Progressives Plot to Silence ALEC's, Our Free Speech

“The Trayvon Martin thing was like a gift,” Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle recently told Businessweek.

Shortly after the Trayvon Martin shooting occurred in February, there was an overwhelming push from the left, and especially in the media, to make the incident one about race and gun control before the facts in the case were even publicly available.  Some were quick to seize on the angle that George Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin, and that Zimmerman did so because of Martin’s race.  This, despite the fact that Zimmerman himself is Hispanic, and the facts presented today suggest that it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that a pursuit did not actually occur.  Few noticed at the time how quickly the mainstream media – normally not adept at covering obscure state-level legislation – jumped in lockstep on what we now know as “the Castle Doctrine” or “Stand Your Ground” law.

Two additional narratives had also been running in parallel at the start of the Trayvon Martin case.  Rush Limbaugh had been a target of relentless secondary campaigns – these are attacks on indirect targets like advertisers, effectively the “guilt by association” approach.  The media was also steadfastly attacking proposed “Voter ID” legislation, branding it as “racist.”

For one organization in particular, these narratives had collided to form the perfect storm, and the Trayvon Martin case only sealed its immediate fate.

This past Monday, the Washington Free Beacon revealed that progressive organizations met on May 10th to "plot the demise" of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that helps member legislators and corporations to craft legislative proposals.  But ALEC is an organization that progressives have targeted for quite some time.  From the Free Beacon:

Leading progressive organizers met on May 10 to coordinate their attack plan against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), discussing ways to pressure corporations into abandoning the group for its small-government advocacy and turn against what they call the “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”

The participants, including representatives from such far-left groups as Common Cause, Color of Change, and ProgressNow, met for lunch in a conference room at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The New Organizing Institute, a group that provides support and technology for political organizers, sponsored the forum.

“Never relent, never let up pressure, and always increase,” said Aniello Alioto of ProgressNow Colorado, summing up the strategy.

The meeting came just on the heels of several campaigns against corporations that had been advertisers or supporters of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The #StopRush campaign successfully ousted companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Ford Motor Company from Limbaugh’s advertisers’ roster.  Conveniently, these and others on the list are the same as those companies with whom ALEC is associated as well – companies that progressives have targeted on their list of ALEC members/supporters.

Only weeks after the Trayvon Martin shooting, the Center for Media and Democracy/PR Watch published a lengthy article entitled “ALEC Ratified the NRA-Conceived Law That May Protect Trayvon Martin's Killer.”  In it, PR Watch managed to tie together both the “Stand Your Ground” law and the “Voter ID” law together, and to accuse ALEC of being the sponsor for “codifying racial bias,” with support from the National Rifle Association (NRA).  The article deliberately concludes with a link to a petition launched by Color of Change in December of 2011 to pressure ALEC members and supporters to withdraw or disassociate from ALEC.

In addition, a primary source for the March 21st Center for Media and Democracy/PR Watch article was a Media Matters post, dated the same day.  It’s therefore no surprise that in January, 2011, Media Matters tasked a full-time researcher with a brand new project aimed at correlating guns and violence to the words that people freely speak.

Alex Lawson will lead a new project at Media Matters working to expose the intersection between violent rhetoric, extremist violence, and the easy availability of firearms and munitions. Lawson joins Media Matters from Social Security Works where he was the Communications Director of a broad-based coalition of over 215 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans.

Given the attendee list from the March 10th meeting of progressive organizations that gathered to plot against ALEC, it’s clear that the coordination amongst these groups has been deliberate.  The Center for Media and Democracy/PR Watch, the publisher of the article noted above, had this to say at the meeting, according to the Free Beacon:

“The one thing I don’t want folks to forget is ALEC is able to exist because of the vast, right-wing conspiracy supporting it,” said Lisa Graves, the executive director of the George Soros-funded Center for Media and Democracy.

Graves cited state policy groups such as the Mackinac Center in Michigan, the Freedom Foundation in Washington state, and the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. “These are groups that do a lot of the policy dirty work of ALEC,” she said.

“When they talk about the vast, right-wing conspiracy, [ALEC] is it,” Clopp said in the headquarters of one of the nation’s largest unions amid a group of non-profits funded by wealthy liberal foundations.

If anything is certain, it’s that these progressive groups will capitalize on any opportunity to silence the voices of their opposition at any cost.  Whether it’s organizations like ALEC or Citizens United, or individuals like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, these groups are aggressively trying to silence others’ opinions through the means of thuggish tactics against indirect targets merely for their association with the object of progressives’ ire.

And in the instance of Media Matters, all indicators seem to suggest that the “conservative media watchdog” may even aim to literally criminalize certain speech.  Why else would such an organization task full-time research resources to “expose the intersection between violent rhetoric, extremist violence, and the easy availability of firearms and munitions?”  We saw their efforts in the wake of both the Byron Williams story, in which Media Matters attempted to blame the rhetoric of Glenn Beck for the deranged actions of a lone would-be assassin, and again in the wake of the Tucson shooting, in which Sarah Palin and the Tea Party became the scapegoat.  And just as Mary Boyle of Common Cause said, “the Trayvon Martin thing was like a gift.”  That’s right, the tragic death of a teenager was “a gift” to these progressive groups.  This is how they treat such instances – as political opportunities.


(Look closely at :35 in this video, and you’ll see a Media Matters researcher in action in the bottom right corner as s/he peruses this anti-gun case study).

Legal Insurrection accurately describes these tactics for exactly what they are.

And it doesn’t stop at advertisers.  One of the people behind Stop Rush not only has suggested I should worry about my job, that person repeatedly has tweeted to my employer complaining about me.

You see, that’s how it inevitably ends.  It starts with haughty rhetoric about opposing “hate speech,” and it turns into the thing they claim to oppose.

The good Professor Jacobson is correct.  Whether they aim to silence “hate speech,” or “corporate personhood”, it’s all intimidation and silencing nonetheless. 

Yesterday it was Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart.  Today it’s ALEC and Citizens United.  Very soon, it will be you and me.  And that’s why what progressives are doing to ALEC is important for every activist on the right to notice.


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