All good things must come to an end. This is the 8th and final COTD that arrived in response to my post about Noah Berlatsky’s disturbing call to gut the First Amendment because Nazis BAD. That idiot gets national publicity on an NBC sub-page called “THINK.” All eight of the authors of the Comments of the Day could squish Noah in Jeopardy, Scrabble, or a moderated debate, and all they got was a post on Ethics Alarms. Not even a lousy T-shirt. There is no justice.
Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay Advocating Limits On Speech…
The upside and the downside of the internet is that almost nothing disappears once it’s posted, a lesson I myself should probably grasp before I post in anger. That said, I’m not angry right now, just disgusted with this article and the two I linked to above. (Here and here.) I’m not going to say that all of the left is like this, but it’s clear that a healthy core of the elite at the top of the left and their supporters are interesting in two things before all else: power and control. Some of these may actually believe that they are doing the right thing and helping people, but many, and I think both our last president and his chosen successor belong to this category, simply believe that they know best, and anyone who disagrees is simply wrong and not worthy of a hearing.
The fact is that this country was founded, indeed settled, with the idea in mind that everyone was entitled to be heard and no one’s opinion, no matter how wrong it might be, would be silenced by the heavy hand of government. We threw off the British yoke in part because they had resorted to trying to silence dissenting opinions and trying to arrest those who dared express them. In essence the British had failed to “co-opt” the colonies back into their way of doing things and tried to turn to the mailed fist when the velvet glove had failed.
Since then the U.S. has usually been strong on freedom of speech, even when it’s been odious. We’ve typically only slipped in time of war or national security emergency, with things like the Smith Act in WWI and HUAC during the early Cold War. With the publishing of the Pentagon Papers and the conversion of the journalism industry from a valuable service to unofficial watchdogs of government honesty, even clamping down a bit on freedom of speech in time of war or protecting certain important truths with Churchill’s proverbial “bodyguard of lies” has gone by the boards.
However, this strong freedom of speech has also left the door wide open to persistent opposition to whatever government may be in power by those who disagree with it. It’s precisely because the Nazis could march in Skokie and the alt-right could protest planned removal of a historic monument in Charlottesville that the papers and networks can expose serious wrongdoing and corruption when it does occur…if they choose to. This freedom is also why for eight years the WSJ editorial page, Fox News, and a slew of conservative and libertarian publications could continue criticism of Obama’s many errors and botches when CNN and ABC and the New York Times wouldn’t.
That core of the left that’s all about holding onto power has let its mask slip a few times. Two key ones are the links I posted above, in which one academic argues for giving up on the Constitution as we were about to enter Obama’s second term, which would make it that much easier for Obama and his adherents to continue pushing their agenda forward, and two more argued for the end of midterm elections, conveniently on the day before the Democratic Party was about to get creamed in the 2014 midterms, leaving Obama to limp out of his presidency with few friends and taking away his chance to replace Scalia. Nobody was buying what they were selling either time, and rightly so. It was obvious that the writers of these articles wanted to make it that much easier for the Democratic Party to get in power, stay in power, and either ignore or crush the opposition.
One card that the Democratic Party has played that has often worked very well is the racism/hate card. No one wants to be called a racist or a hater, and at heart the businessmen who form a strong part of the Republican base are all about the bottom line. They neither need nor want accusations of racism or hate hurting that bottom line, and tend to crumple easier than most at them. However, the ordinary folks who form the rest of that base don’t crumple so easily, nor do the dedicated conservatives who write and report conservatively. However, no ordinary guy wants to be hauled into court and fined, and no journalist wants to be thrown into jail. If that threat existed, both might…moderate what they have to say.
It’s one thing to stand up to other citizens with no official status trying to bully you or silence you. You can tell someone who tries to silence you in a discussion to take a hike. You can fight back against a bully who has no official status. However, what if you get a knock at the door and there are two policemen telling you the (whatever) guy from down the street heard you say something hateful, he lodged a complaint, and either they’re issuing you a summons, or you’re going to have to come with them? What if you’re a writer, the phone rings, and it’s the FBI, telling you that the story you just published yesterday has been deemed hate speech, and you can either come down to the Federal building to explain yourself, or they can come pick you up, and they won’t be happy if they have to do the latter?
Before long everyone is going to start overpolicing everything they say and do, afraid that someone is going to get offended and they will be branded a hater for life. Thankfully, the First Amendment stands in the way of the worst of these abuses, but this article is a good look behind the mask of the left and what they would do if that protection were taken away.
The left isn’t so foolish to try to take that protection all away at once, or to try to take it away openly. However, they are experts at chipping away at freedoms a little bit at a time. A ban on this kind of weapon here, a ban on this kind of bullet there, a “common sense” gun law another place, and before you know it, the Second Amendment exists in name only. Dub this category hate speech here, dub this kind of writing unprotected there, maybe throw in a reference to the Nazis somewhere to keep enough people on board who might otherwise say “hey, wait a minute…” and before long the First Amendment is hollow, and hate speech is whatever someone else interprets what you say to mean.
Some scoff at this article. No one should. It’s a harbinger of bad things to come.