Free Speech on the Rebound
The attacks on free speech in this country have now reached their own kind of terminal velocity. The difference being that, unlike a falling object, such attacks will not simply decelerate and then fall at a steady pace. They will slow down… and then reverse direction.
The evidence of this is everywhere, and ironically includes the ever-more frantic stunts of the censors themselves. Consider, for instance, the admission by the administration that they monitor what they call “misinformation” on the social media and work with Big Tech to have it flagged or removed. Is there anyone even within hailing distance of common sense who doesn’t see this as the desperate act of people who know they can’t win in the marketplace of ideas?
Other evidence is the growth, in numbers and quality, of new online media and commentators who are pushing back against the attacks on free speech. From Substack to American Mind, and from Real Clear Investigations to the Spectator, readers are being treated to a cornucopia of critiques, feature writing, and investigative reports that skewer both the scholarship and logic of the woke nation apologists.
And it’s having an effect among the public at large. Not only are the MSM shedding readers and viewers, but according to a report in NPR, the conservative website The Daily Wire now commands more Facebook engagement (likes, shares, and comments) than the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, and CNN combined.
And this, according to Wikipedia, while the right-leaning Citizen Free Press recorded 100 million page views in June of this year!
None of this should come as a surprise given the results of such recent polls as that of Rasmussen (one of the very few accurate pollsters in both 2016 and 2020) which found that 58% of likely voters “at least somewhat agree that the media are the enemy of the people, including 34% who strongly agree.”
This same pushback can be seen in the growing number of school districts where parent groups are contesting the Marxist gibberish of Critical Race Theory, and in state legislatures that are doing the same.
And not a moment too soon, one should add, considering that the whole of what is called “conservative misinformation” is little more than a construct conjured up by the MSM, Hollywood, and the social media, who are themselves the major source of misinformation in the country.
The half-truths and bald-faced lies issuing from this sorry agglomeration are so varied and numerous they will one day take up a library full of condemnations for their crass and infantile statements and theories. But the worst of these will be those judged to have been attempts to censor speech and speakers.
Sorry to say, the antipathy by the press toward free speech is not an isolated thing. The Citizens United case, decided by the Supreme Court in 2010, was a powerful affirmation of free speech. The case centered on the free speech rights of citizens, corporations, and labor unions to engage in “electioneering communications” prior to elections. It was, and is, one of the purest First Amendment cases ever put before the court, yet from that time to this it has been ignored or positively attacked by the press and the same progressive groups mentioned above.
So the very media who are so vigilant about protecting their own rights under the First Amendment, are considerably less interested in protecting the free speech rights of citizens generally. A rude person might wonder if they’ve adopted this posture because, should citizens be prohibited from exercising their political speech, it would leave the field clear of any competition for the press and their political speech.
H.L. Mencken once observed that “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” The good news in the application of this saying is that every day thousands of individuals are now figuring out how the urge to rule explains the tactics of the media and progressive activists in their attacks on free speech.
Patrick Maines is the retired CEO of a Washington think tank. He writes about politics and the media.