04.30.2010 0

A War on Dissent?

  • On: 05/17/2010 06:47:37
  • In: First Amendment
  • By Rick Manning

    Are we witnessing the opening salvos in a war against political dissent and the First Amendment?

    Read carefully what the President said last Sunday at Hampton University, “the era of iPads and Xboxes had turned information into a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy. You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.”

    Is Obama really telling American students pay less attention to what his Administration is up to?

    Realize that this is the same Administration that has tried to use the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet through its so-called Net Neutrality proposal that was recently found unconstitutional by the courts.

    This is the same Administration that sent its spokespeople out on the various networks to publicly excoriate FOX News for not following the approved Obama party line.

    This is the same Administration that regularly attempts to demonize media hosts and regularly attacks Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and a host of others.

    This is also the same Administration that incredibly has failed to hold an official White House news conference since last July, and had the audacity to offer the White House press corps a taped interview of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan rather than letting reporters actually interview her.

    This is the same President who has advocated shuttering First Amendment political speech rights that were afforded corporations in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision — in his State of the Union Address with the very justices who rendered the decision in attendance. This is really the heart of stopping political dissent, can a corporation pay for and distribute a political book, pamphlet, or movie.

    This President’s nominee to the Supreme Court actually gave the Orwellian argument that the First Amendment should be used to prohibit this very type of political speech.

    Chief Justice John Roberts directly rejected Kagan’s argument writing, “The Government urges us in this case to uphold a direct prohibition on political speech. It asks us to embrace a theory of the First Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern.

    “Its theory, if accepted, would empower the Government to prohibit newspapers from running editorials or opinion pieces supporting or opposing candidates for office, so long as the newspapers were owned by corporations — as the major ones are. First Amendment rights could be confined to individuals, subverting the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy.”

    Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in rejecting the Kagan position that, “the First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

    Obama and the Left’s war on dissent has gone far beyond the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court however, as the organized attacks on the Tea Party movement by the power brokers who control the White House, Congress and the media have shown.

    The revelation in liberal columnist Jonathan Alter’s book that Obama, who has repeatedly called for civility in his many national lectures, had used the sexual pejorative term preferred by the Left to describe these Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights to redress Congress is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that the slur was deemed acceptable by the intelligentsia as there was no resulting uproar or demands for apology.

    Imagine the uproar by this Administration if the Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who called for revolution by La Raza on the UCLA campus in the wake of the Arizona immigration law had instead been a tea party supporter in the wake of the health care law.

    Incredibly, calls for revolution and racist hate speech from a public employee union member on the campus of a public university is somehow okay, yet professional left-wing instigator groups like the Southern Poverty and Law Center constantly warn against imagined conservative threats.


    Because the war on dissent by this Administration is real, but not just any dissent — conservative and libertarian dissent are the targets, since these dissenters seek to stop Obama’s policies that are designed to radically change our nation forever.

    If you still have any doubts about this, just look at this past week’s hearings and subsequent debate on the new campaign finance reform legislation being considered by Congress. Patton Boggs political law expert William McGinley warns that the proposed law for the first time opens the door to even regulate bloggers who engage in political expression. This would be a significant expansion of the Federal Election Commission’s regulatory reach directly targeting the most basic political speech.

    The Left’s assault on the First Amendment right to dissent is under assault as never before in what appears to be a desperate attempt to control the information flow that Americans receive in a bid to maintain power.

    From a Supreme Court nominee who thinks that a modern day pamphlet in the tradition of Thomas Paine’s “Commonsense” should be banned if a corporation publishes and distributes it, to an FCC that is trying to regulate the Internet, to a White House that tolerates blatant hate speech from the left while lecturing those on the right to tone down the rhetoric, the uniquely American right to free speech is under attack.

    So, when Obama muses in a very public and carefully considered speech that the many new forms of media are putting “strains on democracy,” and that some, “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” Be concerned, be very concerned. He’s talking about anyone who doesn’t agree with him cluttering the minds of the masses with inconvenient facts and arguments.

    When it comes to the assault on each of our First Amendment rights, in my Dad’s words, “speak now or forever hold your peace,” ring in my ears. This is the time to speak up — before it is too late.

    Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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