One of the pillars of freedom is free speech. Without it a democracy becomes an oligarchy (rule by the elite) and from there devolves to a kakistocracy (rule by the least competent). Free speech only exists when the public has access to all of the information upon which it can, individually and collectively, form an opinion. Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, the Free Speech Movement was populated with America’s intellectuals, students, and liberal activists – its sanctuary was America’s college campuses.
It showed its greatest impact during the protests against the war in Vietnam* and the civil rights movement. It resulted in such things as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act and a myriad of lesser actions at the state and federal level to ensure that citizens not only could exercise their rights but had the information upon which to exercise those rights and most importantly that the organs of government did not suppress that access.
Oregon was in the vanguard of the Free Speech Movement. Reed College, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University were knee deep in the movement. As usual with any liberal movement it included the goof balls who mistook vulgar for valuable and thus gave rise to such inane decisions as in State v. Robertson in which completely nude dancing was deemed a form of free speech and later in City of Nissa v. Duforth that live sex acts were also protected speech. It was this stretch of credulity that gave witness to Oregon’s absolute commitment to free speech.
But that was then. That was back when Oregon’s uber liberals were in the distinct minority. But not today. Today, America’s left in general and Oregon’s ruling leftist elite have abandoned any support for free speech. They are critical of free speech that does not agree with their orthodoxy. And in places like Oregon (Portland in particular) where they dominate government, they use the power of government to suppress – in fact, prohibit – speech with which they do not agree. The latest incident has been reported on FOX News this past week, citing a story published first by the Portland Tribune:
“The Portland Public Schools board voted last week to ban any materials that cast doubt on climate change, the Portland Tribune reported.
According to the resolution passed May 17, the school district must remove any textbooks and other materials that suggest climate change is not occurring or that says human beings are not responsible for it.
“’A lot of the text materials are kind of thick with the language of doubt, and obviously the science says otherwise,” said Bill Bigelow, a former Portland public school teacher who worked to present the resolution. Bigelow says textbook publishers are yielding to pressure from fossil fuels companies. “’We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.’”
That last statement by Mr. Bigelow should read: “We don’t want kids in Portland learning anything that disagrees with our opinions.”
That point was amplified in the FOX News report:
“A petition, meanwhile, circulated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) currently lists nearly 32,000 signers, including 9,000 Ph.D.s, who say, “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
The original article by the Portland Tribune contained even more eye-popping information:
“School board member Mike Rosen introduced the resolution. He also leads NW Ecoliteracy Collaborative, a project focused on environmental curriculum standards. However, he says that work has been on hold.
‘I have become concerned about its ability to make progress and not have a conflict with being a school board member,’ Rosen said, noting that he is now instead working part-time for the Audubon Society of Portland. ‘I don’t want there to be a conflict between my school board work and this nonprofit.’”
Wow. For a person demanding that texts not agree with what might be “written by the Exxon public relations” Mr. Rosen has no similar concern with demanding that texts agree with his employer.
This ban on information follows repeated scientific studies debunking the findings of those committed to “climate change” regarding the origins and cause of any climate change occurring. When facts, scientific studies and disclosures of errors in progressive thought begin to permeate, the liberals reliably respond by seeking to silence dissent. It is the equivalent of those Neanderthals in the hip-hop movement that think “dropping the mike” ends the contest.
Oregon is not an isolated case. There is a concerted effort by America’s left to repress free speech and more importantly free thought by denying the public access to critical information. It runs from the guaranteed inept like the Portland School Board all the way to the presidency where aides of President Barack Obama – without fear of disciplinary action – have bragged about deliberately withholding information from the press and public regarding the fact that Mr. Obama began negotiations of the fateful Iran nuclear deal with the criminal Mahmoud Amadinejad’s regime in Iran rather than the supposed more moderate regime of Hassan Rouhani.
The suppression of information has become the hallmark of the left’s liberal icon – Mr. Obama and his administration. Just this past week a federal district judge who was systematically and intentionally deceived by Mr. Obama’s justice department barred any further appearance by Justice Department lawyers until they had successfully completed a course on ethics. There is nothing that Mr. Obama has touched that has not been shrouded in deceit and intentional withholding of critical information – not Obamacare, not the IRS scandal, not Operation Fast and Furious, not Benghazi, not the State Department scandals involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (no slouch at deceit and withholding of information herself) and not the executive orders banning deportation of illegal immigrants.
In the end, the weakness of one’s arguments is defined by the lengths to which you would go to repress disagreement.
*Curiously the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era tolerated extraordinarily diverse thought. It included those opposed to war in general, those opposed to the war in Vietnam in particular, those who were supportive of communists regimes such as in North Viet Nam, the Viet Cong and the Khmer Rouge, those who were simply anti-government, and those who, like me, were protesting the sacrifice of young lives in a war that successive presidents (John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon) refused to win or to withdraw –rather were content to grind up my generation in order to save face about losing.