Ethics Dunce doesn’t do justice to Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, nor his city’s residents for electing a First Amendment opponent to lead them. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month comes closer, but describing mayors who refuse to acknowledge the rights of free speech and freedom of assembly as merely incompetent isn’t strong enough either. They are living
Wheeler (Guess his party!) has asked federal authorities to cancel two upcoming rallies organized by conservative groups in the wake of the recent incident in which two passengers were fatally stabbed on a commuter train last week after confronting a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs. He wants the feds to revoke the permit for a June 4 “Trump Free Speech Rally” in downtown Portland as well as to refuse the requested permit for a “March Against Sharia” scheduled for June 10.Wrote the mayor on Facebook yesterday,
“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation…I urge [the events’ organizers] to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”
The ingenuity of anti-speech progressives is impressive, but there is no “city in mourning-anger-timing’ exception to the First Amendment. Citizens of the United States, yes, even in Portland, have a right to make statements that the Anointed Arbiters Of What Is Politically Acceptable—you know, like Wheeler—don’t agree with, even if the AAOWIPAs try the neat trick of calling such statements “bigotry” and “hatred”, or “hate speech,” which they continue to claim, in a classic use of the Big Lie method, isn’t protected by the Constitution. It is protected. As the ACLU of Oregon said in ringing rebuttal to Wheeler,
“The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with history shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech.”
Oh no, you misunderstand my pure motives! the Mayor protesteth through his office. It is only violence we seek to avoid!
This is another popular anti-speech trick. If leftist thugs threaten violence against non-leftist speech, that’s an excuse to muzzle the non-leftists—Milo, Coulter, Charles Murray, Richard Spencer. As Reason’s Scott Shackford puts it:
There is no “hate speech” exemption to the First Amendment, and it’s bad enough when poorly educated college students believe that there is. We don’t need politicians who run cities reinforcing the idea that such speech is not protected, because it feeds the idea that violent protests against certain speakers is therefore some form of heroic rebellion. He reinforces the mentality that threats, and even just fears, of violent responses are acceptable reasons to prohibit public protests.
This excuse is used by authoritarian regimes everywhere as a mechanism of suppressing speech. Once you send the message that violence will be used as a pretext to shut down the expression of certain opinions, violence is exactly what you’ll get.
A pro-cenosrship Portland State University professor, Tom Hastings—you can find a professor to say anything, it seems—told the Washington Post that the ACLU was wrong, saying,
“I know these lines are perceived as pretty fuzzy when we’re dealing with constitutional First Amendment rights. But there’s no long fuse anymore. Everybody’s fuse seems to be quite short.”
Responds law prof Ann Althouse: “What?! Things are ‘fuzzy’ and ‘fuses’ are deemed short, and that’s enough to throw out the free-speech tradition?!”
Yes, Ann, anything that will shut up these inconvenient deplorables and make them take their proper place in the New Order–you know, nowhere—is enough to throw out the free-speech tradition.
Wheeler has a totalitarian soul mate at Chicago’s Northwestern University: President Morton Schapiro, who is leading the campus calls for squelching speech that a properly anointed student group labels “microaggression” or offensive. Shapiro is an advocate of so-called “safe spaces” on campus as well as restrictive speech codes, and likens some kinds of speech to criminal “assault.”
In a recent speech, Schapiro, he asserted that “if you shut down freedom of speech, you better have a really good reason. … I think if you shut down anything, you better be really sure that you have a moral and legal justification to do it. That’s my view.”
Says Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley,
“Really? You have to have a moral and legal justification? So free speech can be limited out of concern that it endangers moral values? People have long argued for barring and even burning books as compelled by moral concerns. As for legal justification, the First Amendment protects against government censors and regulation. That means that figures like Schapiro have ample legal room to at a private institution to curtail free speech in the name of moral and racial justice….If universities stand for the exchange of ideas, those who try to silence others must be expelled from the community….If this trend continues under Schapiro, Northwestern will not only fail to be viewed as a leading academic institution but any type of academic institution. The school must decide if it has the courage to stand by free speech and academic integrity or whether it will merely pander to the mob.
Or it can just “expel” itself from the community, and move lock, stock, barrel and undemocratic values to Portland, where it will fit right in.
Then we’ll have to figure out what to do with Portland…
Another accurate assessment of Portland’s mayor came to me just as I was about to push “Publish” on this post, this
We are losing our democracy, rights and personal liberties by inches when people like Wheeler and Shapiro are installed in positions of power.