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.
Park chastises the ACLU that “[b]y insisting on a narrow reading of the First Amendment, the organization provides free legal support to hate-based causes. More troubling, the legal gains on which the A.C.L.U. rests its colorblind logic have never secured real freedom or even safety for all.” Park’s disdain for “colorblind logic” is unfortunately increasingly common among university professors who are abandoning core principles of free speech and association to achieve their goals for social advancement and “real freedom.” It appears that “real freedom” for Park is found somewhere without true free speech.
Park insists that the ACLU “perpetuates a misguided theory that all radical views are equal. And it fuels right-wing free-speech hypocrisy.” It appears that Park’s own radical views on free speech should be deemed superior because . . . well . . . she is just right. She wants the ACLU to calculate who it supports in court to fight “right-wing power” and presumably allow the more enlightened left-wing power to flourish. It is constitutional law meets Animal Farm where “all radical views” are equal but some are more equal than others.
Park’s views may reflect her teaching of Critical Race Studies at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, but they are inimical to the core protections that define our Constitution . . . and the ACLU.