Tag Archives: First Amendment

The Campaign Against Free Speech

There is a specific and clear message that many elite journalists, internet giants, academics, and politicians are delivering to the American people: “You are too stupid to understand objective reporting or use free speech the right way, so we will decide for you what can and cannot be reported or said. The First Amendment no longer applies to you!”

The message comes from a variety of sources. On CNN, which has become infamous for slanting its reporting in so extreme a manner during the past several years and especially during the 2016 presidential campaign that detractors have nicknamed it the “Clinton News Network,” celebrated reporter Carl Bernstein, reports RealClearPolitics, stated that President Trump was a “Malignant” president and that “reporters needed to change the way they cover him…It calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the president of the United States.”

CNN has also reported that it “outed” the Reddit user that put together the “gif” of Trump wrestling that network’s image, who subsequently “apologized” for his exercise in free speech not approved by the media elites. CNN has apparently taken lessons from totalitarian states that gleefully force dissenters to recant.

Perhaps CNN derives its contempt for free speech from the nation’s academic institutions, where American history is barely taught, perhaps because the concepts enshrined in the Bill of Rights are just too dangerous for elites who wish to rule without interference.

That contempt is leading to lawsuits, Campus Reform reports. Three students at Kellogg Community College in Michigan were arrested for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. “The manager of Student Life, Drew Hutchinson, asked them to stop because they might “obstruct the student’s ability to get an education…this was…too much for school administrators who insisted the three were in violation of the school’s draconian solicitation policies. They called the Kalamazoo police and the Chief of Police himself came to arrest the activists for trespassing. Now, Brandon Withers… who was with the activists that afternoon, is suing the college. A press release from his lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom says: ‘The problem is that KCC’s speech policy, what they call a ‘Solicitation Policy,’ regulates a wide variety of student expression. Things such as leafleting, assemblies, speeches, and circulating petitions are all greatly restricted, but they also happen to be protected by the First Amendment.”

Kellogg University’s actions are not an isolated incident within higher education. The University of California is being sued for First Amendment violations for its actions in blocking conservative-minded speakers from appearing on campus. There are numerous other examples throughout academia—and not only at the university level.

The growing opposition to free speech on the part of the Progressive left is increasingly organized and well-funded.

The Washington Examiner reports that “The former chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, [FEC] who famously eyed regulating the politics of conservative outlets like the Drudge Report, has joined an advocacy group funded by George Soros and run by his son. Ann Ravel is the first fellow listed with the California advocacy group New America. Her fellowship began in March and pays a $30,000 stipend…Since leaving the FEC, Ravel has continued to speak out for more election regulation, especially on the internet where she sees political advertising shifting to in the next presidential contest. She has applauded calls for regulating political speech and spending on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and this week endorsed tracing the funding of online ads and regulating individual Twitter accounts.”

During President Obama’s tenure in office, there were numerous attempts to use the FEC and various campaign regulatory statutes as a stealth attack on free speech.  Many of the moves were brazen, such as that by New York Senator Charles Schumer’s proposed legislation that would begin the process of weakening First Amendment protections regarding paid political speech.  Democrat members of the FEC have also sought to bring certain web sites under its jurisdiction.

During the prior eight years, significant attacks on free speech included:

  • The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to place federal monitors in newsrooms;
  • openly considered criminal prosecution of anyone disagreeing with Obama’s views on climate change;
  • placing the internet under international control (which would permit censorship,);
  • Using Internal Revenue Service has been used a bludgeon against groups opposing White House policies; and
  • The Justice Department seized telephone records of Fox news reporters.

In 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists  protested in a letter to the Obama White House about “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations…Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow… Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis. In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.”

The attack on free speech also occurs in more subtle ways, especially in that increasingly vital marketplace of ideas, the internet. Search engines giants have tailored their search results to omit results or obscure or delete comments that do not conform to leftist orthodoxy.  The internet research organization Can I Rank found that  “top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a “Left” or “Far Left” slant than they were pages from the right. Moreover, 16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results. Our analysis of the algorithmic metrics underpinning those rankings suggests that factors within the Google algorithm itself may make it easier for sites with a left-leaning or centrist viewpoint to rank higher in Google search results compared to sites with a politically conservative viewpoint.” The study found that 16% of political keyword searches yielded no conservative-oriented pages within the initial search results.

The U.S. nearing a dangerous turning point, in which not only is free speech endangered, but also the very means to generate free speech is endangered. From academia’s relentless drive to indoctrinate students against the nation’s founding principles, to the establishment media’s actions in warping its reporting, to the actions by bureaucrats and elected officials alike to regulate and intimidate against the exercise of First Amendment rights, America’s most cherished freedom has become an endangered species.

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.”

War on Religion, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its review of anti-religion actions within the United States

Rachel Lu, writing in The Federalist reports: “Christians are turning into the sort of minority it is socially acceptable to despise and marginalize. Ordinary rules of civility and social inclusion don’t seem to apply to them. We believe in free speech, except not for Christians. Freedom of association doesn’t necessarily apply to them. Rules of civility and decency are more optional when Christians are involved. Shall we even pretend that freedom of religion is a cherished American commitment in our day? When a group is ‘approved’ for this kind of marginalizing treatment, it’s hard to predict where it will stop.”

The other portion of America’s Judeo-Christian ethic, Judaism, is facing equal challenges. Conservative Review  notes: “The far-left has in fact long been a breeding ground for anti-Semitism.”  The National Interest notes that “mainstream liberals in America have been reluctant to call out the anti-Semites wreaking havoc within the ranks of the Left…why have they allowed the cancer to metastasize this long?”

The problem is particularly acute in schools.  Even the normally liberal ACLU has criticized the excessive restrictions on religion in public schools, explaining: “The Constitution permits much private religious activity in and about the public schools. Unfortunately, this aspect of constitutional law is not as well known as it should be. Some say that the Supreme Court has declared the public schools ‘religion-free zones’ or that the law is so murky that school officials cannot know what is legally permissible. The former claim is simply wrong.”

Examples of the ridiculous degree to which religion is treated with hostility in public schools are provided by the Catholic League:

“A student at [Florida’s] Yulee High School ended the school’s morning announcement with ‘God Bless America.’ This caused the American Humanist Association to contact the school and the Nassau County School District to warn school officials that saying ‘God Bless America’ over the school’s public address system was ‘inappropriate and unlawful.’

“The California State University Stanislaus chapter of Chi Alpha, a Christian student organization, was deactivated because the group insisted that its leaders be Christians. The university said it would no longer recognize the group due to a non-discrimination executive order that prohibited student organizations from excluding anyone, including in leadership roles. ‘What they cannot be is faith-based where someone has to have a profession of faith to be that leader” said university vice president Tim Lynch.’Students argued that everyone was welcome to attend their meetings, regardless of their religious belief, but that group leaders were expected to lead prayers and perform other faith-based duties that it would be impossible for someone of a different faith to complete.”

Religious schools are also being attacked.  Holly Scheer, also writing in the Federalist,  describes an eventually withdrawn attempt in California that would have attacked religious schools:

“People used to expect that attending something sponsored by religious organization required abiding by mores and behavior that religious body professes. There was a simple option for avoiding the ideas or practices of a belief system you don’t agree with: don’t frequent their space. This courteous expectation naturally applied to all religions and expressions of faith. California [attempted] to end this system of free association that allows people to define their local and religious cultures. California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146)…[sought] to limit the religious exemptions from federal Title IX regulations that colleges and universities use for hiring instructors, teaching classes, and conducting student services in line with their faith.”

A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life  reported “Despite that long series of court decisions, polls show that large numbers of Americans favor looser, not tighter, limits on religion in public schools. According to an August 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center, more than two-thirds of Americans (69%) agree with the notion that “liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religion out of the schools and the government.”And a clear majority (58%) favor teaching biblical creationism along with evolution in public schools.”

There is a profound belief on the part of the Progressive left that that freedom flows not from the inherent rights of the people, as clearly stated in America’s founding documents, but from the government. Anything that limits government’s influence, in this view, must be reduced. That is why totalitarian states frequently attack religion.

 

War on Religion

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government presents a two-part review of what many perceive to be a war on religion within the United States.

Are progressives conducting a war on those who follow traditional religious beliefs within the United States?

The evidence is becoming so overwhelming that it is difficult to ignore.

Martin Castro, an Obama appointee serving as chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has released a report (Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties)  on nondiscrimination protections. In doing so, he erroneously equates the principles of religious freedom, (as first reported in the Wall Street Journal) as “nothing except hypocrisy.” He equates the concept of the right to follow one’s conscience on religion as hiding “discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” He essentially echoes comments by the President that disdain those who, in his words, bitterly cling to their bibles or guns, and by Ms. Clinton, who disparagingly described those differing with her views as having “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases [that] have to be changed.”

The report notes: “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights…The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause constricts the ability of government actors to curtail private citizens’ rights to the protections of non-discrimination laws and policies.  Although the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act limit the ability of government actors to impede individuals from practicing their religious beliefs, religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis.”

Progressives have used numerous excuses to attack freedom of conscience, essentially using non-discrimination laws as a spear to attack religious freedom, rather than as a shield to protect those who have been truly discriminated against due to race, creed or gender.

Lt. Gen. (US Army-Ret.) William Boykin has written “I am concerned that instead of instilling leadership or imparting warfighting skill, our U.S. military training apparatus is now focused on editing out the religious practices of its cadets.” There are significant examples to back up General Boykin’s concern. Fox News  recently reported that one group has demanded that “an Air Force major be ‘aggressively punished’ for having an open Bible on his desk at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.”

Needlessly, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act forces employers, including religious groups, to ignore their own scruples. The Alliance Defending Freedom notes: “The HHS Mandate poses an extremely serious threat to our First Amendment freedoms and has come to also be known as the ‘abortion pill mandate.’ The Mandate:

  • Forces citizens to pay for other people’s life-ending abortion drugs.
  • Uses devastating fines to punish religious employers who refuse to pay for abortion-causing drugs and chemical birth control through their employee health insurance plans.
  • Demands that early life-ending drugs be provided free of charge by religious employers and religious people in business, while the cost of other life-saving medical care continues to cost you. “

The issue isn’t about abortion or assisted suicide. It’s about forcing employers who may have long held and deeply felt religious objections to choose between violating the law or violating their conscience.

Individuals have been fired for merely following their conscience based on traditional values. An example is  former Mozilla C.E.O. Brendan Eich. Stunning acts of overbearing governmental intervention in religious matters have taken place, such as that by the Houston City Council which subpoenaed the sermons of pastors to check for political correctness.  Religious social service agencies have been harassed for following the precepts of their philosophy.

Donald Critchlow, writing in the National Review, correctly asserts that “There has been a well-organized campaign against Christianity, making use of new interpretations of the concepts of…civil rights and social justice.”

Mary Eberstadt, in her new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe, Religious Freedom and its Enemies, outlines how the media has ignored this very real problem.

The Report concludes tomorrow

Foreign Censorship Influences U.S. Freedom

It has become disturbingly evident that there is a growing trend against free speech. The increased influence of international norms over U.S. standards bears a significant part of the responsibility, a pattern that will expand significantly when Obama’s move to place the internet under international control becomes complete before he leaves office.

But the President’s inappropriate internet divestment is only part of the problem. The number of excuses used to justify the disregard for America’s greatest achievement—the First Amendment—continues to grow. Political correctness, college “safe spaces,” campaign regulation, and other factors all play a role.

Of extraordinary importance is the desire of major communications companies to appease foreign dictatorships, in order to gain entry into their nations’ marketplace.  Disturbingly, U.S. internet giants have demonstrated their willingness to reject American free speech principles in return for access to foreign markets.

The Bloomberg news service notes that:

“In recent years, founder Mark Zuckerberg has made clear his intention to bring the platform to China. To win favor, much to the amusement of Chinese netizens, he’s handed out copies of  [General Secretary of the Communist Party of China] Xi’s tome, The Governance of China, to Facebook employees; showed off his Mandarin skills; and posted photos of himself jogging through hazardous Beijing smog. It remains to be seen whether that multi-faceted courtship will be effective.”

However, Bloomberg reports that Zennon Kapron, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Kapronasia, believes that unless China’s censorship rules are incorporated into Facebook’s practices, the company will not succeed in its quest, noting that  “All the kowtowing and meeting the leadership maybe won’t matter so much if Facebook won’t agree to allow some level of censorship, or allow the Chinese government access to data on the site, in exchange for market access,” Bloomberg notes that ‘Linkedin operates in China, but only by agreeing to abide by content restrictions.”

China has moved to reduce its already limited tolerance for any semblance of free speech. The Financial Times notes that   “Since Xi came to power, China’s situation has become more and more worrisome,’ says Murong Xuecun, a prominent author and commentator. ‘Things that we could openly discuss before, such as the Cultural Revolution, are now considered sensitive or even forbidden. In the past there was some room for non-governmental organisations and rights lawyers. Now all of them have been suppressed.’ In an internal document issued just a month after Mr Xi became president in March 2013 and later leaked, the Communist party identified the very notion of civil society as ‘an attempt to dismantle the party’s social foundation…That puts NGOs, journalists, activists, researchers at a much higher risk……China’s internet regulator moved to rein in original reporting by online news portals, in the latest setback for an already tightly muzzled media sector.”

Facebook has been increasingly criticized for its censorship activities, even outside of China. WND  found that “Facebook…temporarily blocked talk-radio host Michael Savage from posting stories to his page after he put up a link to a story about a Muslim migrant killing a pregnant woman in Germany…In December, as WND reported, Facebook removed a post on Savage’s site of photographs of a 2006 protest outside the Embassy of Denmark in London that featured signs warning of beheading and death for ‘those who insult Islam.’ At that time, Facebook also ‘determined that it violated Facebook community standards.”

During the Cold War era, the influence of foreign information served to open up the closed societies behind the Communists’ “Iron Curtain.” Now, however, the reverse is occurring: the censorship proclivities of dictatorships of all kinds, Communist, Moslem extremists, or others, appear to be changing the free-speech culture of the West.

American cultural tolerance for the repression of free speech continues to grow.  There has been little push back against U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s comments regarding criminal prosecution of those that disagree with the White House’s view on man-made climate change, or actions by state attorneys general to engage in legal harassment of think tanks with views counter to that of the President.

The trend is manifest on the streets, as well. The Gateway Pundit recently reported that “A young white man wearing one of Donald Trump’s red ‘Make America Great Again!” hats was violently forced out of New York City’s City Hall Park by a screaming Leftist racist mob of predominantly self-described ‘black and brown’ activists–all while police stood by and did nothing. The mob was gathered to protest police as part of a “#ShutDownCityHallNYC” rally in the park.

Campaign Regulation used for Partisan and Anti-Free Speech Goals

The trend towards restricting free speech through campaign finance regulations is gaining speed, on both the national and state levels.

The supporters of these anti-First Amendment moves allege that they are seeking to reduce the influence of money in politics.  In reality, their goals fall into two categories:

First, incumbent protection.  By establishing complicated and arcane rules concerning filing reports, with significant penalties for any less than perfect compliance, rather than simple requirements that the names of donors and the amounts provided (filed following the end of a campaign) be provided, they impose significant financial and legal burdens on challengers. Absent the access to professional assistance incumbents possess, citizens seeking to run must spend scarce resources and even more scarce time running a legally hazardous maze of requirements established by and for incumbents.

Second, partisan advantage. The Citizens United  decision held, as summarized by ScotusBlog,  that  “ Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.” Many on the left of the political spectrum believe that this upset advantages they long held, and have sought to enact legislation and regulation to restore that advantage.

There have been measures, some of which have passed and others blocked, that have sought to reduce the effectiveness of the First Amendment in an attempt to regain that advantage.

One extremist measure that failed was a piece of legislation introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to initiate the constitutional amendment process in order to limit the effectiveness of the First Amendment.  The proposed limitation on free speech rights would have excluded paid political speech from constitutional protection.

A radical legislative item has been approved by the New York State Legislature. The measure openly headlines its goal as “Enacting the nation’s strongest protections to combat Citizens United.” Among other mandates, it imposes 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 details of the law provide a chilling attack on First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association, in a manner that clearly helps incumbents and handcuffs challengers. Even nonpartisan organizations that openly disagree with particular policies of elected officials would be subjected to onerous reporting requirements merely for stating their beliefs, while incumbents could continue to speak their views unencumbered.

It gets even worse.  Assume you are a motorist who has become tired of replacing tires destroyed by potholes not repaired by the state, and you are angered that your elected official has done nothing to address the problem. You, acting entirely on your own, decide to air your grievance on social media, and perhaps write a few letters to newspapers.  Under the law’s definition, you should have registered as an independent committee, subject to all the red tape and legal requirements that implies. Clearly, that prevents private citizens not wishing to be subjected to penalties from criticizing their errant local official, or even seeking to organize friends and neighbors to protest.

The anti-First Amendment drive involves regulation as well as legislation. The Democrat members of the Federal Election Commission attempted to impose a penalty on one news station that has been uniformly critical of the Obama Administration, based on a complaint from an obscure candidate that he wasn’t invited to a televised debate. Of course, those same commissioners have never considered imposing similar sanctions against the Democrat National Committee, which has inappropriately tilted towards Hillary Clinton in her primary effort against Bernie Sanders. The attempt was blocked by Republican Commissioners.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held, even long before the Citizens United case, that campaign contributions and expenditures are protected by the First Amendment. Legalities aside, common sense in a free nation dictates that public statements made by citizens or organizations disagreeing (or agreeing) with their elected officials is a vital activity in a free nation.

The numerous attempts to use campaign regulation, which should reasonably only consist of open disclosure of all contributions, as a vehicle to immunize incumbents from criticism, and to tilt the balance of power in a partisan manner, is an affront to the entire concept of a free people.

Campaign vs. Free Speech Continues

Democrat members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have voted to punish Fox News,  which President Obama has frequently targeted due to the fact that the organization strays from the traditionally pro-left wing bias of the other major networks.  The matter involved the manner in which Fox handled debates. Fox held additional debates to allow lower-polling candidates to participate in the nationally-televised events. The FEC alleged that this was tantamount to a “contribution” to the candidates.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Republican FEC commissioner Lee E. Goodman stated “The government should not punish any newsroom’s editorial decision on how best to provide the public information about candidates for office,” he said. “All press organizations should be concerned when the government asserts regulatory authority to punish and censor news coverage.”

The hypocrisy of the Democrat commissioners is evident in the fact that they acted against a move to expand fair coverage of a broad range of candidates while ignoring acts by the DNC to tilt the primary process in favor of one candidate, Hillary Clinton, in a manner that substantially disadvantaged rival Bernie Sanders. An Observer review of the matter noted “The Democratic National Committee rigged the Democratic primaries to ensure Hillary Clinton would win the presidential nomination. Evidence suggesting this claim is overwhelming, and as the primaries progress, the DNC’s collusion with the Clinton campaign has become more apparent.” Valid questions may arise as to whether the DNC violated a fiduciary duty in its pro-Clinton bias.

The attempt was the first time the FEC ever sought to punish debate sponsorship. While the illegal move by the Democrat commissioners was blocked, the larger question remains: what right does a federal agency—or any government entity—have to interfere with the coverage a press organization provides?

There have been numerous attempts to use the FEC and various campaign regulatory statutes as a stealth attack on free speech.  Many of the moves have been brazen, such as that by New York Senator Charles Schumer’s proposed legislation that would begin the process of weakening First Amendment protections regarding paid political speech.  Democrat members of the FEC have also sought to bring certain web sites under its jurisdiction.

Democrats, who formerly held a broad advantage in campaign finance by their close association to union leadership, have furiously sought to regain that advantage after the playing field was levelled in the wake of the Citizens United decision, which ruled that political spending is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Throughout President Obama’s tenure in office, significant attempts have been made to attack free speech:

  • His commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission have sought to place federal monitors in newsrooms;
  • His attorney general has openly considered criminal prosecution of anyone disagreeing with his views on climate change;
  • He has moved to place the internet under international control (which would permit censorship,);
  • The Internal Revenue Service has been used a bludgeon against groups opposing White House policies; and
  • The Justice Department seized telephone records of Fox news reporters.

In 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists  protested in a letter to the White House about “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis. In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.”

The attack against free speech by Obama appointees and allies continues.

The latest assault, reported first by Bill McMorris in the Washington Free Beacon, comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, which attempted to implement a new policy that would compel companies to disclose any advice they seek during union elections. Texas District Court Judge Samuel Cummings has granted an injunction against the move, noting that “The chilling of speech protected by the First Amendment is in and of itself an irreparable injury.”

49% of U.S. Universities Censor Students

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has found that 49.3% of the 440 universities it surveyed maintain severely restrictive speech codes, policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech. The only good news for First Amendment advocates is that the number of colleges doing so has been steadily declining.

According to FIRE, “Despite the critical importance of free speech on campus, too many universities—in policy and in practice—censor and punish students’ and faculty members’ speech and expressive activity. One way that universities do this is through the use of speech codes—policies prohibiting speech that, outside the bounds of campus, would be protected by the First Amendment.”

The CATO organization  believes the problem can be traced to the “massive expansion of the bureaucratic class at universities, which officially began outnumbering the number of full-time instructors in 2005, and the rise of the ‘risk management’ industry, which makes a fortune teaching universities how to avoid lawsuits by regulating almost every aspect of student life.” The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the federal agency, according to CATO, that has instituted a “hair trigger” that chills speech.

According to CATO, “By the late 1980s, colleges were adopting “anti-harassment” codes that restricted protected speech. In the mid-1990s, the campus speech code phenomenon converged with the expansion of federal anti-discrimination law by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR encouraged and even required harassment codes, and although its guidance tried to ‘balance’ the need for these codes with the First Amendment, by the time FIRE was founded in 1999, universities were using the “federal government made me do it” excuse to justify even the most laughably unconstitutional speech codes.”

In reaction to the officially sanctioned repression of free speech, students have turned both to petitions and law suites.

Students at Dartmouth University have placed a petition on the Change.org  website.  The key portion of the petition reads:

“We, the undersigned, feel that it is our duty to address certain issues that threaten the current and future well-being of Dartmouth College…the Dartmouth administration has spent its time policing student life. Buoyed by the idea that the College should support exclusionary ‘safe spaces’ that act as a barrier against uncomfortable ideas, administrators have assumed the role of paternalistic babysitters. By effectively taking sides in sensitive debates and privileging the perspectives of certain students over other…administrators have crossed the line between maintaining a learning environment that is open to all and forcing their own personal views onto the entire campus. In doing so, they have undermined the value of civility, harmed the free exchange of ideas, and performed a disservice to those students who see their time in college as preparation for success in the real world…The Greek system, which has historically provided students with a social arena relatively free from the control of administrators, has been subjected to increasingly strict administrative control as well…We believe that the administration should treat students like the legal adults they are and cease chipping away at free speech, free thought, and free association…”

The most recent lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defendng Freedom (ADF) on May 19, on behalf of Young America’s Foundation, California State University-Los Angeles Young Americans for Freedom, columnist Ben Shapiro, and a CSU-LA student, challenging what they perceive to be the unconstitutional policies and practices of the university.

According to ADF, “Shapiro was scheduled to give a presentation entitled ‘When Diversity Becomes a Problem’ at CSU-LA on Feb. 25, as part of a free speech event organized by YAF. University officials first attempted to shut down the event. When those efforts failed, professors helped incite a mob of protestors to block entry to the venue… [they] flooded the university’s Student Union and physically blocked access to the theater where Shapiro was scheduled to speak… CSU-LA unilaterally decided what ideas are permissible, in a flagrant violation of the First Amendment, and even allowed an aggressive mob to menace free speech supporters,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker. ‘The defendants’ actions violated numerous university policies, as well as state and local laws. By blocking access to the event, the protestors created a serious safety hazard and denied our clients’ fundamental rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection of law.”

ADF filed the lawsuit, Young America’s Foundation v. Covino, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Free Press: An Endangered Species?

Freedom of the press is increasingly endangered throughout the globe.

The existence of unbridled journalism is vital to the entire concept of democracy. It is essential for providing a forum in which all problems facing a government can be resolved by a thorough airing of all facts and solutions, and to attack instances of corruption and power grabbing.

Unfortunately, the concept of free speech is taking a worldwide beating. Outright censorship by totalitarian governments, management of media outlets that seek to slant the news towards a particular point of view, and the growing trend towards labelling open discussions as “offensive” and then banning them, combine to make an objective and independent press an endangered species.

Reporters Without Borders has released its 2016 “World Press Freedom Index,” and the news is distressing. According to the organization, “Most of the movement … is indicative of a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests. The…Index reflects the intensity of the attacks on journalistic freedom and independence by governments, ideologies and private-sector interests during the past year.”

According to the group’s Secretary General Christophe Deloire, “The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests. Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests. Guaranteeing the public’s right to independent and reliable news and information is essential if humankind’s problems, both local and global, are to be solved.”

All of the Index’s indicators revealed a decline in press freedom over the past several years. The problems are not confined to just censoring individual news stories. The very infrastructure of journalism is under assault, as well. The study notes that “Some governments do not hesitate to suspend access to the Internet or even to destroy the premises, broadcast equipment or printing presses of media outlets they dislike. The infrastructure indicator fell 16% from 2013 to 2016.”

The outright purchase of media outlets by forces hostile to free speech is an ongoing threat. Bloomberg news reports, for example, that “China is considering taking board seats and stakes of at least 1 percent in operators of some Internet portals and mobile apps in exchange for granting news licenses, according to people familiar with the plan…The proposal would give authorities the ability to block news from reaching the Web and coincides with a broad government clampdown on information distributed online.”

In addition to government censorship and biased media management, pressure from aggressive pressure groups have damaged free speech. For quite some time, the threats from Islamic extremists has produced a chill, particularly in Europe and the middle east, on the need for a frank discussion of the key issues of terrorism, maltreatment of females, political corruption under the guise of religious leadership, and other related issues. Outright violence, such as that perpetrated against the Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris, serves as a prime example.

Reporters Without Borders notes that “The “media environment and self-censorship” indicator has deteriorated by more than 10% from 2013 to 2016.”

Even before the latest Index was published, there were an increasing number of complaints within the United States, for example, that social media outlets have acted prejudicially against individuals expressing viewpoints contrary to the prevailing Progressive orthodoxy, a trend clearly visible on college campuses. The Internet, the New York Analysis of Policy and Government believes, may be the media most at risk. The bizarre plan of the Obama Administration to surrender control of the internet to an international body composed of many members that practice censorship, scheduled to take place by November, does not bode well for the future.

Nor does the growing quest for expanding operations in China by private social media moguls. Mark Zuckerberg’s meeting with China’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, who praised the facebook founder’s “cooperative” attitude should raise serious alarm bells.

No nation has ever enacted free speech protection as substantial as America’s Constitutional First Amendment guarantee. But for the first time, that absolute right is being substantially assaulted. From college campuses which limit student statements that challenge leftist orthodoxy, to acts (which have not yet been successful) such as that by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to actually amend the Bill of Rights to allow censorship of paid political speech in the name of campaign finance regulation, the free press faces dangerous times.

The Chicago Incident and the Looming End of Free Speech

The disgraceful scene of anti-free speech thugs shutting down a political event in Chicago should worry every American, no matter what their political inclinations, party affiliation, or which candidate they support.

The incident, unfortunately, is not isolated.  Attempts to dismantle the operation of the First Amendment occur every day on college campuses across the nation, where progressive academics repress any dissenting opinion, and where centrist and conservative professors are intentionally excluded from the hiring process.

The situation is not much better in politics.  New York’s Senator Charles Schumer’s introduction of legislation to amend the First Amendment to allow the restriction of paid political speech actually gained 40 votes in the U.S. Congress before being defeated.

The left wing campaign to attack free speech will take a major step forward in the near future when President Obama’s move to transfer internet control from the U.S. to an international body influenced by nations that practice censorship is finalized.

It is baffling why the White House continues its pursuit of internationalizing internet control, particularly in light of moves by nations such as China to continuously clamp down on internet freedom.  Bloomberg recently reported that “China’s top Internet regulator closed the social media accounts of an influential, retired property developer who criticized President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten control over state-run media…The development comes days after Xi toured top media outlets in Beijing and issued orders that they “reflect the will” of the party and “preserve the authority of the party.” The edict represented the latest in a series of Xi moves to centralize power and rein in dissent, including jailing reporters, detaining influential Internet commentators and passing rules to keep party members from criticizing the leadership.”

Adding to the concern, the U.K.’s Independent  newspaper reports that China is preparing to ban all foreign media from publishing online.

“Only wholly Chinese owned companies will be able to publish online – subject to strict self-censorship. China is set to ban foreign media companies from publishing any content online without the government’s approval from next month, it has been announced. A new directive issued by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said that companies which have, at least in part, foreign ownership will be stopped from publishing words, pictures, maps, games, animation and sound of an ‘informational and thoughtful nature’ – unless they have approval from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.”

The Washington Examiner  has reported that FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai recently stated “”I think it’s dangerous, frankly, that we don’t see more often people espousing the First Amendment view that we should have a robust marketplace of ideas where everybody should be willing and able to participate.”

The paradigm shift away from universal support for free speech in the U.S. can be seen even beyond the words and actions of politicians, elected officials, and academics.  Social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook have discussed proposals for censoring the entries of their users if they can be deemed “offensive.”

The problem is, “offensive” is not clearly defined.  While some examples, such as the use of racial slurs is self-evident, in practice, such as on college campuses, “offensive” has come to mean anything, on any topic, that the prevailing left-wing orthodoxy disagrees with.

The tenor of the Chicago protestors can be seen in some of the participants.  Gateway Pundit reports that Bill Ayers was active in the event. Terrorist Bill Ayers, who led the Weather Underground group in the 1960’s and 1970’s, is infamous for his encouragement to his followers to “Kill all the rich people.” He participated in the bombing attacks against the Pentagon in 1972, the Capitol in 1971, and New York City’s Police headquarters in 1970.

Despite the allegation of the current Chicago protestors that they were acting out of anger at Donald Trump’s comments regarding immigration issues, the reality is that they were continuing the radicalization of American politics and culture, already seen on college campuses.  The central tool of that radicalization is the suppression of any event, speech, or candidacy that does not fall in line with left-wing views.  It is, in essence, the elimination of open discourse, debate or campaigning. It is the replacement of Constitutional order with mob rule.