Film Review: “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech”

Full disclosure: the author served as Head Researcher for this film. 

“Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” is a picture of free speech in America as we know it today. It is a reminder we live in a society where one tweet costs you a job, and a Facebook argument loses you friends in real life. The ninety minute documentary, directed by Loren Feldman and produced by Mike Cernovich, will grab you by the seat of your pants from the opening until the credits roll.

The movie shows you how America has created a culture of self-censorship in almost every aspect of life. Religion, the law, broadcasting, science, medicine, and even comedy all suffer from the cancerous culture of silencing voices with which we disagree. This uncomfortable truth is presented by the voices of many who have been silenced, including Chuck Johnson of Got News, Pax Dickinson, Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert creator) and more.

“Silenced” attempts to nail down a definition of free speech in the film. It’s not an easy task, and the different views of that which we call “free speech” reflect this. I’m not sure it reaches a concrete definition by the film’s end, but the best definitions are provided by the featured lawyers. Maybe that’s because in the legal profession words actually mean things, and concepts have meaning beyond the feelings of the individual speaker.

Some of the most interesting viewpoints and outlooks come from those who aren’t American or who immigrated to America. Perhaps this is because each comes or came from a place where speech ostensibly has greater restrictions than America. While each subject’s viewpoint was incredibly insightful, these intrigued me most because I am an American who’s lived in America all his life and haven’t really encountered restrictions on speech as they have.

One of the most hard hitting segments was the one involving comedy. Paul Provenza and Dulce Sloan’s remarks hit hard in “Silenced.” Standup comedy is supposed to be the bastion of truth, and something that gives us laughter while making us think. Instead, it’s been muzzled to the point comedians can’t work college campuses unless they keep in their repertoire a “super clean” set in addition to their standard set.

“I’m offended every day…I just choose to not be a little bitch about it.”–Paul Provenza

At the film’s end, one final question is left on the table. Will America ever return to a land where people can say what’s on their minds without fear of societal repercussions, or will we continue down the dark path of self-censorship and refrain from having honest discussions on subjects vitally important to us? I don’t see that question resolved, but the final scene before the credits roll gives me great hope for the future.

I’m not one for documentaries, but I found “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” compelling enough that I’ve watched it three times since its release. It’s a nice length in a world where people are forced to sit through three hour films. And most importantly, it will get you talking with those around you about free speech in America.

If you are looking for light-hearted fare, “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech” is not for you. If you want a film that will captivate you, keep your attention from start to finish, and have you talking with those around you more by the time you finish it, “Silenced” is your best bed. If you’re an American who’s ever had a moment where you deleted a tweet draft or a Facebook post because you were afraid of the potential repercussions, you owe it to yourself to see “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech.”

Currently, “Silenced” is available through Vimeo On Demand. You can rent it for $4.99 or purchase it for $9.99. It’s an important film, and one you won’t regret watching.

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