There exists in our society, a sentiment that desires strongly that dissent be outlawed and the First Amendment be infringed. It formerly existed mainly on the extreme political fringes of the left and right, but recently has captured some degree of legitimacy among the regulars of both mainstream political parties.
Although I suspected that censorship and abridgment of free speech was attractive to the more ardent among Donald Trump’s following – a recent post on Facebook convinced me that this inclination was not only becoming tolerated in his ranks, but considered fashionable and attractive.
A question was posted by an individual on my FB friend’s list. It consisted of the following:
“If you could be a founder today, what would you include or change in the newly constructed Constitution and Bill of Rights?”
As I scanned the responses, one in particular arrested my attention. The person who shall remain unnamed here, offered this:
“Quite a few things, mainly specifying exact prohibitions of hate speech that incites violence and murder, and strengthening laws against subversion, political revolution, and treason being waged against our President and this Country. Just made a new post on my timeline about these issues.”
But there was more. In another part of the thread, he reiterated, for anyone who didn’t get the full intent of his proposal:
“Those who practice subversion and treason and whose desire is to do away with our Constitution should be arrested, tried in a court of law and if convicted sent to prison or given the death penalty.”
Of the inherent contradiction in his desired revision of one of the pillars of our charter of inalienable rights, “Mr. R” we will call him, was completely oblivious. He probably remains so, even after I informed him that:
“… you just gave the prosecution’s best closing argument of why you should be convicted and sent to prison, having earlier prescribed abridgment of the Constitution, curtailing the right of free speech. You are the very advocate of treason that you accuse others of being.”
“Treason” is not thought of by such as “Mr. R”, as the legal definition of the term, but instead, as an alternate means of describing sedition or dissent.
“Mr.R” is by no means an isolated specimen of crypto-fascism. Another individual on the same thread – and of the same ilk, commented that he would, “adjust the 1st Amendment to read. Freedom of truthful speech.” – the implication being that he and those of like mind, including Trump, are uniquely qualified to arbitrarily determine what is true and what isn’t.
A third respondent called for “strong libel laws and immediate enforcement.” That captured my imagination, because history demonstrates that the Russia of Stalin, the China of Mao and the Germany of Hitler, all had “strong libel laws and immediate enforcement”.
- In Soviet Russia, persons suspected of disloyalty to the government, were summarily arrested by the Cheka (secret police, later named the NKVD), imprisoned and then subjected to “telephone justice”. Telephone justice was when a government official placed a call to the court and provided specific instructions as to what sentence was to be handed out.
- Perceived “enemies of the state” in Red China have always been considered guilty of political crimes before the fact and the infamous show trials that persist even to this day, served no purpose other than illustrating the value of the ancient ruling adage (shaji jinghou) – “killing a few chickens to frighten the monkeys”.
- In Nazi Germany, 800,000 objectors and critics of the Third Reich, were arrested. The Dachau concentration camp was built originally for the purpose of interring political prisoners.
Supporters of silencing opposition to Trump, take their cues from Trump himself, who stated at a February 26, 2016 campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas:
I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.
In order for what Trump envisions to happen, he’d either need to suspend the Constitution or repeal the First amendment.
Although the clamor for taking a chainsaw to free speech seems to only be the aspiration of a sizable minority within a minority for now, there exists a budding affinity for “ideological discipline”.
One prominent example of this is a man whose livelihood depends on the First amendment.
Michael Savage, last month, in response to the shootings at the GOP Congressional baseball practice, offered this recommendation:
“the haters [should] be removed from the airwaves by the federal government for their constant drumbeat of hatred against [Donald] Trump and Republicans.”
Incredibly, this is the same Michael Savage that in the late 1990’s proclaimed the narrative, “Beware the government-media complex.”
In it Savage said that the relationship between the government and media was “too cozy,” and adding “in order to keep the government relatively honest, you need a media that’s constantly poking at them.”
Is Savage now flatly repudiating his earlier ethical position merely because the present occupant of the Oval Office is pandering to pseudo-conservatism – or is it because he senses the Trump devotees are hungry for censorship?
While the latter is more likely, what his listeners and “Mr. R” have forgotten is that, what government can make unlawful for one group of citizens, the next regime to seize power can impose on another group – and then, they may find themselves without the freedom to oppose and object. It’s the political boomerang effect – or to quote the well known expression, “be careful what you wish for” …
Here’s the Michael Savage of yesteryear, repudiating the failed civics and disgraceful pseudo-conservatism of the grotesque hypocrite, Michael Savage of 2017: