Debate: America Is In The Middle Of A War Against Freedom of Speech
February 13, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Ed. Note: In light of the violence at Berkeley following the scheduled presentation by Milo Yiannopoulos, we have charged Mario Machado and Chris Seaton to debate, “Is America in the middle of a war against free speech?” This is Mario’s argument:
Is there a war against free speech? Yes there is, and to prove it, let’s start from “the top.”
Less than two years ago, there was a micro-meltdown at Yale University because of an email from a College master’s wife that defended Nazis right to speak suggested school administrators should not be censoring which costumes students wore for Halloween. There were calls for firings, and some students had a complete meltdown, which was captured in video. This happened at an elite Ivy League school, where the “best and brightest” (and intellectually strident, perhaps?) get together to make the world a better and smarter place (at least in theory).
Fast forward to January of this year, when the prospect of having right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, speak at Berkeley’s campus led to violent protests and vandalism en masse that resulted in the cancellation of the event. ATMs were smashed by masked goons, fires were spread, a Milo supporter was pepper sprayed, and even students’ beloved Starbucks had its windows smashed to smithereens.
There are two takeaways from the Milo scandal at Berkeley that should put anyone who gives two cents about the First Amendment on notice. One, this happened at the progressive liberal University of California, Berkeley, whose name has been synonymous with free speech ever since the swinging 1960s, where its Sproul Plaza was used as a rallying point for free speech rabble rousers of all sorts.
Two, Milo is, by far, not the most “offensive” voice out there. Nothing in his speeches could ever “justify” that reaction. Milo said he couldn’t believe the backlash against someone as “silly and harmless and gay” as him. So for the Berkeley snowflakes and anyone else who supports their mad, babyish conduct: Sit down. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad.
In recent history, those who believed in the Constitution, the First Amendment, and the Enlightenment not only tolerated, but defended ghouls who were much nastier than Milo. All it took for snowflakes to fold and throw the First Amendment into the bonfire is Milo condemning SJWs and the overweight? And to this day, there are other voices out there that advocate babble that is more toxic, racist than Milo, yet they get no condemnation from you?
So if we have to use that stupid word “offensive,” it is those who cherish that bundle of constitutional rights that are very much offended by how these hissy fits continue to silence speech, regardless of whether it’s “bad” speech or not. Yet, this group doesn’t set fire to the nearest confectionery or punch the villain du jour in the kisser in response. Instead, they calmly point to the Constitution, the teachings of the Enlightenment, and if necessary, tell the kidz “I’ll see you in court” (in lower case).
One of the latest salvos fired against the freedom of speech comes from a sociologist armed with a soapbox, whereby she encourages others to commit criminal assault against wannabe National Socialists. Can it get any worse? By all means. In the middle of a very public psychotic breakdown, a woman claiming to be an NYU professor yelled at NYPD officers because they were not kicking the purported Nazis’ asses.
This happened after votaries of the Antifa movement incessantly heckled — and thus silenced — right-winger Gavin McInnes when he tried to speak near the NYU campus. Not satisfied with their latest affront against the freedom of speech, these teacups then cowardly assaulted McInnes with mace while wearing masks. Eleven of them ended up in cuffs.
There are other movements against the First Amendment that are also popular, but still very dangerous. The cyber civil rights (whatever the hell that means) movement against “revenge porn” is led by disingenuous law professors who could care less if innocent people are snared by bad laws, so long as their bad hombres are locked up. Yet, these law profs have big soapboxes and a captive legislative audience, which has resulted in a wave of statutes across the country that criminalize protected speech.
Yes, the latest and most popular trend amongst the silencers is that they want to punch wannabe Nazis like Richard Spencer in the face. They want to be told that it is okay, legal, and even commendable to do it.
That’s how far off the constitutional reservation these soldiers of self-righteousness have gone, and the fact that there is a “debate” on the ethics or legality of doing something like that makes the grownups shake their heads in disappointment. What these punchers don’t understand is that if it’s okay to punch Nazis, then it’s alright to strike, let’s say, Zionists.
What the silencers and punchers never seem to get is that every time they violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else, they are potentially making a rod for their own back. The following exchange from the play “A Man For All Seasons” between Sir Thomas More and an ambitious prosecutor drives that point home, in spades:
SIR THOMAS MORE: What would you do? Cut a great road through law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? … [D)’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
BOLT, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, Act I, at 66 (Random House ed. 1962).