Unlike Roseanne following her infamous tweet, it appears that those on the left pay no price for their harsh statements. The latest entrant in that category is Peter Fonda, who advocated throwing President Trump’s pre-teen son into a cage full of pedophiles, a thought far more horrific than anything said by Roseanne or (the very few) similar Hollywood figures.
While scurrilous and harsh remarks are always inappropriate and counterproductive no matter which side of the political divide they emanate from, they are protected under the First Amendment for a very good reason. If they were not, someone would have to be the arbiter of what is appropriate and what is not. Sooner or later, that scheme devolves into tyranny.
Dangerously, however, left-wing academics, media chieftains and internet powerhouses are self-appointing themselves into that role. Dissent from them, and your show gets cancelled, or your tenure gets rejected, or you just don’t hired at all.
Both officially and through various types of pressure, universities ignore the First Amendment when it comes to expressions that do not dovetail with left-wing views. At the University of Marquette, reports National Review, Professor John McAdams was terminated for criticizing philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate, who had informed a student that he was not allowed to state his criticism of same-sex marriage.
The issue, of course, is not same-sex marriage, but the right to discuss it, or any other social issue.
There are frighteningly innovative ways that the left has devised to justify censorship. In January 2017, the Free Beacon reports, A man shot up a Quebec City mosque. At his trial, prosecutors stated that he frequently read columnist and Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, who has expressed blunt facts and opinions about the actions of some Muslims. Based on this flimsy connection, Shapiro has been accused of the serious crime of ‘incitement.’
The end result of that concept would be that almost any writing discussing serious issues could lead to an indictment. There will always be extremists and, frankly, mentally unbalanced individuals who will seek to justify their actions based on something they read, and most probably, misinterpreted. The chilling effect would lead to the almost total elimination of serious public discussions of major issues affecting the nation. Under that concept, for example, Abraham Lincoln could have been indicted for inciting the Civil War for discussing the horrors of slavery.
Shapiro was a not unlikely target for university dons, since he has been sharply critical of their anti-First Amendment proclivities. He has written that “there is no place less tolerant on the planet than the faculty lounges of America’s major universities. Not only is dissent not tolerated, it’s not even acknowledged to exist…The question isn’t why universities see fit to hand over six-figure salaries to unrepentant former terrorists Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. The question is why there’s nobody on the other side of the aisle. And the answer is simple: in order to become a professor, you need other professors to oversee your Ph.D. studies…”
The problem extends far beyond the bounds of campuses. CBS’s Sacramento affiliate WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — reports that West Sacramento has launched a program that watches what people post about it online. “The city is using Zencity, a system that crawls through publicly available social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It takes all of that data and sorts through to find what people are talking about and whether it’s positive or negative.” The city maintains that it is doing so to monitor potential crimes. However, sooner rather than later, unpopular opinions will be singled out for repercussions. In essence, the program is a trial-run for how censors can monitor a population.
Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.