sell products that make anyone uncomfortable. We want everybody to feel comfortable shopping at Walmart.”

According to McMillon, “it was an easy decision.”

However, eBay went further than Walmart’s discomfort and denounced the flag as “a symbol of divisiveness and racism.”

The most troubling part of the brouhaha surrounding the flag is not Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina looking to remove the Stars and Bars from the grounds of state capitols. Many citizens take offense at the Confederate icon and have the right to seek its removal from the seat of state power.

What’s a problem is companies denying citizens who view the flag as an honorable symbol — or just something they like — the ability to procure it.

Most people want to buy Confederate flags as way of showing pride in who they are and where they come from. To these people, it is not a racist icon but a commemorative item that expresses pride in hailing from the South and having ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

But by preventing consumers from making the choice, these companies are effectively saying that the flag is a symbol of hate and those who wish to buy it are bigots who should do business elsewhere…in another country, no less. (RELATED: Turns Out Folks Can Still Buy All That Confederate Gear On Foreign Amazons)

Similarly, the collective might of Corporate America came down upon Indiana in the spring after its state legislature passed a religious freedom bill, which would’ve given businesses which refused to cater same-sex weddings out of religious principle a chance in court. (RELATED: Indiana’s Religious ‘Anti-Gay’ Law That Wasn’t)

This notion of affording religious people due process was unspeakable bigotry to many powerful conglomerates. Several businesses threatened to boycott Indiana over this legislation. Due in large part to the overpowering response from the corporate sphere, Hoosier State legislators quickly caved and drafted a toothless bill to replace Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The message sent by corporations was clear: there is no legitimate justification for opposing gay marriage and it is outright bigotry to do so.

The first problem with these progressive stances is the rank hypocrisy.

Several of the companies which removed the Confederate flag still do business with Mauritania, a country where slavery is still legal. You can even buy the Mauritania flag on Amazon! Not only that, but you can buy several products that were made by slave labor through these retailers.

Also, several of the companies that threatened to boycott Indiana do business with countries — such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar — where homosexuality is criminalized and even punished by death.

So the moral grandstanding is nothing but a sanctimonious facade. However, this facade has real-world consequences.

The abolishment of Confederate flag sales means that the symbol will be considered more dangerous than how-to-books for making bombs. The pressure on legislatures not to recognize religious freedom means that private citizens will have to forego their religious principles to avoid a lawsuit.

And woe betide anyone with politically incorrect views who work for these companies. (RELATED: Mozilla CEO Out Over Opposition To Gay Marriage)

Recently, this advocacy on the part of Corporate America has done more to undermine free speech and enforce mandated thought than any Supreme Court ruling or congressional act has.

We’re frequently told that we live in a pluralist society, but where, exactly, is the pluralism? More and more, it feels as if this so-called diversity is leading to unprecedented uniformity. No matter whether you live in rural Georgia or in Manhattan, you are expected to view the world with the same lens. And, pretty clearly, the approved lens is that of the Manhattanite.

Showing pride in your ancestors who fought and died for the Lost Cause is uncouth and prejudiced. Sticking to long-standing principles on marriage based on religious tradition is akin to espousing the merits of slavery.

Sadly, corporations are serving as the shock troops for this new dogma and punishing anyone who might dissent from it. While they may claim they’re only serving the customer, they’re in the process imposing ideological conformity.

And there are few things less American than that.

If we want to have a nation that still cherishes the First Amendment, we need to take a closer look at how the private sector respects it.

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