Take Courage My Friends
I wrote Behind the Carbon Curtain, The Energy Industry, Political Censorship and Free Speech over the course of 5 years—and it will be released in April (http://www.unmpress.com/books.php?ID=20000000006024). When I began, I couldn’t imagine that the president of the United States would evince utter disdain for the First Amendment.
This book tells the stories of artists, scientists, and educators silenced by the energy industry in collusion with the government. I hope that many readers are disturbed, even outraged. If I’ve succeeded, people will be wondering what’s next. What can anyone in a small town, or a large state, or a massive nation do about censorship?
Three elements of social action are worth considering. These insights may lack radical originality, but sometimes novelty is overrated.
First, with regard to free speech, nothing is likely to change—except for the worse—if we don’t recognize censorship. Those in power do not willingly give up their capacity to control material and social resources. So share my book with friends and neighbors. But share your own story, as well—at the dinner table, or during a coffee break, or after Sunday service, or in a Rotary Club meeting, or through a letter to the editor. But say something.
Second, heed the wisdom of Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Massive protests on the mall of Washington, DC, are great, but big changes often arise through the accumulation of small actions. I don’t know if we can fix censorship in Wyoming without national legislation to stop corporations from effectively purchasing election results. But we must begin to solve problems for which the solutions are yet to be imagined.
Third, as a university professor I’m drawn to the power of education. I worry that young people don’t grasp the nature or importance of free speech. Surveys by the First Amendment Center are profoundly revealing—and worrying. Consider that half of all 18-30 year-olds agree that the First Amendment overreaches in the rights it guarantees, while only a quarter of 46-60 year-olds agree.
In the end, I hope that readers come to realize how their own experiences and those of their neighbors are woven into a fabric of silencing dissent. In realizing that we’re in this together, each of us can be less alone—and more empowered.