The Campaign Against Free Speech
There is a specific and clear message that many elite journalists, internet giants, academics, and politicians are delivering to the American people: “You are too stupid to understand objective reporting or use free speech the right way, so we will decide for you what can and cannot be reported or said. The First Amendment no longer applies to you!”
The message comes from a variety of sources. On CNN, which has become infamous for slanting its reporting in so extreme a manner during the past several years and especially during the 2016 presidential campaign that detractors have nicknamed it the “Clinton News Network,” celebrated reporter Carl Bernstein, reports RealClearPolitics, stated that President Trump was a “Malignant” president and that “reporters needed to change the way they cover him…It calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the president of the United States.”
CNN has also reported that it “outed” the Reddit user that put together the “gif” of Trump wrestling that network’s image, who subsequently “apologized” for his exercise in free speech not approved by the media elites. CNN has apparently taken lessons from totalitarian states that gleefully force dissenters to recant.
Perhaps CNN derives its contempt for free speech from the nation’s academic institutions, where American history is barely taught, perhaps because the concepts enshrined in the Bill of Rights are just too dangerous for elites who wish to rule without interference.
That contempt is leading to lawsuits, Campus Reform reports. Three students at Kellogg Community College in Michigan were arrested for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. “The manager of Student Life, Drew Hutchinson, asked them to stop because they might “obstruct the student’s ability to get an education…this was…too much for school administrators who insisted the three were in violation of the school’s draconian solicitation policies. They called the Kalamazoo police and the Chief of Police himself came to arrest the activists for trespassing. Now, Brandon Withers… who was with the activists that afternoon, is suing the college. A press release from his lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom says: ‘The problem is that KCC’s speech policy, what they call a ‘Solicitation Policy,’ regulates a wide variety of student expression. Things such as leafleting, assemblies, speeches, and circulating petitions are all greatly restricted, but they also happen to be protected by the First Amendment.”
Kellogg University’s actions are not an isolated incident within higher education. The University of California is being sued for First Amendment violations for its actions in blocking conservative-minded speakers from appearing on campus. There are numerous other examples throughout academia—and not only at the university level.
The growing opposition to free speech on the part of the Progressive left is increasingly organized and well-funded.
The Washington Examiner reports that “The former chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, [FEC] who famously eyed regulating the politics of conservative outlets like the Drudge Report, has joined an advocacy group funded by George Soros and run by his son. Ann Ravel is the first fellow listed with the California advocacy group New America. Her fellowship began in March and pays a $30,000 stipend…Since leaving the FEC, Ravel has continued to speak out for more election regulation, especially on the internet where she sees political advertising shifting to in the next presidential contest. She has applauded calls for regulating political speech and spending on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and this week endorsed tracing the funding of online ads and regulating individual Twitter accounts.”
During President Obama’s tenure in office, there were numerous attempts to use the FEC and various campaign regulatory statutes as a stealth attack on free speech. Many of the moves were brazen, such as that by New York Senator Charles Schumer’s proposed legislation that would begin the process of weakening First Amendment protections regarding paid political speech. Democrat members of the FEC have also sought to bring certain web sites under its jurisdiction.
During the prior eight years, significant attacks on free speech included:
- The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to place federal monitors in newsrooms;
- openly considered criminal prosecution of anyone disagreeing with Obama’s views on climate change;
- placing the internet under international control (which would permit censorship,);
- Using Internal Revenue Service has been used a bludgeon against groups opposing White House policies; and
- The Justice Department seized telephone records of Fox news reporters.
In 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists protested in a letter to the Obama White House about “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations…Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow… Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis. In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.”
The attack on free speech also occurs in more subtle ways, especially in that increasingly vital marketplace of ideas, the internet. Search engines giants have tailored their search results to omit results or obscure or delete comments that do not conform to leftist orthodoxy. The internet research organization Can I Rank found that “top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a “Left” or “Far Left” slant than they were pages from the right. Moreover, 16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results. Our analysis of the algorithmic metrics underpinning those rankings suggests that factors within the Google algorithm itself may make it easier for sites with a left-leaning or centrist viewpoint to rank higher in Google search results compared to sites with a politically conservative viewpoint.” The study found that 16% of political keyword searches yielded no conservative-oriented pages within the initial search results.
The U.S. nearing a dangerous turning point, in which not only is free speech endangered, but also the very means to generate free speech is endangered. From academia’s relentless drive to indoctrinate students against the nation’s founding principles, to the establishment media’s actions in warping its reporting, to the actions by bureaucrats and elected officials alike to regulate and intimidate against the exercise of First Amendment rights, America’s most cherished freedom has become an endangered species.
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.
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