-By Warner Todd Huston
The left is always a bundle of contradictions. On one hand leftists set themselves up as the ultimate in “tolerance” and a guarantor of “freedom” to do as one wishes. Most leftists imagine themselves interested in making sure everyone is free to do as they wish to the point where that they are almost libertine about it. Until… until it comes to the freedoms of those they oppose. Then, all of a sudden, their tendency toward fascist group-think comes out in full force.
Joe Schoffstall of the Media Research Center highlighted that liberal “for me but not for thee” tendency in a recent video in which he asked a handful of Washington D.C. liberals if they’d like to sign a petition that bans conservative’s free political speech. Naturally, they were happy to do so.
One of Joe’s signers had that liberal confusion down pat. “I think there is freedom of speech,” the young woman said, “but sometimes… there has to be some kind of control. I mean, look at the Tea Party, you have all this hate going on,” she blathered. She went on to say that freedom of speech is “not something this country needs any more.” One would imagine that if her freedom to speak were curtailed she’d suddenly find that hoary old First Amendment something she could not live without.
Here is what it said on the faux petition Joe was asking them to sign:
“The undersigned hereby adamantly demand that the United States government shut down right wing hate sites. The hate speech propagated by sites like the Drudge Report, Hot Air, Instapundit, Big Government, and others must not be allowed to corrupt our political discourse any longer. These sites are dangerous not only to truth and freedom but also to our society as a whole. BAN THEM NOW!”
Now, let’s do clear something up about what the founders instituted with the First Amendment. The founders, you see, were chiefly concerned about political free speech. One of the things that history taught the founders was that governments tended to kill political opposition (often times literally) by using the force of law to stop people from speaking, printing tracts and books, and organizing competing political parties. This oppression was something that the founders hated.
Their concept of free speech was not a generalized, all encompassing assumption that anyone could say anything at all, however. The founders were focused on political speech but did not assume they were creating a libertine right to say any old thing that a person wants to say in public.
During the founder’s era, for instance, the states commonly used accepted powers to curb certain kinds of speech. Few people doubted the government’s power to curb some types of speech. But political speech, regardless of what it was about, was assumed protected.
That right to political free speech was affirmed when the Alien and Sedition Act, the debacle law instituted in John Adams’ presidency, was repealed by Thomas Jefferson. The generalized assumption of free speech in all subjects finally came later in our history through many court cases. Still, even those cases present some limits — we are all familiar with the principle that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
I give this brief history lesson to point out a particular irony about the we-care-more-than-you leftists that want to ban conservative’s political speech. The left is particularly un-American in this fascist desire to shut down the Rush Limbaughs and Andrew Breitbarts. After all, the founders had written the First Amendment specifically to protect the speech of the Limbaughs and Breitbarts — and for that matter, left-wingers like the Keith Olbermanns and Chris Matthews of the world, too. Our founding principle is to protect the very speech that the left wants to shut down.
That makes these putative Americans not very American, doesn’t it?