The French philosopher Voltaire once said, to paraphrase: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Today’s leftist has amended this to: “I may not agree with what you say, and you only get one chance to say it before we defend our right to silence you.” One of the first actions of the very first Congress after the Constitution was ratified was to write and have passed a Bill of Rights. Part of the reason was to silence the concerns of many Americans at that time who believed that a strong centralized government would trample on some basic rights which they fought for and whose fight was vivid in their memory. At the top of the list was the right to free speech as enshrined in the First Amendment. You can look it up: it is right there after the Religious Freedom (establishment and free exercise of) clauses. It is no accident of history that it appears in the First Amendment- front and center.
Yet today, there is a clear assault on free speech on college campuses, in corporate boardrooms, in the media and elsewhere. In the turbulent 1960s, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren expanded free speech rights and no court watcher denies that the Warren Court was perhaps one of the most liberal and activist courts in American history. But it becomes very ironic today that the greatest assaults on free speech come not from the Right,but from the Left. Today’s Leftist openly embraces the dictum of Herbert Marcuse who in 1965 said that social justice demands a repression of certain rights to free expression. This laying aside of individual liberties for the good of the overall society is socialism by any other name because the economic goals of socialism cannot exist without these repressions of individual rights.
What is scary today is the sheer number of examples and the Left’s unapologetic, almost celebratory embrace of these repressions. They have created a self-righteous culture of intimidation against those beliefs and dogmas that stand in opposition to their beliefs and dogmas. By controlling the conversation- all in the name of the “common good-” they instill their worldview and ultimately their politics and policy preferences upon the remainder of society.
Fortunately for conservatives, we have remained true to the cause of free speech in general. Yes, it is true that we do not accept or believe the Left’s beliefs and policies, yet do we try to silence them? Although we may not control the reigns of power in the mainstream media nor in academia, but overall conservatives are more tolerant of views in opposition to our own. Instead of shouting down the opposition or running them out of town on a rail like the Leftists, our goal is education and an appeal to commonsense and personal liberty.
Just this year alone has saw some unprecedented assaults on free speech rights. Recently, the CEO of Mozilla had the temerity to exercise his free speech rights and support California’s Proposition 8 half a decade ago with a measly $1,000 contribution. Apparently a person like the President of the United States’ views on gay marriage can “evolve” in half a decade,but not a CEO at Mozilla. Not to be outdone, the leaders over at Apple encourage those of us who have the audacity to question global warming to not invest in their politically correct worldview. To them, I say no problem: there is always Dell, Intel, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, etc. Because the star of a popular reality television series makes some comments which, when taken completely out of context, may appear to go against the beliefs of the LGBT community, an uproar ensues and a television network reacts by pulling the show until cooler heads (and dollars) prevail.
Nowhere is the right to free speech more important than in the area of political discourse. Here, the Left has come with the obligatory but totally expected reactions against a recent Supreme Court decision which affirmed these basic rights- a fact lost on the Left. What perturbs this writer is when conservative voices like George Will then embrace a moderate acquiescence to liberal beliefs and call for a constitutional amendment to control spending in political campaigns. Congress has the power, under the Constitution, to regulate elections, not campaigns. The reason is an historical fact. There were no campaigns when the Constitution was written and codified. Thus, how can the Constitution shield campaign finance laws and the like? This ignorance of basic American history is par for the course for Leftists who tend to bend and twist historical fact to their cause. Hence, we hear from the Left that our Founders would be appalled at John Roberts and the Supreme Court today.
In academia, there are almost daily attacks on free speech directed against students and faculty alike. Largely overlooked by the mainstream media, three recent incidents illustrate this problem. At the University of Michigan, a student was reprimanded for trying to organize a symposium on- of all things- free speech. At Vassar, a faculty member was reprimanded for attempting to organize a trip to Israel. And at St. Louis University, the campus Republican student group was barred from inviting Scott Brown to give a speech. All of these infringements on a basic right were justified in the name of the common good or some arcane, rarely-if-ever enforced policy. And the censorship occasionally works both ways. In September, a professor at the University of Kansas was suspended because he posted an anti-NRA message on his personal Twitter account.
The most recent liberal attack on free speech involves Brandeis University in Massachusetts and their decision to dis-invite noted women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her mind crime is that she is too openly critical of the treatment of women in Islamic countries. While the Left in the United States uses divisive language and skewed statistics to justify a “war on women,” the real war on women on this globe is ignored and when someone actually states the truth, they are silenced. In this case, it was the Islamic/Arab group CAIR that led the charge of “racism” and “Islamaphobia” against Ali to which the spineless administrators at Brandeis bowed. To her credit, she penned an editorial in Boston newspapers outlining what she would have said- that Islam is a religion and belief system that subjugates women. As she notes, today in Iraq- whose “democracy” we helped establish and secure with American blood and money-is considering a law making the acceptable age of female “defloration” 11-12 years old. Imagine that: a liberal college silences an outspoken critic of what amounts to pedophilia in most countries.
And that exposes the Left’s most serious problem- they simply cannot handle the truth. There are objective truths in the world such as the misogynistic beliefs of Islam, the fact that the earth has not been “warming” or that hurricanes cannot be linked to global warming if it exists, or that people have heart-felt beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, or that campaign finance laws are nothing but feel-good legislation. This (one author says) self-righteous culture of intimidation is a natural outgrowth of the Leftist mind since the Left is theoretical and their policy solutions, when applied to the real world, confront these truths. There are very few,if any, truly successful socialist countries. In those that persist, they exist simply because of repression of fundamental rights we take for granted. Because the people of Cuba or North Korea do not know how much better it is outside these counties, they accept their poor existence. Yet the very freedoms that some people die for elsewhere or who come here to enjoy are then denied them by the American Left.
In the end, although I am not a particular fan of Ann Coulter (she is one of those conservatives who shout the opposition down), there is truth in her belief that you cannot reason with a liberal. Since they cannot reason, they are left with a more basic tool- intimidation. Thanks to people like Ronald Reagan, who rescinded the so-called Fairness Doctrine, there are now more outlets to find the truth and allow people to make their own political decisions and policy preferences. Bending conservative beliefs as in the Mozilla case where liberals say that the market spoke is ludicrous. No one was dropping Mozilla’s Firefox as a search engine because their CEO made a $1,000 donation to Proposition 8 proponents 6 years ago. However, people were demanding the return of Duck Dynasty on A&E. That is the underlying truth the Left wishes to repress- that at heart this country is right of center and that we hold dear our personal liberties above all else.