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Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… The Left’s Suppression Of Free Speech

February 2, 2021 Uncategorized No Comments

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic…
The Left’s Suppression Of Free Speech

By STEPHEN M. KRASON

We are currently witnessing an assault on free speech in the U.S. that is certainly the most extreme that I have witnessed in my lifetime. As even a cursory examination of the developments shows, the assault is coming almost completely from the left. The examples are too numerous to list.
Some of the more outrageous ones are these: Certain Democratic officeholders, joined by their minions on social media, calling for conservative media such as Breitbart to be censored; the push to censor speech if people will be “offended” by it; a journalist on Yahoo calling for the banning of conservative journalists; the targeting of television cable companies for hosting conservative media outlets; certain Democratic politicians who want to blacklist conservative lawyers for representing the Republican Party or Trump; the leftist call for Harvard to revoke the earned degrees received there by prominent Trump administrative figures; the calls for Senators Cruz and Hawley to either be ousted from the U.S. Senate or resign for challenging the Electoral College vote from states where there were serious questions about popular vote irregularities; the publishing giant Simon and Schuster canceling the contract to publish Hawley’s book about Big Tech’s abuses because of his Electoral College challenge.
And: the calls for South Africa-style “truth and reconciliation commissions” to target Trump administration officials and supporters; the claim of some leftists that free speech guarantees stop the “liberation” of oppressed groups — i.e., the left’s favored demographic groups — but don’t protect “historically dominant groups”; the banning of Trump — even when he was still president — from social media platforms and, even more outrageously, the state prosecutor in Atlanta who says he wants to criminally charge Trump for having the temerity of challenging the presidential election results in Georgia; Amazon booting the conservative-leaning social media platform Parler and a Democratic congresswoman ominously calling for an FBI investigation of Parler’s role in the Capitol Building assault; Facebook censoring a Catholic cardinal in Mexico for opposing the notion of the New World Order; the Orthodox priest in Lima, Ohio, who is being threatened with defrocking by his metropolitan archbishop for just attending the January 6 rally in Washington (he was in no way involved in the assault on the Capitol); the attacks on the woman who is a member of the Ohio State Board of Education for attending the rally (who similarly was not involved in the assault).
Also: the big ticket retail chains who are now refusing to stock “My Pillow” products because the company’s founder and CEO, Mike Lindell, was an open Trump supporter; the Tennessee high school principal who was put on administrative leave for telling his school’s students about the dangers of censorship by the leftist-inclined social media; the MSNBC host who said that Republicans must assert the “truth” (apparently, that means satisfying a leftist litmus test) before they should be allowed to share any other views, and we, of course, could go on and on. It seems that it’s not even just major conservative positions — i.e., those concerning significant public policy matters — that the left wants to censor and shut down, but anything that dissents or deviates from any aspect of leftist dogma.
Then, there are the blatant leftist lies and distortions, eagerly propagated or actually concocted by the leftist mainstream media. One is the claim that Trump incited the assault on the Capitol building when simply listening to a recording of his speech at the Washington rally that day shows that he in no way encouraged such an action (in any event, they should take to heart what was said in a famous U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion that “every idea is an incitement”). Another was the assertion that Trump has radicalized people and turned them into the equivalent of al-Qaeda. Yet another, a Washington Post article, claimed that it was conservative media that was responsible for the unrest on January 6.
Actually, the left is very adept at accusing their opponents of lying and providing misinformation when a close analysis will show that it is they who are usually doing it.
What the above examples make clear is that the leftist effort to suppress free speech is not just coming from government with Democratic members of Congress seeking it (and we’ll see what the Biden administration will do), but also from lower levels of government and different parts of the private sector — ranging from corporate America to private organizations and activist groups to media entities to even church bodies. While the First Amendment is violated only by government action — the Bill of Rights protects citizens only from government suppressing their rights — censorship can occur in many different domains.
People can be intimidated and essentially forced into silence themselves almost as readily by feeling their jobs and job advancement or community standing and relationships or the stability of their businesses or their access to means of communication (like publishing books) or even their social standing are imperiled. The end result is the same: Views challenging those which have become predominant are silenced.
While there may not be a coordinated effort among the different elements on the left to suppress free speech, what we may be witnessing is a “follow the leader” or “jump on the bandwagon” phenomenon. The left-leaners down the line may be thinking this way: suppressing speech seems to be the strategy or approach that the more prominent leftist opinion-makers — whose views we basically agree with — are pursuing, so let’s do the same.
Or for some of the free speech suppressors, the motivation may be fear: We can’t let ourselves seem to be in any way associated with something that will get us flack from leftist elements — which are now predominant — so let’s shut down the people identified or associated with us if they aren’t towing the line. Some may think that the prevailing perspective of the American population is that of the left, and so they figure they better go along. In fact, it’s the perspective of a minority: a corrupt elite and activists and others — poorly intellectually, and in many cases morally, formed — who reflexively follow them and make a lot of noise.
How have, say, corporate America and big media become so leftist-oriented? A significant part of it doubtless goes back to the college and university educations that their people have received — actually, it started even before that in their years in the public school system. The intellectual formation received by most people operating in those arenas today was in many respects abysmal. The leftist hegemony in higher education is nothing new, although it has probably become increasingly intolerant in recent decades — so the tendency to suppress opposing views in then larger society is just a carryover from what has been done for a long time on the campuses.
What is to be done? People who see what is happening to our central principle of free speech need to call it out: with letters to the editor, emails, and calls to public officeholders, concerted efforts to communicate opposition to offending corporations and organize rallies to support free speech in Washington, state capitals, county seats, and at city halls — the reemergence of groups like the TEA Party would greatly help might now — and simply finding their voices to prudently object — even if they face some risk — in their local communities, companies, and among associates and others who don’t see the problem or are helping to promote it.

A Sign Of The Left’s Demise

Above all, we should not think that the left is in control and can’t be stopped from rolling over us and restructuring American life as they will. I always remember what James Likoudis, the former president of Catholics United for the Faith who had been a history teacher and professor, said in a talk circa 1981: Communism in the East would fall before secular humanism did in the West. His implication, of course, was that both would eventually collapse.
What happened to European Communist regimes at the end of that decade? He probably figured that secular humanism — which is what, broadly, contemporary leftism is part of — would last longer because it wasn’t as oppressive.
As its push to suppress free speech make clear, however, it is becoming more so. That’s the sign that its demise may be sooner than we might imagine. That will require strong efforts to resist it, however. It won’t happen by itself, just as all the supremely courageous efforts of the like of the Soviet dissidents were needed to bring down Communism.

  • + + (Stephen M. Krason is professor of political science and legal studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville, associate director of the University’s Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and a lawyer. His latest books are Catholicism and American Political Ideologies: Catholic Social Teaching, Liberalism, and Conservatism and a Catholic political novel, American Cincinnatus.)
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