Silencing Dissenting Views And Telling Us How To Think
Published on November 17, 2018
The banner of the Washington Post reads "Democracy Dies in Darkness." This went up as soon as Donald Trump won the 2016 election. Since this time there has been a constant push to skew reporting to the left. While news has since the beginning of reporting been skewed to one side or the other, it has never in a democracy been this partisan and coordinated. Additionally, we see a concerted effort to redefine free speech. The founding fathers were very afraid of large government and how it could, not only control information, but silence the minority. To cure this problem the founders wrote the first amendment, allowing for freedom of speech, press and religion. The reasons for this were explained in the Federalist Papers, most notably Federalist 10.
I would recommend reading it, but to give you the short version it says that by allowing all sides to be heard we reduce the potential for any one side to control the argument completely.
Analysis has also indicated that by allowing all sides equal access, opposing viewpoints remain in their own circle. In other words, by removing an overarching common enemy, the big bad, the various factions remain in charge of their own narrative. When however, one side forces the other into common groups then the individual groups either join forces or any action by one is perceived as common to all. Dictatorships and war have been prime examples of how repression can force groups with different philosophies to join forces. The greatest example in recent years was the French Resistance in the Second World War. To battle the Germans, we saw the Young Catholics join with the French Communists.
Today we see the extreme left and the main stream media forcing all opposition opinions to be perceived as coming from a common source. The common problem the left sees is that any and all who do not 100% agree must be "Repunaziwhitesupremacistracistmysogynistlican." This does make sense for the people that brought you identity politics. This is further exacerbated by the constant claim that those opposing viewpoints are so egregious that they must not be covered by the concept of Freedom of Speech. This is evidenced by the recent calls to harass any person deemed in opposition if they are seen out in public. Prior to this we have seen in the past years major universities canceling speakers that hold a view that students do not like. This is precisely what Madison wrote about in Federalist 10.
What Madison and the others had seen in Europe was the suppression of the minority opinion at the cost of the majority understanding. We all know that the President's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at a restaurant in Lexington Virginia, the Red Hen, because the owner did not agree with her politics. It was my opinion that in so doing the Red Hen violated the letter and intent of the Public Accommodation law, but apparently refusing service based on political belief is not covered. While most of the left rejoiced in the refusal of service based on the owner's belief, they were mortified when the Supreme Court upheld the right of a baker to refuse special service to a same sex couple based on his religious beliefs.
This last of course is a problem for the left in the fact that it affects one of their favorite amendments, the 14th and the equal protection under the law clause. The left however does not seem to have a problem with ignoring these types of problems -for them the Constitution and the laws are very elastic. Let's return then to the 1st amendment and see just how elastic it can be.
To begin with the first amendment, as all amendments, was designed to tell the government what it cannot do. It begins "The government shall make no law..." - its intent is that the government cannot censor any American. It covers a broad area, Americans can say almost anything without censor. Unlike most countries in the world, we can criticize the government, as well as political leaders. While the first amendment allows you to practice your religion it also allows your neighbors to tell you how wrong you are.
There are of course boundaries, such as calling for the violent overthrow of the government or yelling fire in a crowded area. How is it possible then to deny this right? As mentioned, today we see colleges and universities blocking speakers from coming on campus, many for security reasons, others because of student protests. Is this a denial of free speech or just a school exercising its rights to who will speak on campus and on what subject? Like so many things the answer to this is not clear cut. A private institution can make its own rules within the law and the 1st amendment only covers the government. How does this then affect public institutions? In theory the 1st amendment should hold sway, but in fact it only controls the federal government and these public institutions are under state control. The intent of the 1st amendment should be a part of the American culture regardless of its applicability to a given offense.
Returning to a very important reason for the Bill of Rights and all the amendments, it is to protect the minority. Denying speakers, shouting down those who you oppose or refusing any interaction with those you oppose drives a knife into the heart of free speech. Further actions taken have been to label anyone or any action outside of what is considered liberal mainstream to be Nazi's, Fascists, or level accusations such as sex crimes to separate the offending party from the righteous. If need be, individuals will be labeled as Hitler.
The news media, which is given protection by the 1st amendment has joined in the feeding frenzy through manipulation of the news, giving only one side, or through presenting opinion as news. A combination of this is to inject opinion into news stories. Recently a news story about the recount in Florida began with the news that President Trump called the Broward county election recount a fraud. But in between the lines President Trump declares regarding the pronouncement of fraud, they inject the words, "without evidence." In a story many did not carry or pushed to the back was the fact that Broward county officials had redone ballots to replace ones they claimed were damaged. While this is allowed, they did so with no supervision from the state board of elections, which was required. This last fact makes the ballots now being used fraudulent, with evidence.
We now must consider the extent of the freedoms given in the 1st amendment. After a fiery exchange between a CNN reporter and the President, not for the first time, the reporter, Jim Acosta, had his press passed revoked. The news media was up in arms claiming a breach of the 1st amendment guarantee of freedom of press. Is a press pass to the White House a constitutional guarantee or a privilege? A court decision stayed the revocation, but the arguments are not over.
Almost concurrent with the Acosta issue was the leaking of secretly filed criminal charges against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. While it is not clear as to what charges are being filed, it is assumed to be regarding the release of e-mails hacked from the DNC during the 2016 Presidential election. The news media reminds us, without evidence, that these e-mails were hacked by the Russians and released to cause harm to the Clinton campaign. The news media is combining this with Acosta and saying it is continued evidence of the Trump administration's campaign to stomp on freedom of speech. The media is of course ignoring the Muller investigation into Rodger Stone, a Trump consultant, who supposedly knew about the pending document release. Which is it? An indictment of Assange is an attack on the 1st amendment? Or an indictment of Stone indicates that the press release should have somehow been blocked.
The 1st amendment can be an annoyance to both sides at any given time, but it must be protected at all costs. The most disturbing problem today is that the greatest abuser of press freedom is the press. When they are called on it, they shout for its protection. A serious problem is developing today that could see, not only press, but other freedoms curtailed by future governments if we do not protect all freedoms for all. It is a shame that the party that claims to protect minorities does not understand it is in fact violating minority rights when they deny the protections of the constitution equally.