Is Freedom of Speech in Peril?
With the election of the most leftist President ever, we have witnessed a number of disturbing trends in the question of free speech. It seems free speech and the Obama administration are mutually exclusive to one another.
The first major assault of free speech came during Obama's Presidential campaign. In late September 2008, the Governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, issued a statement on the Obama campaign’s “abusive use of Missouri law enforcement.”
Blunt charged that four Missouri state officials along with the leader of Obama’s campaign in Missouri “have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.” In declaring an intent to prosecute those who spread what they considered to be falsehoods about Obama, they were, said Blunt, “abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.”
Many of the Obama's so called Missouri Truth Squad members had law enforcement powers, such as St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, and Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer. Nothing came of it, but the threat of prosecution was there. And the effectiveness of just the threat was remembered by the Obama people.
In August 2009 when the President and the Democrats were trying to pass the healthcare bill, they took the position that the reason for the resistence to the passage was due to all the lies it's opponents were spreading. This time backed by the presidency itself, Obama set up a web site where Americans' could go and snitch on those who do not toe the government line.
"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there,
spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors
often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual
conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the
web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to
By August 17th, they realized that they had made a major blunder and disabled their "tip line."
A number of the Obama appointments have questionable records on free speech. Cass Sunstein was appointed as Obama's head of information technology and he has an interesting record on free speech.
On page 14 of Sunstein’s January 2008 white paper entitled “Conspiracy
Theories,” he proposed that each of the following measures “will have a place
under imaginable conditions” according to the strategy detailed in the essay.
1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing.
2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories.
That’s right, Obama’s information czar wants to tax or ban outright, as in make illegal, political opinions that the government doesn’t approve of. To where would this be extended? A tax or a shut down order on newspapers that print stories critical of our illustrious leaders? Nothing like this has been considered since the Wilson Administration during World War I.
Just recently Sunstein proposed that in order to insure balance on the internet political blogs, etc. would need to post a link to the other point of view, or have a pop up ad with a contrary view. He explained this could be "voluntary" or congress could mandate it.
He also proposed a 24 hour cooling off period before an angry email could be sent. He also opined that the internet was antidemocratic because users cn filter out info of their own choosing.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps says he believes the federal government in Washington, D.C. has a role in deciding what your "local interests" are – in your town on your local talk radio station – and wants to not renew their licenses based on what they think you need to hear.
And Elana Kagan, Obama's nominee for SCOTUS has written about speech rationing. Ms. Kagan's First Amendment work repeatedly promotes the idea that speech rights are granted by government rather than inherent in the God-given nature of man.
In the government's brief in a case called United States v. Stevens, Ms. Kagan
elaborated: "Whether a given category of speech enjoys
First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs."
This begs the question who - pray tell - does the balancing? Judges? Bureaucrats? The Almighty President? The Supreme Court has dealt with this before and has come up on the side of free speech, for just the reason I mention in the previous sentence.
The Obama Administration has already reversed a Bush Administration policy and co-sponsored a UN resultion recognizing blasphemy as an exception to free speech.
"While attracting surprisingly little attention, the Obama administration
supported the effort of largely Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council to recognize exceptions to free speech for any “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” The exception was made as part of a resolution supporting free speech that passed this month, but it is the exception, not the rule that worries civil libertarians. Though the resolution was passed unanimously,
European and developing countries made it clear that they remain at odds on the
issue of protecting religions from criticism. It is viewed as a transparent bid
to appeal to the “Muslim street” and our Arab allies, with the administration
seeking greater coexistence through the curtailment of objectionable speech.
Though it has no direct enforcement (and is weaker than earlier versions), it is
still viewed as a victory for those who sought to juxtapose and balance the
rights of speech and religion."
The press apparantly has gone from fawning supporters to actually asking tough questions and the administration doesn't like. Obama's solution is to create his own TV blog.
"You didn't see this on CNN or Fox News or NBC: President Obama awkwardly introducing Chile's president, Sebastián Piñera, to the Netherlands' prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, at the recent nuclear security summit. "You know, uh, you've met Jan?" the president says tentatively as the other world leaders stand aside like shy kids at a dance.
Or this: Obama, playfully doing his best impression of Muhammad Ali, throwing mock punches into the midsection of a costumed Easter Bunny following the White House Easter Egg Roll.
You didn't see it on the networks because the behind-the-scenes video was only available on "West Wing Week," the Obama administration's new video blog. The six- to seven-minute compilations, which appear each week on the White House's Web site (http://www.whitehouse.gov) and on such video-sharing sites as YouTube, offer what a narrator on each segment calls "your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Finally, we are also seeing surrogates for President Obama charge that the criticism of him is either racists or worse seditious.
"Governor Deval Patrick, decrying partisanship in Washington, said yesterday
that Republican opposition to President Obama is so reflexive that it 'is almost
at the level of sedition.’' The Democratic governor, who is close to the
president, said that even 'on my worst day, when I’m most frustrated about folks
who seem to be rooting for failure,’ he doesn’t face anything like the
opposition to the president and his proposals. 'It seems like child’s play
compared to what’s going on in Washington, where it is almost at the level of
sedition, it feels like to me.'’’
What we are seeing today is President Obama making pronouncements to the press, but not taking questions from the press in fact trying to bypass them all together. There are lots of bad signs for freedom of speech.