In a 1,481-word opus, America’s former “newspaper of record” traces numerous recent First Amendment decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and concludes by quoting Justice Elena Kagan. That should pretty much tell you all you need to know about where the New York Times stands on the issue of freedom of speech. But then again, you likely know this.
What you don’t know is how they arrive at their thesis: “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment.” And it is quite the journey, though one isn’t likely to label it a trail of liberty. In fact, freedom of speech is not a weapon and never has been since the founding of this country. Instead, it is the right to express opinions without restraint or censorship. Full stop.
Why all this First Amendment talk from the left now? It is primarily because the U.S. Supreme Court is hammering the progressive position on speech into submission, one decision at a time. Labor Unions took a hit last week. Just the day before – bang – they got hit with having to roll back the Reproductive FACT Act. And the beat goes on…
In the words of our president, “It’s a beautiful thing.” At least it is to those who call themselves conservative. Meanwhile, the left is backpedaling as fast as a tricycle can take them from their former glory days of advocating on behalf of free speech.
Even the Times can’t ignore how the left has turned tail and run away from the right to free expression. “Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict,” writes Adam Liptak. Oh yes, freedom is only valid for the progressives when it involves their expression. The rest of us should take a hike.
Mr. Liptak opines, “Take pornography and street protests. Liberals were once largely united in fighting to protect sexually explicit materials from government censorship. Now many on the left see pornography as an assault on women’s rights.” Excellent point.
Enter the Nazi Skokie march in 1977. Wasn’t the American Civil Liberties Union all for that? But the Nazi march in Charlottesville last August, not so much. “The First Amendment is a critical part of our democracy, and it protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech,” reads the ACLU statement, “For this reason, the ACLU of Virginia defended the white supremacists’ right to march.” That should have been a good place to end, however, they went on to equivocate, “But we will not be silent in the face of white supremacy. Those who do stand silent enable it. That includes our president.” One senses an about-face is imminent.
When the U.S. Supreme Court tilted conservative, leftists began to lose their nerve regarding freedom of expression. In an article entitled, “Can Free Speech be Progressive?” Georgetown Professor Louis Michael Seidman writes, “The answer is no.” Then he blathers on for another thirty pages to explain that one.
Justice Elena Kagan
Perhaps the most chilling of comments regarding America’s First Amendment comes from the dissenting voice of Justice Kagan who, describing the conservative majority, wrote, “…at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices.” Thus, we must conclude that Ms. Kagan believes that the First Amendment can and should be held hostage to the tyranny of the left: if her folks don’t want it to be said, then zip it.
Kagan’s view runs counter those who believe in a citizen’s right to free speech – not to mention those who wrote the amendment. And even though the Times article brings up relevant points on both sides of the political aisle, one gets the distinct impression that they are determined to side with Kagan. Quite the irony, considering the New York Times is a newspaper, and its stock and trade should be an established and immovable right to freedom of expression for one and all.