Below is my column this week on the campaign to block the publication of a book by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. It is all a part of movement of censorship and speech intolerance that has swept across our campuses and news rooms. What is most striking is how these editors and publishers are insisting that they are supporting free speech by silencing others.
Here is the column:
In the last ten years, censorship has become the rage from the halls of Congress to college campuses. Free speech is now often portrayed as an existential threat rather than a right defining our constitutional system.
This crisis of faith is no more evident than in the call of writers and journalists for books to be banned or speakers to be silenced.
The latest (and one of the most disturbing) examples is a letter signed by hundreds of “literary figures” last week to get companies to block publication of a book by Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett because they disagree with her judicial philosophy. After all, why burn books when you can effectively ban them?
The public letter entitled “We Dissent” makes the usual absurd protestation that, just because we are seeking to ban books of those with opposing views, we still “care deeply about freedom of speech.” They simply justify their anti-free speech position by insisting that any harm “in the form of censorship” is less than “the form of assault on inalienable human rights” in opposing abortion or other constitutional rights.Yet, the letter is not simply dangerous. It is perfectly delusional. While calling for the book to be blocked, the writers bizarrely insist “we are not calling for censorship.”
While the letter has been described as signed by “literary figures,” it actually contains many who are loosely connected to the “broader literary community” like “Philip Tuley, Imam” and “Barbara Hirsch, Avid reader.” It also includes many who are simply identified by initials or first names like “Leslie” without any stated connection.
Nevertheless, there are many editors and publishing figures who list their companies and university presses with their titles in calling for censorship. The list speaks loudly to why dissenting or conservative authors find it more difficult to publish today. These are editors who are publicly calling for banning the publication of those who hold opposing views from their own.
The focus of the letter is the fact that Barrett voted with the majority in the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Barrett has been singled out in the past due to her judicial philosophy (which is shared by many federal judges and millions of citizens). Her home has been targeted and activists have published school information on her young children.
Recently, Rhodes College alumni sought to strip references to Barrett from the college because they disagree with her views.
Her college sorority was even forced to apologize for simply congratulating her for being one of a handful of women to be nominated to the high court.
No attack appears to be beyond the pale for media or the left. Barrett sat through days of such baseless attacks on her character and even had to face attacks referencing her children. Ibram X. Kendi, the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, claimed that her adoption of two Haitian children raised the image of a “white colonizer” and suggested that the children were little more than props for their mother.
The signatories express a common righteous rage to justify censoring others. We have seen this hypocrisy openly displayed by those who want to censor authors or journalists in the name of free speech or the free press.
The editors of the legal site Above the Law have repeatedly swatted down objections to the loss of free speech and viewpoint diversity in the media and academia. In a recent column, they mocked those of us who objected to the virtual absence of conservative or libertarian faculty members at law schools.
Senior editor Joe Patrice defended “predominantly liberal faculties” based on the fact that liberal views reflect real law as opposed to junk law. (Patrice regularly calls those with opposing views “racists,” including Chief Justice John Roberts because of his objection to race-based criteria in admissions as racial discrimination). He explained that hiring a conservative academic was akin to allowing a believer in geocentrism (or that the sun orbits the earth) to teach at a university.
It is that easy. You simply declare that conservative views shared by a majority of the Supreme Court and roughly half of the population are not acceptable to be taught.
Writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy.
Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford Communications professor, Ted Glasser, rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”
Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods have called for Chinese-style censorship of the internet, stating that “China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong.”
These are professors, writers, and editors who are sawing off the very branch upon which they sit. That would not be a problem but for the fact that they are doing lasting damage not only to free speech but their professions. For a writer to be against free speech is like an athlete being against exercise. It is the defining right for our country and an existential right for writers and academics.
This letter is not simply another manifestation of viewpoint intolerance. It is a statement of virtual self-loathing from people who work in the literary world; writers and editors who cannot abide the publication of opposing views.
As for Justice Barrett, such attacks are unlikely to deter her from ruling according to her long-held and well-established jurisprudential views.
She does not deserve such attacks but these individuals are the face of rage in our society. It is a general psychosis that overwhelms every countervailing value; it allows writers and editors to oppose free speech and expect us applaud them for it.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University and a practicing criminal defense attorney. He is a Fox News contributor.
84 thoughts on “Censoring in the Name of Free Speech: Publishers and Editors Call for Banning Barrett Book”
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The situation is actually worse than what you are describing. The next step is forced speech. Bake my “gay” wedding cake or else. Wear the “pride” flag on your sports uniform or else. Endorse BLM, or else, because “silence equals violence.”
FIRST THEY BAN THE BOOKS, THEN THEY BURN THE BOOKS THEN THEY BURN THE PEOPLE WHO WRITE AND READ THE BOOKS. IT’S HAPPENED BEFROE IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN.
Kids as props? What an ugly thing to say, in public, about a child’s relationship with the mother.
Kids are human beings, not a prop. Before spreading such disgusting slander, find out if the mother loves them, and takes care of them. Yes? Then buzz off.
People assume Joe Biden loves his drug addicted, prostitute regular customer, out of control son. He probably does. Yet they assume Barrett does not love her own children based off the color of their skin? That’s disgusting.
By all accounts, Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a nice person. She has a large family, some of whom she adopted. She volunteers for charities. She mentors students. Many people have given testimonials to her kindness.
She’s also levelheaded. She never yells, screams, denounces, or gets out of control. In 2022, this is an increasingly rare gift.
The only reason why Democrats portray her as the devil is because she is a conservative.
The “only reason Democrats portray her as the devil” is because deep down, they know they don’t measure up to her. Awareness of their own deficiencies drives them to lies, hypocrisy and bullying.
By all accounts, Barrett is a phony, a Federalist Society minion who lied to get onto the SCOTUS so she could shove her radical beliefs down the throats of Americans. How do you know whether she “never yells, screams, denounces, or gets out of control?–like your fat, orange hero who nominated her solely because she had been vetted by the Federalist Society specifically to ban abortions, all to get the Evangelicals to vote Republican. And why? So that corporations would have someone open to their challenges of things like equal protection, consumer protections, challenges to paying their fair share of taxes, and rolling back environmental protections–all to boost the bottom line. THAT’s the real agenda for someone like Barrett.
No one calls her a “devil”, and she’s NOT conservative–she is a right-wing religious radical, but her religious beliefs weren’t strong enough to stop her from lying about how she would handle a challenge to Roe v. Wade during her confirmation hearings. Even Republican Senator Susan Collins said she, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lied to her about their positions on Roe. That makes here a hypocrite and liar. Those things have been proven, and are not a matter of opinion.
“By all accounts,”
All means everyone – obviously many here disagree.
“Barrett is a phony,”
She seems pretty real to me.
“a Federalist Society minion who lied to get onto the SCOTUS ”
Once in a while it would be nice if you knew what you were talking about.
Do you have a clue what the federalist society is ?
Do you know anything about their positions ?
Do you understand that they are not some homogenous political entity ?
Randy Barnett is a leading light in the federalist society, as are the Volokh’s
and many other prominent libertarians.
A wide variety of views are reflected. Alito and Scalia are at one fringe.
Barnett is at another.
“so she could shove her radical beliefs down the throats of Americans.”
The Dobb’s decision LITTERALLY says YOU get to decide on abortion – SCOTUS is no longer going to FORCE themr radical beleifs down the throats of Americans.
“How do you know whether she “never yells, screams, denounces, or gets out of control?”
How do you know she does ?
We do not typically presume the worst of people we do not know.
“like your fat, orange hero who nominated her solely because she had been vetted by the Federalist Society specifically to ban abortions”
Federalist society vetting is a good thing.
The federalist society is not pro-life. SCOTUS did not ban abortions.
” all to get the Evangelicals to vote Republican.”
Evangelicals already vote republican. Putting a bunch of catholics on SCOTUS will not change that.
“So that corporations would have someone open to their challenges of things like equal protection, consumer protections, challenges to paying their fair share of taxes, and rolling back environmental protections–all to boost the bottom line.”
If you are seeking to empower corporations – keep making government bigger.
Do you not realize that Democrats are in the pocket of big corporations.
Equal protection – what do you mean?
What I see right now is the most biased government in US history.
Consumer protection – consumers do not need government to protect them – they are free to make their own choices.
What they need is the rule of law.
Fair share of taxes ? The correct corporate share of taxes is ZERO. All taxes are ALWAYS paid by individuals.
That is not avoidable. All business taxes are passed on to consumers or employees ALWAYS.
The environment is doing fine all by itself. Regardless, governments represent Citizens, not trees.
“THAT’s the real agenda for someone like Barrett.” The real agenda for ALL justices is the law and constitution – I hope.
“No one calls her a “devil”, and she’s NOT conservative–she is a right-wing religious radical, but her religious beliefs weren’t strong enough to stop her from lying about how she would handle a challenge to Roe v. Wade during her confirmation hearings.”
She is catholic, that is not right wing religious radical. Regardless, it is not a crime to be religious.
She did not lie.
“Even Republican Senator Susan Collins said she, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lied to her about their positions on Roe.”
Then you could quote Collins. Regardless no nominee is going to tell you how they will vote on an issue of controversy.
Thank you “JOHN SAY” for the time to reply to the “Gigi’s” left-wing, brain washed garbage. Many of us take the time to actually read the “left-wing” BS and “hate for bait” comments because we believe in free speech. I believe that your type of reply allows for Gigi to have a chance to “listen/read” each point. Thank goodness for JOHN TURLEY for demonstrating subjective and smart professors still exist.
Thank you for the compliment.
I would ask why the army of Left Turley haters are here ?
I look forward to what Turley has to post over whatever topics he picks.
I do not presume he is required to pick the topics I want him to.
I do not presume he will say what I want him to say about the topics he picks.
I disagree with alot of what he says.
But I do not question his intelligence or his sincerity.
For those on the Left Turley must pick their preferred topics and take their preferred positions,
or Turley is some vile right wing troll of apologist.
This is typical of the left today – attack the person, and dismiss the argument offhand.
Given they have made no headway with anyone – I would ask those on the left,
Why are they here ?
“by all accounts”. Everything after that is informed by that introduction.
Pay attention. This is book banning.
Objecting to sexualized content in school libraries, which are supposed to be audited for age appropriateness, is not book banning. To ban a book, you have to interfere with its publishing or sale.
Democrats routinely seek to ban books by conservative authors, pressuring Amazon, Walmart, and other major retailers not to sell it, and trying to get publishers not to publish it.
This is fascist behavior and antithetical to free speech. They are not content with having the right NOT to buy or read her book. They seek to deny everyone the right to do so.
If you can’t win the argument, shut down the argument.
Just what is it that these cretins are smoking these days for them to come up with such insanities?? THEY are the ones who need to be put into insane asylums, because clearly they are crazy as can be! What are they going to say next, that one can get to the Moon by digging a deep enough hole in the Earth??