Richard Stengel, a frequent contributor on MSNBC, a former editor of Time magazine, and the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2016 wrote this embarrassing, anti-free speech screed.
1. In the past I have criticized newspapers and other publications for publishing irresponsible opinion pieces. This time, I want to thank and praise the Washington Post. Either intentionally or inadvertently, it has performed a public service by using its op-ed pages to expose the hypocrisy, intellectual bankruptcy, ethics ignorance and relentless totalitarian rot of their own ideological compatriots.
2. I might say the same about Stengal, but he really seems to think that he is making a persuasive case. Imagine: a man whom President Obama and his Democratic administration trusted as a high level State Department official can make an argument like this…
Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?
Why, Richard? Oh, gee, I don’t know…maybe because “insult” is a completely subjective standard? Perhaps because Massachusetts, Vermont,California, and Oregon might decide that arguments against climate change cant is hate speech, like Holocaust denial? Maybe because the 14th Amendment prohibits states from abridging the Bill of Rights?
3. Kudos also to the Washington Post readership, which properly and thoroughly ripped Stengel and his arguments apart with almost no one defending him . The very few that did made Stengel level statements like this one: “The solution is not to inhibit free speech; the solution is to put some controls on the communication of the free speech.”
You idiot: if the government restricts how speech can be communicated, then it is inhibiting free speech.
4. Stengel resorts to two arguments for gutting the First Amendment so juvenile, flawed and rationalization-based that the mind boggles. One is that other nations have passed speech restricting laws: “Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred.” Behold the modern progressive delusion that not conforming to the cultures and values of other nations is evidence that the United States is wrong. This is all part of the modern Left’s rejection of American exceptionalism, that we’re out of step, and need to get in line. The entire American experiment is founded on extremely limited government control over what individual citizens can do, say, and think. The United States and its democracy has succeeded because of those limitations: people like Spencer deny that success, so they see nothing amiss about loosening them. His is an “everybody censors speech,” so it must be right thing to do argument.
Then there is this:
” A 2016 Stanford study showed that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and an actual news story. Only a quarter of high school students could tell the difference between an actual verified news site and one from a deceptive account designed to look like a real one.”
Translation: “How can we indoctrinate kids with our Complete and Only Truth if they are able to be influenced by contrary information?” The casual presumption that “the truth” is so easily determined that “non-truth” can and should be banned is another watermark of the emerging totalitarian Left. Is opposing affirmative action “hate speech”? Arguing that transgendered individuals shouldn’t be permitted to compete in women’s sports? Advocating enforcement of immigration laws? How about mocking Elizabeth Warren for falsely posing as a minority for most of her career?
We now know that the progressive definition of hate speech is “speech that progressives hate.” The examples are endless. Anti-black insults are hate speech, anti-white rhetoric is just, you know, deserved. Calling President Trump a traitor, racist or a”motherfucker” is fair political discourse; his calling Warren “Pocahontas” is hate speech. Saying that the nation needs to get rid of “old, white men” in leadership positions is a valid observation; any negative reference to a female politician is hate speech. Stengel doesn’t even have the honesty (intelligence?) to address this most decisive of rebuttals against proposals such as his: who decides what is “hate speech”? You, Richard? The people who hire you and who agree with you?
Is there any doubt?
5. Stengel offers one false argument after another. Here’s one:
Hilarious. Thanks to the internet, the “playing field” is more level than ever before. Before it, the biased, politically-distorted journalism that is now the norm would have no opposition at all. We have seen the new media repeatedly defeat efforts by mainstream media to warp narratives and bury inconvenient facts. The marketplace model doesn’t work for someone, like Spencer, who believes progressive ideas should have a monopoly.
6. Stengel triggered my “if this is how this writer reasons, reading the rest is a wate of my time” instinct with this howler, right at the beginning:
Ay Caramba! I may never mock President Trump for not appointing “the best people” again. This guy was stumped by THAT question? He is persuaded my Middle Eastern doubts about free speech, where citizens cane be punished by the state for blasphemy? We allow people to burn Kroan, Bibles, American flags, draft cards and effigied of the President to express dislike, opposition, contempt, and yes, hate. People have a right to hate things and to express that hate…or maybe its just dislike, or disrespect. The Stengels of the world conveniently lump them together as “hate,” all the better to muzzle us. I don’t like or respect Islam: can I say that? Can I think it? When someone burns a Koran, isn’t that simply a dramatic way of saying, “I don’t like what’s in this book, and what it stands for”?
Saying that burning the Koran “can cause violence by one group against another’ is especially disingenuous; gestures of disrespect toward Islam don’t incite violence against Muslims, it incites Muslims to do violence against the critics. Here Stengel is employing another popular anti-speech distortion that is popular on college campuses: “The speaker we judge as hateful should be silenced because his speech will make us attempt violence against him.”
To sum up, I love this op-ed. I think it should be as widely circulated as possible, and that every Democratic Presidential candidate should be asked to defend or reject it. Stengel has revealed what the Leftism of 2019 is really about: rejecting American values, restricting individual rights and liberties, rigging debate, and stifling dissent.
He’s telling the truth, but it’s not quite the truth he thinks it is.