Tancredo: Approaching (and Applauding?) the Twilight of Freedom of Speech

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TOM TANCREDO

August of 2017 might be recorded as the date the ground shifted under the feet of defenders of constitutional liberty and freedom of assembly in the United States. The nation’s newspaper establishment is now providing a public platform for normalizing the claim that the Constitution’s protections for freedom of the press and freedom of speech are inadequate weapons for winning the fight against a “rising tide of racism,” and therefore, violence may not only be justified, it may be the only moral alternative.  

Thus sayeth the lords of “Antifa,” the newly respectable priests (and armed enforcers) of vigilante justice.

On Sunday, August 27, the Denver Post gave front page status on its weekly “Perspective” opinion section to a Project Syndicate column by Australian writer Peter Singer. Project Syndicate is a Bill Gates and George Soros-funded newspaper syndication service based in Prague. Professor Singer asks this question in a bold headline: “Is violence the way to fight racism?”

In seeking the answer to this ominous question, Professor Singer does not marshal quotes or arguments from John Stuart Mill, Louis Brandeis, or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He instead quotes favorably only one authority, the “Antifa” crusaders who have been heavily involved in the violent “counter-protests” in Charlottesville, Berkeley, San Francisco, Phoenix, and elsewhere. The mission and business of Antifa are to disrupt and terrorize rallies, speakers, and events it chooses to label as right-wing, racist, neo-Nazi, or just plain unprogressive. Last weekend in Berkeley, 100 black-clad and masked Antifa terrorists brutally attacked the 1000 peaceful participants in a “Rally Against Hate” at Martin Luther King, Jr., Civic Park.

On his journey through the Alice in Wonderland world of Antifa’s angry rhetoric, Singer feigns some skepticism about violence as an effective strategy against the far-right but nonetheless sympathizes with Antifa’s neo-Marxist rules of engagement: Because the proponents of racism and “hate speech” are by definition irrational, they are therefore not amenable to rational persuasion based on facts and reasonable arguments. Thus, opponents of racism need not and should not engage them in debate. Instead, racism must be opposed and defeated by violent means.  

Anyone with half an education in 20th century Soviet and Maoist techniques of oppression will recognize this as a totalitarian argument to silence dissent. It is reminiscent of the Marxist-Leninist use of psychiatry as a tool for declaring political dissent illegitimate. If you do not love communism, you are obviously insane and need to be either “reeducated” or removed from society and placed in confinement. To the Antifa gang of leftist thugs, arguing with anyone they designate as hatemongers and racists is a waste of time; they need to be silenced — permanently.

The argument that the First Amendment is antiquated and ill-suited to fighting racism and bigotry is reminiscent of the teachings of that neo-Marxist cult figure from the late 60s and 70s, the German “Frankfurt School” entertainer, Herbert Marcuse. His innovative theory of “repressive tolerance” rationalized and incentivized the rise of ideological intolerance in academic circles, but until very recently we have not seen its totalitarian fruit being marketed in the public square. 

Implied but not discussed explicitly in the Singer column is the logically related question, “Is violence the way to fight other enemies of social justice — like sexism, climate change denial, Islamophobia and other irrational, dangerous thought crimes?” The answer in the eyes of the radical left Antifa activists will likely be the same: Yes, it’s time! 

This justification by the political left of the threat and use of violence to block opponents’ freedom of speech has been ascendant on university campuses for a generation, with little effort by university authorities to safeguard free speech or to punish student and faculty disrupters. Now we are reaping the whirlwind of this misguided toleration as leftist violence spreads to our streets, public parks and conference halls.  

It is hardly mere coincidence that this Peter Singer opinion piece was given top billing in Colorado’s leading newspaper only one week after the New York Times published a similar piece, “The ACLU needs to rethink free speech.” Since racists and neo-Nazis are benefiting from free speech, true friends of liberty must restrict who can benefit from such freedom.  

Thus begins the official legitimization — or “normalization” — of the rejection of the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech in the name of “fighting racism.” And who will be empowered to decide what groups and what forms of speech are forbidden the protections afforded civil libertarians? Why, our nation’s idealistic social justice warriors, of course— intense warriors like those found in the ranks of Antifa, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter.

Not to be outdone, the national office of the ACLU announced a few days after the Charlottesville riot that the ACLU will no longer go to court to defend the First Amendment rights of protesters if they are exercising their Second Amendment right to carry a firearm. No firearms were discharged in Charlottesville, but that’s only a footnote. 

And so, in this tumultuous “summer of hate,” the Denver Post has joined the New York Times in providing the soapbox and microphone to the voices popularizing these new rules of engagement in the public square. If you are not on the “right side” of a contentious political issue, beware. Woe be unto the defenders of liberty when the mainstream media begins to marginalize you as an antediluvian agent of oppression. 

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