We must guard against losing our free speech

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

Several decades ago I served in the part of the Army that works with the NSA. From West Berlin, we eavesdropped on Soviet-bloc military and political communications. I remember hearing about an actor in East Berlin who had been drinking after a performance and drew a political cartoon on a cocktail napkin. One of the people he was with turned him in and he was arrested because the cartoon had been critical of the communist East German government. After the collapse of European communism in the early 1990s, a review of the East German secret police (Stasi) files revealed that one in three East Germans had been government informants.

Having grown up in the United States, that kind of repression was difficult for me to understand. During our training, we even heard about how an attempt to exploit Watergate had backfired on the Soviets. In an ongoing effort to put the U.S. in a bad light, the Soviets had started talking about how Watergate was an example of Western corruption. They reported on how the Watergate hearings were criticizing President Nixon and revealing the lies coming out of the White House. The response from the Soviet people was “How come they get to say that about their president?”

Freedom of speech is key to maintaining a healthy and responsible government. It is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more encroachment on our freedom of speech, and it is troubling.

I first became alarmed when the White House introduced [email protected] back in 2009 –“to allow supporters to report on ‘misinformation’ on health care reform.” Having seen what I had seen in East Germany, I was very concerned — whoever put that in place was dangerously ignorant of the power they wielded.

Since then the gradual erosion of our freedom of speech, under the guise of concepts like political correctness, has accelerated. We are now to the point where people can lose their livelihood for how they think, for how they believe. Freedom of speech is being assaulted in the culture, in commerce, and by all branches of the government.

Just in the past six months we’ve seen a network suspend a member of TV’s Duck Dynasty for expressing his faith and the CEO of Mozilla being forced out because of a political donation made six years ago in support of California’s Proposition 8. We’ve seen U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) introduce a bill to have a new government agency monitor everything, looking for anything it considers “hate speech” — an idea the Boston Herald called “a frankly chilling proposition.” We’ve also seen a number of victories by opponents of free speech on college campuses and another TV network punish the Benham brothers for their faith-based beliefs. The same pressure applied to the TV network was even applied to their bank, which caved at first and then backtracked under counter-pressure.

Locally, we’ve seen abuses by BOLI, calls for The Oregonian to not publish opinions by “climate change-deniers” and a new merchant in the Portland neighborhood of Sellwood being punished because of faith-based views she expressed on her personal Facebook account — punished by self-appointed guardians of the “very open-minded neighborhood.” Open-minded meaning you agree with them and don’t hold differing beliefs.

And too many of us are standing by and saying and doing nothing.

It is imperative for all of us to resist the urge to just be the zebra nervously grazing while lions eat a fallen comrade. We must all be vocal and active in resisting any attempts to control free speech — even when someone is advocating something we disagree with. We must stand up for their right to think it, to believe it and to say it.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com

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Posted by at 05:47 | Posted in Government Overreach | 42 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Eric Blair

    Welcome to the party David. However, this is hardly new, and it has been happening for decades, if not since the founding of the country. Think, for instance, of the blacklists in the 50s and 60s that kept many from working in Hollywood or academia because they were suspected communists. There are several great books out there, but I would suggest Free for Me but not Thee by Nat Hentoff.

    This is nothing new, and sadly, it is no more egregious than it has ever been.

    • guest

      So what’s your opines of Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban?

      • Eric Blair

        They signed agreements when they purchased their teams. If they were uncomfortable with the terms of those agreements, they should have negotiated different contracts, or not purchased the teams. I find companies that require employees to not post critical comments on the employees Facebook page to be much more troublesome.

        Technically, censorship only happens by government action. This would include private companies that are contracted to the government, and acting on its behalf.

        I don’t consider the examples provided by Dan Lucas to be that compelling. In the case of Duck Dynasty and the CEO of Mozilla, those companies were making, no doubt, a financial decision based on the potential backlash of their customers. Boycott is a legitimate expression of letting a company know just how unhappy a consumer(s) is/are. There is a difference between censor and censure.

        I think it’s sort of sad that Dan only now notices when it’s a group that he, to one level or another, identifies with. The oppression of homophobic remarks, and the repercussions from those remarks, are not early as pervasive or insidious as what happened to leftists in the 50s and 60s. I would encourage him to be more diligent in his study of this country’s history of the imperfect working of free speech.

        • thevillageidiot

          if hate speech is now a crime (felony) just exactly what is the constitution protecting?

          • Eric Blair

            I thought I was discussing Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban. Have either of them been charged with a felony?

            I’m not a big fan of the government making hate speech a felony. I think there are much better ways to deal with it.

          • thevillagidiot

            ” I think there are much better ways to deal with it.” Oh, like taking a persons business because he said something you did not like. or in accordance with someones idea of PC such as perhaps the head of the NBA owners association. Sterling had a private conversation his “girl friend” who effective blackmailed him. but the lame stream news let out their version he is a racist.

          • Eric Blair

            He violated a contract that he signed. Or so the NBA claims. He is, of course, free to fight that. The issue is an internal one, and will be worked out between the NBA and Stirling. If the NBA wins, he will be forced to divest his business.

            He is still free to speak his mind, just not avoid the consequences. He has not been charged with a crime. He will not go to prison, correct? He can still run his mouth and make himself look like an idiot anytime he wants.

            Some general rules

            1) Don’t be an ass.

            2) Don’t piss of your girlfriend

            As for the press, seems like you’re trying to blame the messenger. He got caught being boorish and a racist. No one forced those words to come out of his mouth.

          • .

            Boring an Appell to the core, feh!

  • Andy Miller

    This article is replete with the logical fallacy of equivocation. Dan starts with a totalitarian regime in the past using the coercive power of the state to prosecute speech, but then provides examples today of the exercise of free private sector association being wielded against people who advocate discrimination against gay people. When people choose to disassociate with other people to publicly shame policy views they disagree with through private means, that’s a legitimate right too. We have seen Dan defend the right of Christian bakers to refuse to do business with gay couples. That too was the exercise of free association. And does anyone remember conservatives burning their Dixie Chicks CDs?

    • Eric Blair

      And he’s tagged his post as “government overreach”. Except several of his examples aren’t of governmental overreach, but of private sector consequences. Market overreach?

      • .

        Errant Blair sublimes with derriere on sway too many of DEM demonstraitors NWO strategemz.

        • .

          And wince did ‘gay’ become a sinuous renomination invocation for aberrant behavior?
          Talk about oxymoron sic behavior.

          • Eric Blair

            😉

  • thevillageidiot

    This may not be Dan’s finest writing but bottom line is either free speech is allowed and protected or it is not, regardless of contracts or stupid laws. At present free speech is curtailed at all levels.

    • Eric Blair

      First Amendment rights are meant to protect the citizenry, generally, from the government. Not protect all free speech rights over everyone, everywhere. If I go into a Walmart, and start preaching about the benefits of unionization, I would expect to be escorted from the store, and most likely banned.

      If I purchase a franchise, and then start making statements that can hurt the brand and the bottom line of the franchise, I think it’s reasonable to expect that I will be asked to divest.

      However, are you willing to argue that everyone should have free speech anytime and anywhere? Mind if I stand on your porch and hand out leaflets to your guests?

      Or, are their limits on my speech? Time, manner and place perhaps?

      • Oy vey iz mir

        “DUZ does everything” so long as what results coincides with your left wing dinkering, soap opera escargot head?

        • Eric Blair

          🙂

          • .

            Seth swale the dander mit heady lice, EB, hallerink out from a Nazionale Socialist forum, avast getting loost again, diss time, ad hoc, annuder new world order consortium.

          • Eric Blair

            🙂

          • Appell says

            Feh!

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