I have been writing for years about the rising wave of intolerance for free speech that has swept over Europe and is now reaching our own shores in the United States. Attacks on free speech are increasing from the left which has cracked down on speech deemed offensive or intimidating to any group. Thus far, the United States has been a bulwark against this trend, but an editorial in the New York Times this week is a chilling example of how voices against free speech are now becoming mainstream. The editorial was written by K-Sue Park is a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. Park criticizes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for what she views as blind fealty to free speech and suggests that it is time to stop defending Nazis because sometimes standing on the wrong side of history in defense of a cause you think is right is still just standing on the wrong side of history. Of course, many of us believe that the wrong side of history is the side where free speech depends on what you want to say — and whether people like Park agree with it.
There is a tragedy unfolding in the Bronx where Luis Moux, 18, a football high school player is facing manslaughter charges. He allegedly choked his mother’s ex-boyfriend to death Monday after discovering his mother’s abusive ex-boyfriend beating her. It is the prototypical heat of passion case and the prosecutor elected to charge for manslaughter rather than a high class of homicide. However, there remains the question of whether he should be convicted for killing the man and whether this might be a case of jury nullification where jurors simply refuse to convict on these facts.
There are now four protesters arrested for the destruction of a roughly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier in North Carolina. The bold act of property destruction was carried out in front of news cameras in broad daylight. As a history nut, it is painful to see old works of art destroyed in this fashion. The arrested include Takiyah Thompson, 22, Dante Strobino, 35, Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, and Peter Gilbert, 39.
Below is my column in The Hill on the calls for hate crime and terrorism charges against James Fields and possibly others. The response is understandable, but the expansion of these laws raise serious free speech concerns that should be considered before prosecutors move beyond the current murder charge.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has always displayed a rather fluid view of constitutional rights (though in fairness, that is not a major distinction from other politicians). However, this week Pelosi appeared to embrace content based discrimination in the area of free speech. Pelosi is demanding that the National Park Service reconsider a permit for what she called a “white supremacist rally” in San Francisco. In light of the violence in Charlottesville, Pelosi insists that “The NPS should reevaluate its decision and its capacity to protect the public during such a toxic rally.” The problem is leaving it to the government to declare what groups are toxic from Pelosi’s list of constructive banned viewpoints. I felt ill watching the torch march of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as white supremacists yelled disgusting anti-Semitic and racist chants. It reminded me of the Nazi rallies before World War II — before my father and so many others went off to fight fascism. However, despite that revulsion, I remain committed to the right of everyone to speak and protest regardless of the content of their views.
I previously was highly critical of President Donald Trump for his reposting a video from his appearance at a professional wrestling bout that was altered to look like he was beating down CNN. With the rising anger and attacks directed at the media, the posting was irresponsible and inflammatory. While I have criticized some in the media for open bias in its attacks on Trump, I have been alarmed by his attacks on the press. Undeterred, Trump again reposted an item this morning that featured a cartoon of CNN being hit by a train. Some people have said that this is outrageous after the car attack in Charlottesville. I think the objection should be directed at the pattern of images of press being beaten or run down by this President. The free press has helped guarantee civil liberties and good government in this country for over two hundred years. Unlike much of the world, we have an independent media that is a constant check on the abuses and corruptions of government. Trump’s open antagonism for the press is alarming and at times reckless.