Rising GOP war on free speech should sound the alarm bells
The desire of the right to suppress any speech they dislike is metastasizing.
Look no further than Donald Trump’s latest effort to build his own social media network for the perfect example of the Orwellian way Conservatives use the term “free speech.” The authoritarian right still claims to defend itself against supposedly censor liberals, but eagle-eyed readers of the terms of service immediately noticed that Trump’s “free speech” network prohibits users from hurting his feelings snowflake tricks in any way with a rule against users who “disparage, tarnish or harm in any way, in our opinion, us and / or the Site.” In other words, don’t laugh at Trump’s fingers or mention the “pee tape” in this “free speech” paradise!
On the right, “freedom of speech” tends to mean freedom of speech, especially speech that contradicts conservative beliefs. This is fundamentally the “right” of conservatives – and alone conservatives – not to be exposed to speech that could offend, frighten or upset their tender feelings in any way. As Trump’s terms of employment indicate, this signifies a belief in the Conservatives’ “right” not to be criticized. Thus, “free speech“, in Republican circles, becomes a justification for blatant censorship – and even, in violation of the constitution, using the power of government to suppress any speech that makes them uncomfortable. . To make the situation even more dramatic, Republicans are increasingly defending their “right” to use violence to silence political dissent.
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The national war on what has been wrongly described as a “critical theory of race” in public schools is, in reality, of course, a right-wing attempt to censor any discussion of racism, historical or otherwise. This was perfectly exemplified in the Virginia Gubernatorial Race, in which GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin ran ads calling on schools to censor documents that tell the historical truth about slavery. The ad, which features a woman telling a tearful story about her son having “night terrors” because of a high school assigned reading, skews the book which Youngkin said should be censored. Of course, Youngkin is embarrassed to admit it because the answer is âBeloved,â a canonical novel by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. It’s no mystery why the Conservatives want to censor this classic novel about the evils of racism. It’s for the same reason that Republicans in Texas circulate lists of other books to be censored, the vast majority of which deal with racism being bad or LGBTQ people being normal. As I noted in last week’s newsletter, it is about the same fascist urge to suppress free thought that led to the Nazi book burnings, and there is no reason to water it down or to play âit can’t happen hereâ games. It can and does happen here, as evidenced by a Republican running for a statewide job on a pro-censorship platform in Virginia.
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An equally frightening situation is unfolding in Florida, where three political science professors at the University of Florida have been barred from testifying or offering expert advice in an ongoing court case over voting rights in the United States. ‘State. The school doesn’t even try to hide that its reason is to appease Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the racist voting restrictions, citing “a conflict of interest with the executive branch of the state of Florida” . DeSantis has been open enough about his haste to cut funding to punish schools that allow any talk he disagrees with, so it’s no surprise that the university administration is scared. But, as the New York Times noted, universities typically allow “academic experts to offer expert testimony in prosecutions, even when they oppose the interests of the ruling political party,” and experts legal claims that âthe action was probably unconstitutionalâ. Indeed, the school’s accreditor has already opened an investigation into this problem, which could threaten the university’s access to federal student aid.
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To make the situation even more troubling, the right is increasingly adopting the idea that it should be allowed to use violence to silence political opponents. Many Red States have essentially legalized the use of cars as weapons for conservatives who wish to violently attack protesters, especially Black Lives Matter protesters. Laws allowing people to run over protesters – as long as they subsequently pretend to be afraid – have resulted, according to the Boston Globe, “in dozens of people affected, dozens injured, at least three dead , but very little justice, let alone sympathy, for protesters injured, killed or just terrified. “
It’s the moral equivalent of lining up “with Bull Connor’s fire hoses on the black children of Birmingham” or “with the cops with batons on the brave and battered souls who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma” writes Jess Bidgood.
Legal proceedings last week revealed that police in San Marcos, Texas also sided with a group of motorists who used threats of violence to force Democratic organizers to cancel an event. campaign for Joe Biden last year. After Trump supporters chased down and threatened a Biden campaign bus, threatening to take it off the road, police appear to have ignored multiple calls for help. The police made fun of Democrats instead of doing their job. Subsequently, Trump and other Republican politicians applauded the threats of violence used to forcibly shut down what was supposed to be a trivial Biden campaign event.
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This week also begins the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse reportedly shot three Black Lives Matter protesters last year, killing two. His case has become a famous cause on the right. Not that the Conservatives think Rittenhouse is innocent, really. It’s pretty clear that he loaded himself with bullets and went to the demonstration looking for trouble. No, the situation – as with laws legalizing car attacks on protesters – is quite clearly to reinforce this authoritarian view that progressive rhetoric should be suppressed, by whatever means necessary.
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That the law is the real threat to free speech should always have been obvious, starting with how Trump and his allies waged war on black athletes and their allies who protested against police violence in America. kneeling during the national anthem. This became even more evident when Trump ordered police to fire tear gas at peaceful protesters so he could get to a photo op without facing public criticism. Trolling gestures like Trump doing the âtomahawk chopâ during the World Series, in this light, are not really about freedom of speech in the traditional sense. It is a question of affirming that the racists are the only ones free to express themselves, and that the antiracists are obliged to be silent. Most importantly, the law should have the power to use both law and violence to silence its critics.
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Unfortunately, a gullible press has allowed the right’s false panic over “culture cancellation” to muddy the waters and create the illusion that it is the left that is somehow the real threat to Europe. freedom of speech. There are, unfortunately, situations where over-enthusiastic leftists harass and abuse people – usually people on their own, however – for perceived and often inconsequential heresies, and it would be foolish to deny that. But overall, as writer Michael Hobbes has convincingly argued, most ‘culture cancellation’ stories aren’t really about censorship, but the exaggerated anxieties of older centrists who aren’t don’t like being yelled at by young people on Twitter. Admittedly, this has nothing to do with the right-wing’s campaign for open censorship of progressive opinions or even uncomfortable facts. While it would be good if some on the left were a bit more measured and thoughtful in their responses to people they disagree with (or think they don’t, anyway), in terms of Regarding actual censorship, the much more pressing concern is what the law is up to.
As countless examples show, there is a national movement of Republicans to use whatever tools they have – including government power and even violence – to silence political opponents and rewrite history. The nasty tweets are only a faint shadow of the overt threat of censorship coming from the increasingly fascist right.