Tag Archives: Charles Schumer

One State’s Concerted Attack on the First Amendment

New York is one of the most solidly left-wing states. But that doesn’t mean that all of its residents agree with the prevailing progressive ideology—and that dissent disturbs the leadership.

In an attempt to muzzle opposing viewpoints, New York’s elected officials are continuously seeking means to suppress free speech. The latest scandalous move comes from Assemblyman David Weprin, who represents part of NYC in the state legislature. He has introduced legislation (A5323) that is such a broad attack against the First Amendment that it has attracted national attention, garnering substantial criticism.  This is how the Washington Post’s  Eugene Volokh describes the measure:

“…under this bill, newspapers, scholarly works, copies of books on Google Books and Amazon, online encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others) — all would have to be censored whenever a judge and jury found (or the author expected them to find) that the speech was “no longer material to current public debate or discourse”…And of course the bill contains no exception even for material of genuine historical interest; after all, such speech would have to be removed if it was “no longer material to current public debate.” Nor is there an exception for autobiographic material, whether in a book, on a blog or anywhere else. Nor is there an exception for political figures, prominent businesspeople and others.But the deeper problem with the bill is simply that it aims to censor what people say, under a broad, vague test based on what the government thinks the public should or shouldn’t be discussing. It is clearly unconstitutional under current First Amendment law.”

A failure to comply with a request to remove material from articles, search engines or other places would make the author liable for, at a minimum, a penalty of $250 per day plus attorney fees.

Weprin isn’t alone in his antipathy for the First Amendment. New York enacted a measure that requires not-for-profit organizations that discuss public issues to disclose the names of donors who give more than $2,500, a move that violates both the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment, as well as a Supreme Court ruling.

New York’s anti-free speech and campaign disclosure laws are stunning in their extent and open defiance of the First Amendment. Among other mandates, they impose a requirement of across the board disclosure of donors and staff, and provides a first-ever disclosure requirement for “political consultants.” At first glance, that appears comparatively innocuous. However, the devil is in the details. According to the legislation’s language, almost anyone who has ever had any relation or association with anyone even remotely connected to a campaign would have to be disclosed. In essence, it criminalizes anyone with an active interest in politics. Further, it substantially intimidates anyone seeking to provide summaries of their perspectives on the issues or advice on how to present those views from speaking with a candidate in any substantive manner. Independent advocacy groups promoting anything from environmental protection to benefits for veterans would be handicapped.

The outrageous assault on free speech has been challenged in federal court. Not backing down, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has hired one of the nation’s top specialist attorney’s in the field to defend the offensive measure.

As previously reported in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government, New York Senator Charles Schumer, who is the U.S. Senate’s minority leader, proposed a measure that would limit free speech protections as they pertain to campaign donations. The proposed legislation, thankfully defeated, gained 43 Senate supporters—all Democrats. At a Senate Rules Committee  Schumer stated that “The First Amendment is sacred, but the First Amendment is not absolute. By making it absolute, you make it less sacred to most Americans.”

Je Sois Charlie

The recent terrorist attack on a Parisian satirical newspaper, the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures, and Washington’s political debates over campaign speech, media activities, and internet regulations have a common thread. They all   constitute an assault on the First Amendment.

The readiness of far too many to surrender to the totalitarian demands of Jihadists have only encouraged actions such as that levied against France’s Charlie Hebdo,   a humorous journal.

Many media outlets which do not display any second thoughts about critical portrayals of Christianity, Judaism, or other religions balk at any negative commentary about Islam, despite the prevalence of Jihadists who have hijacked much of that faith for their own warped goals.  The violent attacks in Paris and elsewhere by terrorists, as well as pressure from “political correctness” vigilantes in the media and academia give rise to this culture of submission.

Astoundingly, many media outlets, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, concentrated on warning against a “backlash” instead of devoting more column space to the increasingly frail state of free speech. Far too few share the courage of that publication’s Stephanie Chardonnier, who in 2012 proclaimed that she would “rather die standing than live on my knees.”

For most Americans, the sacrosanct status of free speech has frequently been given no more daily attention than the existence of oxygen.  Certainly, it has been understood that the lack of that right in many nations around the world is an unfortunate reality, but it was generally assumed that didn’t affect U.S. citizens in any direct manner.

That assumption can no longer be considered correct, if, indeed, it ever had any validity.  Dictators and extremists across the planet realize that the First Amendment is a threat to their rule, and are actively taking steps against it. In the Internet age, they comprehend, freedom of speech originating in one venue cannot be contained.

Examples abound. It is highly unlikely that the Sony movie portraying Kim Jong-un in a satirical manner would ever be shown within the “Hermit Kingdom’s” borders. But the mere existence of it elsewhere was viewed as a threat by Pyongyang’s leadership. This is not the first time that overseas pressure has affected U.S. filmmakers.  The re-make of the cult classic, “Red Dawn,”    which originally featured a storyline of a Chinese invasion of America, was amended to not offend Beijing.

Many universities have actively restricted the rights of students who publicly state positions that campus officials disagree with.

In 2014, Senator Charles Schumer introduced legislation  in the U.S. Senate to limit the First Amendment to allow greater control of spending during campaigns.  The measure, supported by 43 Democrats and opposed by all Republicans, was defeated, but the message was chilling: the First Amendment is no longer sacrosanct.

Free speech advocates have been equally disturbed by several White House regulatory actions.  The FCC’s attempt to place “monitors”   in newsrooms was knocked down, but not permanently ruled out, following vehement public objections.

This reduced devotion to free speech has not gone unnoticed by forces of repression across the globe. Like predators closing in on weakened prey, they are emboldened to attack, and will continue to expand their aggression until governments, universities, and the press regain their courage and forcefully push back against those who would eliminate free speech.