Evidence of the Death of Free Speech in our Time

Forbes reports that today’s liberalism is about shutting down debate. We’ve “reached the point,” Steven F. Hayward writes, “where you can’t criticize the welfare state any more. Criticism of welfare programs today get you marked out as a racist. And that’s not the only subject that the Left is trying to mark off limits from all criticism. The same has been true of climate change for a long while, but now criticisms of renewable energy are being marked out as the moral equivalent of war crimes.”

You’ve read about the Harvard student who is arguing that now liberalism is the accepted standard, all dissent must be shut down.

People who truly believe in free speech have no problem with dissenters speaking their mind and making a case for their position. But once in power, liberals shut the door on dissenting free speech. Only acceptable and approved speech is free, as testimony from a Treasury Department official reveals:

“The IRS’s new proposal to crack down on nonprofits was in the works a year before the tea party targeting scandal broke, according to a Treasury Department official who told congressional investigators it was spurred by pressure from outside parties.

“The revelation follows earlier testimony from former IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, who told investigators that they started ‘brainstorming’ ways to crack down on nonprofits while under pressure from a senior Democratic senator who was ‘complaining bitterly to us’ about the way groups were engaging in politics while organized as social welfare nonprofits.”

These are Stalinist tactics.

Not to be outdone, the Supreme Court has fundamentally nullified the free speech rights found in the First Amendment as constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead points out in these three rulings:

“On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling, held that anti-nuclear activist John Denis Apel could be prosecuted for staging a protest on a public road at an Air Force base, free speech claims notwithstanding, because the public road is technically government property.1

“Insisting that it’s not safe to display an American flag in an American public school, on February 27, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that school officials were justified when they ordered three students at a California public high school to cover up their patriotic apparel emblazoned with American flags or be sent home on the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, allegedly out of a concern that it might offend Hispanic students.2

“On February 28, a federal court dismissed Marine veteran Brandon Raub’s case. Despite the fact that Raub was interrogated by Secret Service agents, handcuffed, arrested, subjected to a kangaroo court, and locked up in a mental facility for posting song lyrics and statements on Facebook critical of the government — a clear violation of his free speech rights — the court ruled that Raub’s concerns about the government were far-fetched and merited such treatment.

There’s the case of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier who was taken from her parents – kidnapped is the better description – and has been held captive by Boston Children’s Hospital for what they claim are for psychiatric reasons. The struggle to get back their daughter has been denied by the hospital and the courts.

In the parent’s attempt to get their daughter back and give her the medical treatments she needs, a judged issued a gag order. This meant that the parents could not talk about the case to anybody.

Desperate, as Justina’s parents saw their daughter’s health deteriorate, Justina’s father violated the gag order that carried a contempt charge. It was only because of massive publicity about the case that forced the hand of the Department of Children and Families to drop the gag-order complaint against Justina’s father.

Even with all of this, Justina is still in state custody. Who knows how many other cases like this are unknown to us because of gag orders by courts and government agencies.

  1. Lawrence Hurley, “Supreme Court rules against anti-nuclear activist who protested on a public road at Air Force base.” Raw Story (Feb. 26, 2014). []
  2. Eugene Volokh, “Not Safe to Display American Flag in American High School,” FOX News (Feb. 28, 2014). []
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