Thank-you. I see no reason to believe that your funding is in any jeopardy, by the way.”
Central Carolina Community College pulled the plug on a public affairs talk show airing on its radio station after a legislative assistant for State Rep. Mike Stone complained about an online post by one of the show’s hosts, criticizing the Sanford, N.C. Republican. Susan Phillips, Stone’s legislative assistant, wrote the school’s president, T.E. “Bud” Marchant, with pointed questions about the program’s affiliation with the school, funding sources, and budget. Central Carolina Community College is one 58 community colleges in North Carolina that depend on the legislature for funding, and Stone’s message was received loud and clear. Marchant shut down the show, known as “The Rant,” two days later. He also denied that Stone’s interference had anything to do with it.
There shouldn’t be any question over what happened here. An elected official in a supposedly democratic nation decided to abuse his position and power as well as violate his oath of office by using veiled threats and intimidation to stifle Constitutionally protected criticism of his job performance, and a craven educator caved to his pressure, violating his duty of respecting academic freedom and standing against efforts by the state to stifle free speech and political dissent. Marchant, if he had even a rudimentary backbone, would have told Stone’s minion to back off and reported this clumsy attempt at extortion to the area’s news media. Stone, if he had any integrity or respect for the founding principles of the United States, would have taken “The Rant’s” host’s criticism like an adult and a believer in free speech, and responded with a defense or a rebuttal, not by leaning on the radio station’s management. As for Marchant’s incredible claim that Stone’s complaints and the show’s demise were unrelated, even if that were true, his creating the appearance of censoring campus speech in response to government disapproval would be nearly as offensive as censorship itself, because it would still have the effect of chilling First Amendment rights.
I’m certain, considering what appears to be the generally low quality of state legislators across the country (which figures, given the abysmal quality of national legislators), that this kind of thing occurs far more frequently than we know. Let’s see if Stone’s bedrock, conservative supporters are sufficiently offended by his efforts to use government power to muzzle adverse opinion, and send him on a new career path. My guess? This incident won’t make any difference to his election chances at all, if voters like Stone’s politics and believe the radio host is a nettlesome lefty. We are constantly told how much of the country is willing to dispense with the Second Amendment, as if that proves that amendment is archaic. Sincere public support for the First Amendment is similarly shaky.
All right, let us agree that both legislator and college president are unqualified for their positions by virtue of their abandonment of their ethical obligations in their respective roles—Stone’s duty to respect free speech and observe proper limits on government power, Marchant’s duty to protect academic freedom and oppose government efforts to stifle free expression. That still doesn’t justify the elitist coverage of this story by Jonathan Turley, whose blog post first alerted me to it. For some reason, the noted civil rights expert and law professor believes that it is Stone’s wan academic credentials and humble work experience that explain his bullying tactics. Why else would Turley feel it is germane to note that Stone lists his education as ‘“Attended, Accounting, Central Carolina Business” and lists his experience as “Business Owner, O’Connells Grocery Store”’ ? Why is any of that relevant? The law school professor is evidently a bigot, and believes that one’s ethical instincts and character are directly proportional to one’s degrees and work experience.
Rep. Stone is a citizen of the United States, and like every citizen, should be presumed to know about the Four Freedoms whether he graduated from Harvard or the School of Hard Knocks. There are plenty of well-credentialed bullies, fools and ignoramuses in elected office. It is sufficient to judge Stone by what he did; Turley’s implied ridicule of his educational and work background is a cheap shot, and reflects badly on the commentator, not his target.
Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur
Facts: NC Policy Watch