September 29, 2020

Gagging on free speech

Gagging on Free Speech
by Michael Spencer

One of the premises of the Internet Monk Web page concerns the relationship of liberalism and tyranny. From time to time, I suffer certain anxieties that the assertion of this relationship- namely that the Democratic party and its partners in crime are the instruments of tyranny- will offend readers who are left of center, but still good people who would never hurt a fly. Then current events remind me of just how far down the road towards tyranny we have traveled, and I am freshly convinced to continue my career as an internet pamphleteer, warning of the growing plague among us.

One of my favorite classically liberal performances was the shock and outrage at Pat Buchanan’s “culture war” speech at the 1996 Republican Convention. Taking their script from Castro’s denial that there were any nuclear weapons in Cuba, the left portrayed Buchanan as a hateful alarmist inventing a culture war where there was none. They were feigning outrage while burning villages. We can only wonder what the liberals would call the actions of a leftist mob on the Brown University campus as they stole an entire press run of the campus newspaper containing an ad by conservative writer David Horowitz. Just picking up litter?

Horowitz is responding to the escalating fad of saying that America owes African-Americans financial reparations for years of suffering and oppression. His “Ten Reasons Reparations are a Bad Idea- and Racist, Too,” may not be flawless, and it is not the obligation of any paper to carry any ad, but the ad is calmly reasoned and articulate, the sort of thing that you might find in a high school debate or read in any opinion column. Horowitz doesn’t engage in anything more than exactly what the title of his piece says: he analyzes the ideas supporting reparations and concludes they are faulty and very likely to inflame, not resolve, America’s racial tensions. In fact, it is the effective use of history, logic and facts that are the real problems here. Horowitz demolishes the carping assertion that reparations are a reasonable solution to our racial problems. The left has nothing resembling this kind of well-reasoned case. So, kill the messenger. In this case, the Brown University Daily Herald.

The mob who stole the entire press run of the Daily Herald containing the ad justified their actions in a letter to the editor, saying that free speech is not a right that operates in a vacuum, trumping the right to protest. They see their actions as “free speech” as well, and compared it to shouting down a group of Klansmen holding a rally on campus. Other letters demand that the editorial staff of the campus paper be replaced, because they are “careerists” and “opportunists” and did not represent the university community. Defenders of the action, appearing on the networks, have painted themselves as automatically morally superior to anyone who disagrees with them, therefore justifying whatever they might do as right.

These are familiar liberal justifications for tyranny. If the opposition has out-reasoned you, then call them names, shout them down, demonize their motives and take to the streets. Increasingly, liberals must resort to verbal and physical intimidation when they have lost the intellectual debate. The aura of victimization seems to confer the right to be a brat, and the university campus is one of the few places you can act like this with impunity, since the liberal administrators generally look the other way if the bad behavior in any way relates to diversity and multi-culturalism. (We need not imagine what would happen to a mob of conservatives doing the same thing in objection to a pro-homosexual ad.)

But I see a larger issue at work, not just on the university campus, but across America. Liberals are gagging on free speech. The resurgence of conservative ideas into print, publication and broadcast media, has clearly caught liberals off guard. When they could count on being the only intelligent speaker on the program, they could sound like Kennedy. When conservatives showed up with powerful and appealing ideas and responses, the left started sounding more like Stalin.

The most distressing example is the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Putting aside McCain’s commendable desire to cleanse politics of anything resembling human nature and allowing us all to be angels, what we really have is a way to erase free speech, particularly by issue oriented groups. Does anyone have any doubt why the media has made McCain’s crusade so sacrosanct? In an America where ordinary people can’t ban together and use their money to run pro-life, pro-conservative, pro-traditional values messages, Americans will be left with the major media to inform them what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false. Dan Rather must be praying around the clock for this bad idea to triumph.

Liberals gagged on free speech when the presidential election didn’t go their way. They’ve gagged on free speech on the issue of religion in the public square. They’ve gagged on free speech every time that free speech meant conservatives would be heard and their ideas given equality in the arena of policy and debate. Liberals believe themselves to be anointed with wisdom, justice and compassion- and they are increasingly willing to use force to make sure everyone knows it.

Are conservatives exempt from this problem? Unfortunately, we sometimes show the same tendencies, motivated by revenge and a desire to even the score. It is important for conservatives to remember that our ideas do best when seen in contrast with liberalism, not in isolation. When our agenda is winning over young hearts and minds, we can’t afford to make the mistake of turning liberals into victims. When you are right (and we are) you simply need to let your light shine rather than stomp out the other guy’s light. Remember they are always surprised when we’re not mean. (Watch how the Democrats are working full time to make Dubya look mean and heartless- a tough job.)

What should conservatives do when liberals reveal their true intentio to silence the opposition? We must learn the lessons of history. Work hard. State your case, suffer publicly and with dignity. Go back and keep doing what you were doing, and do it with more commitment and enthusiasm. Let your actions, words and manner reveal the other guy to be a bully. And believe that Americans, at the end of the day, don’t like bullies.