Walter Lippmann began writing The Public Philosophy in 1938 and completed it in 1955. His words have particular relevance today when the Obama administration tries to “discredit stories and sources and reporters that the powers-that-be don’t like.”
In Chapter IX, Section 3, Lippmann explains why freedom of speech is a necessary component in a society. It is “a principal method of attaining truth” because of “the ability to raise searching difficulties on both sides of a subject [that] will make us detect more easily the truth and error about the several points that arise.” Thus, freedom of speech is not merely the “pleasure of [an] utterance” by an individual; it is more essential than that. Freedom of speech is the” ability to confront ideas with opposing ideas in order that the pro and the con of the dispute will lead to true ideas. But the dispute must not be treated as a trial of strength. It must be a means of elucidation.”
And it is this “means of elucidation” that infuriates the left as well as spokesmen for terrorist groups. They will harangue, scream, berate, shout, bellow, and yell – in an effort to drown out any meaningful discussion. And too often, in a gesture of being polite, one side quietly waits until the screaming is completed, but by then, time is up for a genuine interaction of ideas. Rather than having the “disputants argue cooperatively in order to acquire more wisdom than either of them had when [they] began,” censorship rears its ugly head.
In today’s world we see “silliness, baseness and deception” so much so that it “submerges the kernels of truth.” As a result, freedom of speech “is no longer respected as a procedure of the truth and [instead] becomes the unrestricted right to exploit the ignorance, and to incite the passions, of the people.” Consequently, how is it possible that the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that students can’t wear American flag T-shirts because they may offend Mexican students celebrating Cinco de Mayo is upheld? How is it conceivable that no matter the facts of the Ferguson situation, Obama, Holder, and Sharpton continue the false assertions that result in violence, destruction, and fear? Moreover, Obamacare lies are getting as high as the original stack of pages that constituted the law, while any credible debate about aspects of the law are ignored. Anyone exposing the underbelly of the law is demeaned and humiliated. Heck, we were too stupid to comprehend the scam, according to Gruber!
Thus, as Lippmann explains, freedom of speech ultimately becomes “such a hullabaloo of sophistry, propaganda, special pleading, lobbying, and salesmanship that it is difficult to remember why freedom of speech is worth the pain and trouble of defending it.”
Therein lies the crux of the matter. As the government whittles away freedoms, the people become exhausted and dejected and eventually surrender because it is just easier than speaking up.
To wit, at a college where I teach, the internet security policy has now restricted access to the site “Religion of Peace.” Under the category of “Hate/Racism,” “access to this site is blocked according to the organization’s security policy.” But the Religion of Peace site includes “direct reference to the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira – the sacred texts that objectively define [Islam].” The site is “not a political site and [they] do not promote any particular religion.” In essence, the site is a valuable resource of articles from national and international sources (including American Thinker) that covers a wealth of information on Islam. The creators of this site ask if it is “possible to reform Islam into a 21st century religion, or is the dysfunctional and hate simply too deeply rooted within the teachings and history of the faith?” Though “pessimistic about reform,” they accept that “there are intelligent and compassionate members of the Muslim community who disagree[.]” Thus, the site is a forum that seeks the free expression of ideas. Nonetheless, a school of higher learning will not permit its students or faculty access to it.
Then there is the University of Minnesota library, which has put together a freely available online video collection that includes Al Jazeera Video Creative Commons Repository, containing broadcast footage that Al Jazeera has released under various Creative Commons licenses. Yet Al Jazeera’s “newscasts and on-air discussions are staged to show its mostly-Muslim viewers a relentlessly visceral, emotion-charged drama in which Jews, Israel, and Americans are almost always cast as villains, infidels, and evil-doers.”
Without the “willingness to debate,” a society cannot “achieve moral and political truth.” In fact, in 1927, Louis D. Brandeis maintained that “[i]f there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
For example, as much as I detest the actions of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), well-known for their anti-Israel demonstrations and political theater, I accept that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has defended SJP’s right to speak. But there should be an equally vocal explanation of the prevarications and misinformation expounded by SJP, because, as Lippmann writes, “when genuine debate is lacking, freedom of speech does not work as it is meant to work. It has lost the principle which regulates it and justifies it – that is to say, dialectic conducted according to logic and the rules of evidence.”
FIRE maintains that interruptions such as the 2010 lecture when Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was repeatedly forced to stop his talk do not equate to free speech. Thus, “if a precedent is set on this issue” that it’s OK to shout during a campus talk, “then any group that opposes any speaker can literally stop discussion and debate from taking place” by repeatedly interrupting. FIRE asserts that “[f]ailing to punish offenders appropriately is likely to threaten the free speech of future speakers by effectively condoning a ‘heckler’s veto’ through disruptive actions. That would make a mockery of the First Amendment.” In the end, according to Lippmann, “what men will most ardently desire is to suppress those who disagree with them and, therefore, stand in the way of the realization of their desires. Thus, once confrontation in debate is no longer necessary, the toleration of all opinions leads to intolerance. Freedom of speech, separated from its essential principle, leads through a short transitional chaos to the destruction of freedom of speech.”
Thus, Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, in the Encounter Broadside publication entitled Freedom From Speech, explains that “unfortunately, far from teaching the intellectual discipline that welcomes a free and robust exchange of ideas, campuses are actively accelerating the push for freedom from speech.” Often a desire to avoid “intellectual discomfort” rather than a pledge that one must tackle hard issues that entail allegedly “hurtful” “inconsiderate” or “offensive” speech is making the duty regarding free speech less compelling. This is a dangerous trajectory for a free people.
Which is why it is heartening to learn that the William F. Buckley Program at Yale University “refused to be bullied by the Muslim Students Association” and did not “rescind an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on campus.” This stands in stark contrast to Brandeis University, which capitulated to the demands that Ms. Ali not be permitted to speak.
The truth can be found only “when the human mind is capable of receiving it.” Yet far too many Americans have been inundated with pseudo-empathy lessons. Furthermore, many students are historically illiterate and cannot comprehend that “[w]e live in a world in which people are censured, demoted, imprisoned, beheaded, simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough [s***]. That’s the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we’re in one” (attributed to Daniel Gilbert).
One need only look to the “tyranny of silence” now enveloping Europe, where courageous Flemming Rose is calling for the “equivalent of a worldwide First Amendment.”
European laws balance freedom of expression against other rights such as the right to privacy and the right not to be offended. Therefore, European countries have various laws prohibiting hate speech, religious denigration, and racism. However, ‘almost absolute’ freedom of speech, with exceptions for incitement to violence and defamation of individuals, ‘makes America unique.’ Free speech is ‘not a balancing test’ against the so-called right not to be offended. Offensive speech is constitutionally protected if it’s true or mere opinion.
And yet, in America we have a burgeoning Fourth Estate abdication of its obligation to promote the freedom to speak and think. In an interview in the December 2014 Limbaugh Letter, investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson relates how news stories were massaged at CBS. “[I]f reporters and producers … found facts that differed with [their] managers’ preconceived notions, they often either wouldn’t air the story, or sometimes they would try to make [reporters] shape the facts of the story to fit their [managers’] version of reality.” In addition, as recounted in her book Stonewalled, Attkisson describes how the government actually hacked her computer and phone lines. “It was only through multiple forensics exams that the sophisticated monitoring and surveillance was discovered.”
Furthermore, the administration continues to “controversialize” an individual or an issue. That is, “instead of having to address the facts of Benghazi, they do opposition research on Sharyl Attkisson[.]” Facts, credible evidence, research, photographs are all but ignored, and the media aids and abets this. At The Guardian, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen write about how “across the globe, governments are monitoring and censoring access to the web.” And the issue of net neutrality brings us much closer to the possibility that “a quarter century of online liberty in the self-styled ‘land of the free’ will crash and burn.”
Walter Lippmann explains that “when genuine debate is lacking, freedom of speech does not work as it is meant to work” and “an unrestricted and unregulated right to speech cannot be maintained. It will be curtailed for all manner of reasons and pretexts and to serve all kinds of good, foolish, or sinister ends.”
December 29, 2014 marked the 124th Anniversary of the murder of 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. These 297 people, in their winter camp, were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection”. The slaughter began AFTER the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms. When the final round had flown, of the 297 dead or dying, two thirds (200) were women and children.
Around 40 members of the 7th Cavalry were killed, over half cut down by friendly fire from the Hotchkiss guns of their overzealous comrades-in-arms. Twenty members of the 7th Cavalry were deemed “National Heros” and awarded the Medal of Honor for their acts of cowardice.
We do not hear of Wounded Knee today. It is not mentioned in our history classes or books. What little does exist about Wounded Knee is normally the sanitized “Official Government Explanation” or the historically and factually inaccurate depictions of the events leading up to the massacre on the movie screen.
Wounded Knee was among the first federally backed gun confiscation attempts in United States history. It ended in the senseless murder of 297 people.
Before you jump on the emotionally charged bandwagon for gun-control, take a moment to reflect on the real purpose of the Second Amendment- The right of the people to take up arms in defense of themselves, their families, and property in the face of invading armies or an oppressive government. The argument that the Second Amendment only applies to hunting and target shooting is asinine. When the United States Constitution was drafted “hunting” was an everyday chore carried out by men and women to put meat on the table each night, and “target shooting” was an unheard of concept, musket balls were a precious commodity in the wilds of early America, and were certainly not wasted “target shooting”. The Second Amendment was written by people who fled oppressive and tyrannical regimes in Europe, and refers to the right of American citizens to be armed for defense purposes should such tyranny rise in the United States.
As time goes on the average citizen in the United States continues to lose personal freedom or “liberty”. Far too many times unjust bills are passed and signed into law under the guise of “for your safety” or “for protection” . The Patriot Act signed into law by G.W. Bush, then expanded and continued by Barack Obama is just one of many examples of American citizens being stripped of their rights and privacy for “safety”. Now, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is on the table, and will, most likely be taken away for “our safety”.
Before any American citizen blindly accepts whatever new firearms legislation that is about to be doled out, they should stop and think about something for just one minute- Evil does exist in our world. It always has and always will. Throughout history evil people have committed evil acts. In the Bible one of the first stories is that of Cain killing Abel. We can not legislate “evil” into extinction. Good people will abide by the law, defective people will always find a way around it.
And another thought Evil exists all around us, but looking back at the historical record of the past 200 years across the globe, where is “evil” and “malevolence” most often found? In the hands of those with the power- governments. That greatest human tragedies on record and the largest loss of innocent human life can be attributed to governments. Who do governments target? “Scapegoats” and “enemies” within their own borders … but only after they have been disarmed to the point where they are no longer a threat. Ask any Native American, and they will tell you it was inferior technology and lack of arms that contributed to their demise. Ask any Armenian why it was so easy for the Turks to exterminate millions of them, and they will answer “We were disarmed before it happened”. Ask any Jew what Hitler’s first step prior to the mass murders of the Holocaust was- confiscation of firearms from the people.
Wounded Knee is the prime example of why the Second Amendment exists, and why we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to surrender our Right to Bear Arms. Without the Second Amendment we have no right to defend ourselves and our families.
Eleanor Roosevelt had a permit to carry a handgun in New York state (though not in New York City, it should be noted). If you find yourself in a jurisdiction that forbids law-abiding citizens from packing heat, you might ask why she could carry but you cannot.
The good news is that guns laws have been radically liberalized over the past three decades or so. As Grover Norquist noted a few months ago at OZY:
Thirty years ago, 80 percent of Americans supported stricter gun control laws. Certain guns were banned. Organizations formed and expected they would soon “ban handguns” in private hands. In 1987 Florida passed a “shall issue” concealed carry law that required local government to give any honest and sane adult a permit to carry a gun concealed on his/her person or in a purse or car. Today, 41 states have enacted such laws. In 2007 there were 4.5 million such permits. Today there are more than 11.1 million. Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska do not even require permits to carry for their citizens. Five percent of the adult population has a concealed carry permit. One in 20. This drive has been fueled and validated by the fact that violent crime falls faster in states with concealed carry laws and even faster as more citizens avail themselves of that “new” right.
The crime rate per 100,00 people has declined as carry permits have increased. In 1987, for instance, the total crime rate was 5,550 and the violent crime rate was 610. In 2013, those numbers stood at 3,099 and 368.
In arming herself, Eleanor Roosevelt was ahead of the curve.
Image via the Twitter feed of historian Michael Beschloss.
Leftist gun control advocates use divide and conquer tactics on a routine basis, to deprive Americans of 2nd Amendment rights. A clear current example is the current effort by Virginia’s new governor (and Clinton apparatchik) Terry McAuliffe to impose new restrictions on Virginia gun ownership, though it is unlikely to get through the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.
The Washington Post lamented this likely outcome in typical fashion, beginning an editorial by invoking polls purporting to show that “Virginians, by overwhelming margins, favor tighter restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.” Thus, by this narrative, which would warm the heart of any totalitarian from Mussolini to Big Brother, the evil minority (through a representative legislature!) is denying the will of the righteous majority. And indeed, McAuliffe’s proposal is tailored to attack just a small minority of gun owners, to wit: collectors first, pretend to support hunters and everyone else, and drive a wedge into defenders of the 2nd Amendment.
The tactic presents gun control proposals that sound reasonable to many people, including most Americans who support 2nd Amendment rights, and start nibbling. McAuliffe’s proposed restrictions focus on two favorite targets of 2nd Amendment opponents, closing the so-called gun show loophole and limiting handgun purchases to one per month. There is little or no evidence that such restrictions keep guns from felons, or reduce crime or gun violence. But that’s of no consequence to the left, rather it’s a start. The tactic works because it really targets only a small minority of gun owners, and a tiny minority of the population as a whole — gun collectors.
The “gun show loophole” applies to private sellers at gun shows, who are not 01 FFL federal firearms licensees (i.e., those who own commercial gun shops and are also the majority of sellers at typical gun shows.) 01 FFLs (both commercially and at gun shows) sell the vast majority of the modern handguns and sporting rifles (assault guns in leftist lingo), that so bedevil gun controllers. These sellers must do federal background checks.
Private sellers might offer similar wares, but typically focus on collectables that are marketed to other collectors. They also tend to overvalue inventories, making them unappetizing compared to what the licensed dealers offer. And they are prohibited from knowingly selling to felons, mentally disturbed individuals, or others restricted under federal law. They just are not required to do background checks. How often do felons and mentally disturbed people drive out of their way to gun shows, pay the entrance fees, and successfully navigate their way to a private seller of a desirable modern firearm? Hardly ever, and then they still have to get past a wary seller, who is most likely an upstanding citizen who has no desire to break the law or incur liabilities.
Such legislation helps nobody, but it sounds good. It only immediately injures the small minority of gun owners that collect firearms for a hobby, making it politically palatable in an otherwise pro-gun state.
The same with a one purchase per month handgun limit. Few people have the desire or financial wherewithal to buy more than one gun a month, and so the restriction sounds reasonable. Most people that do are pretty well-off gun collectors. But does imposing this restriction do any good? Again, there is scant evidence that it does, and only a very few, very blue states so restrict purchases. It is just a way to limit gun rights in a palatable way.
The gun controllers, at least at this stage of the game, are particularly “respectful” of the interests of hunters. Often the politician in charge of the move (as in McAuliffe’s case) is identified as a gun owner or hunter himself (though McAuliffe has made no secret of his anti-gun rights stance.) In particular, the favorite firearm of President Obama and Joe Biden — the shotgun — is kept off limits to restriction, since it is also the most common and versatile gun for hunters. Trying to drive a wedge between hunters (including the new class of liberal “hipster” hunters) and other gun owners is a common tactic, straight from Saul Alinsky’s book. Thus, when shotguns are used in notorious incidents, like the Navy Yard shootings (where originally police and news organizations were quick to wrongly identify the weapon as an AR-15), or an incident in January 2014, at a Columbia, Maryland mall, there is no conspicuous call for restrictions — yet.
Virginians need only look across the Potomac into Maryland to see the end game of the “reasonable” restrictions proposed by Governor McAuliffe. Maryland moved from state background checks and one-gun-per-month limits, to imposing waiting periods for pistols and modern sporting rifles. Even that proved insufficient when the political opportunity the came after the Connecticut shootings in 2012. That led to far more sweeping restrictions which now outlaw modern sporting rifles, impose licensing requirements for all new handgun purchases, and limit magazine capacity to ten rounds. Local gun stores are being driven out of business across the state, and Beretta is moving its Maryland facility to Tennessee, at the cost of hundreds more jobs.
And while Marylanders (at least outside the D.C. suburbs and Baltimore) have fought back by electing a Republican governor, the new attorney general (Brian Frosh) was the chief legislative proponent of the new laws, and the legislature still remains solidly Democrat. More to the point, the hypocrisy and dishonesty of Maryland’s leftist politicians should send a chill up the spine of any supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, in Virginia or nationally.
In Maryland, in the months between the passage of the new gun control law in February 2013 and its effective date in October, those “minor, reasonable” restrictions already in place worked to frustrate and hinder Maryland gun owners from purchasing soon-to-be banned or heavily restricted firearms. The one-gun-per-month limit, seven-day waiting period, and state-mandated background checks created a confused and backlogged mess that denied honest gun owners their rights and put them in legal peril. Yet, despite the difficulties and risks, gun sales boomed, as Marylanders purchased tens of thousands of high-capacity pistols and modern sporting rifles. Marylanders today own many more of these “dangerous” weapons than would have otherwise been the case.
Yet in his recent campaign, with Marylanders owning more guns than ever before, Frosh ludicrously claimed that the new law would save “thousands of lives.” Of course, it hasn’t saved anyone, though perhaps the new glut of weapons has deterred a crime or two. And unusually, Maryland officials seemed to go out of their way to turn the Columbia Mall shooting into a would-be mass killing (when there is contrary evidence) that was frustrated only because the shooter had a shotgun rather than an AR-15. Remember, shotguns good (for now) other guns bad.
On December 20, 16-year-old Jawaad Jabbar arrived at the mall too late to get a pair of limited edition Air Jordan athletic shoes, so he pulled a gun on a man who did get a pair and asked him to hand over the shoes. Instead of complying, the would-be victim–a concealed carry permit holder–pulled his own gun and shot the teen dead.
According to WDTN.com, police in Miami Township, Ohio, say that “three juvenile males approached two adult males outside the Dayton Mall around 10 a.m.” One of the juveniles then pulled a gun and “demanded merchandise from the adult males,” who had been at the mall for “a limited athletic shoe release sale.”
When the juvenile pulled his gun, one of the adults pulled his concealed carry handgun and shot the teen once, killing him.
Miami Township Police Sergeant Jay Phares believes the whole incident occurred because “the teen didn’t make it to the mall in time to get in line for shoes.” He said, “This was a random act of ‘I want something that person has and I’m going to take it from them by any means.’”
The Freedom Fighters Foundation as do many patriots are concerned that the Obama administration will use a United Nations treaty as a basis for executive action on gun control.
The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty was set to take effect on Christmas Eve. Though the United States delegation to the U.N. has supported the treaty, it has very little chance of being ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. But there is still reason for concern, said Catherine Mortensen, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.
“We are worried about an end-run around Congress,” Mortensen told TheBlaze. “Barack Obama or a future anti-gun president could use ATT and international norms compliance to rationalize enacting gun control policies through executive actions, especially in the import and export realms.”
“Even now, with an existing appropriations rider prohibiting action to implement the treaty unless it is approved by Congress, administration officials are publicly professing support for international efforts to bring the treaty into effect. That’s outrageous,” she added.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted the treaty in April 2013 with a vote of 154 to 3. The State Department points out that only Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed it.
“Make no mistake, we would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of Americans citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution,” Secretary of State John Kerry said a few months after the passage of the treaty.
Still, the treaty has some very unsavory supporters, said Mortensen of the NRA.
“The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is an attempt by other countries – including some despotic regimes – to try and infringe on our constitutional rights,” Mortensen said. “While the NRA and a bipartisan majority of pro-gun Senators have succeeded in blocking this treaty’s ratification in the United States, this treaty is a very real threat.”
The parties are required to establish export and import controls for combat vehicles, aircraft and small arms and light weapons. The treaty further says that “Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system, including a national control list, in order to implement the provisions of this Treaty.”
It further says that “Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate.”
“The United Nations is trying to establish what they call basic norms and bring international pressure on the United States to eviscerate our Second Amendment Rights and they have found willing allies in the Obama administration and John Kerry,” Mortensen added.
Investor’s Business Daily editorialized this week warning that Obama could use it as a basis for executive action on guns, even if it is not ratified by the Senate.
“All treaties must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, and that’s not about to happen in the case of the unratified Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), particularly after the 2014 election that gave the GOP Senate control,” the editorial said. “The same, of course, could have been said about the Kyoto Protocol and other climate change deals that mandate that governments tie their economies in knots to meet arbitrary emission goals to save the planet. The Senate has not and won’t ratify any of those either. Yet a president who pays no attention to Congress or the Constitution has through Environmental Protection Agency regulations sought to impose Kyoto and cap-and-trade through regulation and fiat.”
Alabama voters adopted a state constitutional amendment to guarantee for the right to bear arms after lawmakers cited the threat of international agreements the could limit gun rights.