Many Americans don’t seem to appreciate as much as outside admirers do, that the United States is the only country in the world with a commitment to free speech enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. Many nations do not even have codified constitution of which to speak.
Which is why it is almost more egregious to the outsider than the American that such protections are under assault, not just on the streets of Berkeley or Charlottesville, but in your legislature — and soon in your Oval Office.
This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed President Trump would “absolutely” be signing a resolution drafted by Republican and Democrat lawmakers “condemning” hatred.
“He and [Senator Tim Scott] talked about that and discussed that and agreed that that was the appropriate place to be,” Sanders said. “In terms of whether or not he’ll sign the joint resolution, absolutely, and he looks forward to doing so as soon as he receives it.”
But the resolution is manifestly a ruse — the first line of attack in a new wave of assaults against free speech in America.
Let’s examine what the motion, passed by both legislative chambers early this week, says.
The preamble, in addition to expressing “support for the Charlottesville community,” demands of the President that he rejects “White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups” and urges him and his cabinet to “use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups”.
From the outset this is disingenuous and troublesome.
The President has already disavowed these groups, including Neo Nazis and the KKK. Why are elected members, alongside the White House, wasting time virtue signaling over it?
Perhaps because it backs POTUS into a corner, especially when you consider many establishment media organizations call his former Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon — who has mocked and derided ethno-nationalists — a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist”. This week, ESPN even let one of its hosts off with no more than a slapped wrist for suggesting the President himself was a “white supremacist”.
So by whose definitions are we going? And what exactly does “use all available resources” mean?
The President and his cabinet ostensibly have all resources available to them. The U.S. military, trillions of dollars, three and a half years of power. To what is the President subscribing?
Whatever happened to the old line by Voltaire, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”, or as it was paraphrased by Evelyn Beatrice Hall writing under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre in Friends of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?
Personally, I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant for hateful beliefs.
The U.S. Constitution is perfectly clear on this too. No matter how vile your views — as those of the KKK and Neo Nazi groups are — you still have a right to express them in America.
The fact the Supreme Court had to readdress this fact only earlier this year is harbinger enough of the assault on liberty we are about to witness.
In June, Justice Kennedy opined in the case of Matal v. Tam:
A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
Justice Alito said at the time:
[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”
Obvious enough to you or me. But not self-evident enough for your representatives or even your President, if Ms. Huckabee Sanders is correct.
The five page document the President is now committed to signing refers to violence on the side of Neo Nazi protesters, but fails to mention Antifa, or any other leftist-inspired violence, including but not limited to the Bernie Sanders supporter who recently attempted to murder Republican congressmen.
It demands signatories “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy” — laudable aims were it not for the fact that the political left has abused and debased these terms, effectively stripping them of all meaning.
Today, a “racist” is someone who believes in legal immigration. An “extremist” is someone who doesn’t believe in mass, state-funded abortion. A “xenophobe” is someone who takes pride in their nation. An “anti-Semite” is — curiously — someone who supports the State of Israel, and “white supremacy” now occupies the Oval Office. The Overton window has shifted so far that even practicing Muslims are now decried by the most heavily quoted sources as “Islamophobes”.
Speaking of Islamophobia, why has that been left out of this resolution? Will there be — as Islamic supremacists often demand — a special case and motion for Muslims alone, to go before the President later this year? Will the White House be equally excited to sign what would effectively be a blasphemy law?
Perhaps the most insidious part of this document comes right at the end, where the President will accede to ensuring “the heads of other Federal agencies… improve the reporting of hate crimes and… emphasize the importance of the collection, and… reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of hate crime data by State and local agencies”.
Given the precedent set in Europe for the monitoring and prosecution of so-called “hate crimes”, it should be of gravest concern that the White House has been so readily bounced into endorsing the idea — recently rejected by the Supreme Court — of limiting speech and the freedom of assembly.
Raheem Kassam is the Editor in Chief of Breitbart London and author of No Go Zones: How Shariah Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You