Today, Benjamin Franklin is known for the many accomplishments he made during his lifetime. He’s revered as a founding father of the United States, and also as a writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, scientist, statesman, and diplomat.
Yet despite his many accomplishments, over the past year, Franklin has become a target of cancel culture.
Writing for Fox News, presidential historian and author Jane Hampton Cook says if the founding father were alive today, he would agree with 64 percent of Americans who believe that cancel culture threatens freedom. Why? Because he lived through it.
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Franklin was the publisher of the Philadelphia Gazette in 1731.
“Being frequently censur’d and condemn’d by different persons for printing things which they say ought not to be printed, I have sometimes thought it might be necessary to make a standing apology for myself, and publish it once a year,” Franklin published in his newspaper on June 10, 1731.
Some of his readers were angry with the young newspaperman. He had published an advertisement from a ship captain who had indirectly compared clergymen to loud birds and refused them passage on this vessel.
“Men are very angry with me on this occasion,” he wrote, pointing out that they judged his motive. He says his critics assumed, “That it could proceed from nothing but my abundant malice against religion and the clergy.”
So at the young age of 25, Franklin found himself being canceled.
“They therefore declare they will not take any more of my papers, nor have any further dealings with me; but will hinder me of all the custom they can. All this is very hard!” he wrote.
The presidential historian notes that despite his uneasiness with the situation, Franklin responded with freedom of speech and press principles that are just as important today as they were in 1731.
“I request all who are angry with me on the account of printing things they don’t like, calmly to consider these following particulars.”
“That the opinions of men are almost as various as their faces.”
“That the business of printing has chiefly to do with mens’ opinions; most things that are printed tending to promote some, or oppose others,” he said.
Franklin observed that most other businesses sold their products to everyone, including religions and ethnicities, without risk of “suffering the least censure or ill-will” or offending them.
“That it is as unreasonable … to expect (everyone) to be pleas’d with everything that is printed, as to think that nobody ought to be pleas’d but themselves,” he wrote.
Cook points out Franklin’s common sense applies even today as Big Tech continues to censor political viewpoints they disagree with and when corporations decide to take a political stand.
“Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public,” Franklin wrote. “That when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.”
Cook explains Franklin set the standard for fairness. Truth and evidence would win over error and falsehoods.
“His printing presses were the neutral referee,” she writes.
“Being thus continually employ’d in serving all parties, printers naturally acquire a vast unconcernedness as to the right or wrong opinions contain’d in what they print,” he explained, pointing out the need to be fair and objective.
“What would happen if publishers only printed material they agreed with?” Cook continued. “Freedom of speech would end and the world would only know one point of view: the view of those controlling publications. That is why cancel culture is so dangerous.”
Franklin, the young publisher, would not be canceled. But more importantly, he fought back.
“I shall continue my business. I shall not burn my press and melt my letters,” he wrote.
At the end of her Fox News article, Cook repeats her call to Americans to be like Franklin and fight cancel culture as we hold up the freedoms of speech and the press as beneficial to everyone.
“Today, 231 years after his death in the context of cancel culture, let us not leave these vital freedoms as food for worms,” Cook writes. “We must fight cancel culture, advocate for fair play, and champion these freedoms as beneficial to all, no matter our political views, skin color, sex or religion, and so on. Doing so will leave a more perfect edition for the future and honor God, the author of our freedoms.”