Free Speech For The “Right” Ideas

Pun in the title intended.

Michelle Goldberg recently focused her column in the New York Times on yet another inexcusable decision of the Trump Administration. (I know, there are several every day…)

The Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was supposed to be on a speaking tour of the United States this week, with stops at N.Y.U.’s Washington campus and at Harvard. He was going to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas. I had plans to interview him for “The Argument,” the debate podcast that I co-host, about B.D.S., the controversial campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet when Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, showed up for his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last week, he was informed that the United States was denying him entry. When I spoke to him on Sunday, he still didn’t know exactly why the country where he went to college and lived for many years wasn’t letting him in, but he assumed it was because of his political views. If that’s the case, Barghouti said, it was the first time someone has been barred from America for B.D.S. advocacy.

I believe it was Alexander Meiklejohn who said a nation afraid of ideas is unfit for self-government. He was right.

The efforts of right-wingers to shut down B.D.S. by passing laws that obviously violate the First Amendment’s Free Speech guarantee are especially ironic given their hysteria over the supposed censorship of rightwing speech on the nation’s campuses. (But then, self-awareness has never been a characteristic of the Right.)

Several states have evidently passed laws penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting those measures.

According to the American Association of University Professors, some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.” It’s hard to think of comparable speech restrictions on any other subject.

What makes this effort particularly offensive is that the B.D.S. movement neither engages in nor promotes violence. As Goldberg notes, Its leaders have made a genuine effort to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism–in fact, the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee demanded that a Moroccan group stop using the term “B.D.S.” in its name because it featured anti-Semitic cartoons on its Facebook page.

An administration unwilling to sanction Saudi Arabia for multiple murders, including the murder of a Washington Post journalist, is willing to penalize people who are advocating a nonviolent economic boycott.

Goldberg’s column goes on to consider why Israel’s defenders consider the B.D.S. movement so threatening, and that part of her column is enlightening but ultimately beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether you applaud or detest B.D.S. If it doesn’t have the right to advocate for its beliefs, neither do those who disagree with those beliefs. Rights–unlike privileges– are indivisible, as a federal court recently affirmed when it struck down the Texas version of these efforts.

Free speech, as Justice Holmes memorably wrote, requires freedom for the idea we hate.

Can ideas be dangerous? Of course. And the nation’s Founders knew that. They also knew that allowing the government to decide which ideas can be communicated and which cannot would be far more dangerous.

 

 

22 thoughts on “Free Speech For The “Right” Ideas

  1. “Several states have evidently passed laws penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting those measures.”

    “…some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.”

    The above copied and pasted portions of Sheila’s statements takes us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear known as the Joe McCarthy era. “I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the communist party.” which destroyed many lives in this country.

    “The efforts of right-wingers to shut down B.D.S. by passing laws that obviously violate the First Amendment’s Free Speech guarantee are especially ironic given their hysteria over the supposed censorship of rightwing speech on the nation’s campuses.”

    The above quote took me back to the 1960’s; especially the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and the “Chicago Seven” trial.

    Barring Omar Barghouti entry into the United States brings us more up to date and Trump’s attempt to bar entry to the Muslims cleared to arrive and his following Executive Order barring entry to citizens from primarily Muslim countries. Trump’s loyalties to the Israel of today and its denial of rights to citizens within its borders is his obvious intention for this country using gerrymandering and evangelical based laws to control lives of Americans.

    Trump’s blatant loyalties are with the darker, more dangerous leaders of nations who would destroy this country at their first opportunity. He has turned our years-long allies trust into full doubt of our loyalty and weakened our protection against our enemies with his professed loyalty to them and protection and cover-up for their killings. The reason for Omar Barghouti’s denial of entry into the United States is not in question to thinking Americans or Mr. Barghouti.

    “Can ideas be dangerous? Of course. And the nation’s Founders knew that. They also knew that allowing the government to decide which ideas can be communicated and which cannot would be far more dangerous.”

    The idea of Trump and McConnell controlling this country by violation of the Constitution’s intention for the Legislature to protect us from an Executive Division such as we see today is not working because the current Republican party is ALLOWING IT TO CONTINUE.

  2. Why Hillary lost: because we are no longer having a conversation about principles. Fascists only care about winning. To them, principles are debate points to persuade the weak and the naive. Until Democrats understand this and focus on portraying the Fascists as what they are to the decent people of this country, the Fascists will continue to toy with us and gain power.

  3. It’s the new version of the two state solution. The states that will still exist will be Israel and Saudi Arabia. We might allow Egypt to remain where it is, but it will be surrounded on all sides by our two main friends. We know 45 is backing the Saudis for the money. It seems he’s backing Israel for the Evangelicals. I’m not sure if he understands that they want what he is giving them because it signifies the end time for them and they can hardly wait for the “Rapture”.

  4. This article and topic is most disturbing because of its Hitlerian similarities. One only has to look at the eyes (If you can keep from throwing up) of Stephen Miller to know where this stuff originates. Since Trump knows nothing of the Constitution and ignores the things he does know and flouts every law that gets in his way, the criminality of the administration is total. McConnell is “merely” an enabler of the criminal enterprise in the White House. Yes, the Republican party – to a person – is complicit in the destruction of the Constitution and the freedoms it so often propounds.

    There are several solutions available, but the only ones the Constitution lets us do within the law is impeachment and conviction of the President and elections – as long as we’re allowed to have them. Republicans, of course, having no policies other than to get reelected, are all in with the Trump Reich. They have to be excised – to the person – before we lose our democracy altogether.

  5. Vernon,

    “This article and topic is most disturbing because of its Hitlerian similarities. One only has to look at the eyes (If you can keep from throwing up) of Stephen Miller to know where this stuff originates.”

    It’s more than similar, it’s a copy. I believe it was Bernard Gross who first called it “upside down fascism.” The only difference is the Hitler movement started with the POLITICAL and moved into the RELIGIOUS (60% of the Christian churches, ultimately, agreed to be Nazified).

    On the other hand in the U.S., the movement started within RELIGION, the Christian churches, more specifically, the Southern Baptist Convention (they have more ministers than there are Catholic priests in the U.S.) and spread, over 50 years, into taking over the REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    By the way that was always the intent of the JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY and one of its founders, the father of the KOCH BROTHERS. All they needed was a little help from Jerry Falwell and his, PERFIDIOUS, connection with Israel, right after the ’67 war.

  6. Though predating the Constitution, it was “new ideas” our colonialist forefathers had that gave us our nation. Those throwing tea into the Boston harbor had new ideas. Those who were victims of taxation but not representation had new ideas. Madison, Jefferson, Adams and others of the post-Enlightenment era had new ideas.

    I thought a key observation of Sheila’s effort today was to note that those who would remove others’ constitutional rights risk similar treatment. Thus while freedom of speech does not include the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, it does include the right to advise the fire marshal that the theater is overcrowded, drawing a bright line in selective freedom of speech depending upon its effect on the common good. Thus the courts have found that one is entitled to privately be a racist but cannot participate in lynching those one hates.

    Trump and his racist policies amount to a figurative lynching of Muslims (and everyone else irrespective of race and/or religion whether Democrat or Republican who is a perceived roadblock to his drive to authoritarianism). He is on the wrong side of history, has no sense of constitutional limitations, and must be impeached and removed from office while we still have (if fleeting) the power to do so. We are in the midst of an Article 1 versus an Article 2 war of words, one we dare not lose since it is plain as day that our democracy is at stake.

    Impeachment is a constitutional and (fortunately) extrajudicial means of ridding ourselves of this wannabe dictator. Yes, it will be disruptive and loud, but necessary if we are to escape a Big Brother regime, so let’s get on with it, so figuratively speaking, to the ramparts!

  7. Sorry, “in” should be “it”. IT is only a new strain of the Hitler Virus. See “The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolph Hitler” by Peter Wyden (Arcade Publishing, New York, 2001).

  8. Gerald,

    “…..so let’s get on with it, so figuratively speaking, to the ramparts!”

    I’m with you all the way, but there has to be an organization, and the Democrats cannot fill that void. It’s impossible. As I mentioned before it has to be a “Third Force,” helping the Democrats and their quest to stay alive.

  9. The talk of impeachment of Trump is pure fantasy for now. With his favorite toad-like toady running the Senate for the Republicans, nothing will happen to the articles of impeachment. McConnell, following his pattern of abject obstructionism, will not even bring it up for a vote. THAT is WAY too much power for any Congressional “leader”. I don’t think the founders expected the Senate to make rules that allowed a majority leader to dictate the agenda for all the other Senators.

    As much as we’d like to see Trump being dragged out of the White House in handcuffs, it’s just not going to happen. Yes, the House feels they are compelled to do the work to write the articles of impeachment. BUT we also note that Trump is now pulling the same tactics he did as a “businessman”. He’s suing everything in sight and hoping that the SCOTUS will bail his sorry ass out of trouble. It’ll probably run its course into the 2020 election season where he will campaign on whining about the Democrats abdicating their legislative duties to chase him out of office. It’s the strategy of a tyrant and a dictator wannabe.

    The trick is going to be how effectively the Democrats oppose this tactic and spread their correcting messages. In my opinion, Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy is imperative to shake loose votes in the so-called “fly-over” states. If Tom Perez and his collection of Keystone Cops keeps screwing up the party’s operation, we’ll get Trump for another term, thus finishing the job of destroying the Constitution.

  10. Gerald,

    We’re involved in a domestic war and we’re now starting to see the casualties. To fight back, we must re-energize the “patriotic spirit” of W.W. II. We’re both old enough to remember the feeling. Unfortunately, most of it was lost in the protests during the Viet Nam “fiasco.”

  11. All this rhetoric about one man, Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti not being allowed in the USA. This simply demonstrates yet again the power of lobbyists and special interest groups to influence the political process here in the USA.

    I notice there is a lack of outrage at the USA’s policy to over throw the government of Venezuela, in fact various persons in the administration of President Agent Orange have advocated a coup, to bring “Democracy” to Venezuela. Reminds of that old saying from Vietnam by the Americans – We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

  12. Vernon, I agree with your conclusion that Democrats have to move strategically through both political and legislative mine fields always keeping in mind that the objective is to get Trumpublicans out of power for their demonstrated disregard for who we are as Americans. It would be satisfying to see Trump in jail but it’s necessary that he not be in the Whitehouse and Trumpublican majorities not be in Congress ASAP.

    It seems to me that 2020 is about ASAP no matter which tactic is successful, democracy or impeachment. It also seems to me that it’s essential to remove both Trump and Republican majorities in Congress which means the electorate is the body most important to influence leading up to 2020.

  13. Gerald,

    You can purchase the following book by George L. Mosse for less than $8.00 + shipping from Amazon: “Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left and the search for a Third Force in Pre-Nazi Germany.”

    From Amazon: “Historian George Mosse explores a critical time in German history when thinkers of both the left and the right shared a common longing: to solve the problems of contemporary society by creating a force that would eliminate both Marxism and bourgeois society – a “third force” beyond communism and capitalism. This pervasive turn in ideology had profound effects on German history: left-wing political efforts became increasingly unrelated to reality, while the right finally discovered in fascism the “third force” it had been seeking.”

    In America, the right, with the help of the Koch Brothers, discovered in the TEA PARTY, a fascist-like “third force” which has mutated into the mainstream through the REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    All will be lost, if a COUNTERVAILING “third force” is not formed by the PRO-DEMOCRACY FORCES to quickly bring back some semblance of CONSTITUTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM. There will, SURELY, not be a SECOND CHANCE.

  14. Monotonous; “our” involvement in Venezuela is a blog for another day. Meanwhile; we are keeping an eye on that situation, under Trump, et al, there is no way to cover all disasters they have created other than one at a time.

  15. I think we need to remember Richard Nixon, was removed without an impeachment. Impeachment is not the only way to “skin a cat, I mean a rat.”

    We need to understand more fully what happened to Senator Joseph McCarthy. I suggest that President Donald Trump is standing in a “similar spot.”

    President Eisenhower was right on when he advised his supporters to attack McCarthy INDIRECTLY, not DIRECTLY.

  16. Nixon was ALLOWED TO RESIGN BEFORE HE WAS IMPEACHED OR INDICTED; this was a prearranged deal with Gerald Ford and Republicans to give Ford the immediate opportunity to PARDON NIXON. Like Pence is for Trump, Ford was a dupe for Nixon to do his bidding and be easily led into one of America’s darkest chapters in our history.

  17. In a nutshell, the Political CONTEXT has changed in America. Unfortunately, to say the least, our present pro-democracy leadership doesn’t have the wherewithal [necessary means] to construct an EFFECTIVE, INVENTIVE, SCENARIO RESPONSE.

  18. Is it even conceivable that the Trump administration would take an action that seemed mildly even handed vis a vis the Palestinians? That ship has sailed and was launched before Trump took office. It’s not easy to root for people who treat terrorism as their primary policy instrument, especially when they declare the eradication of Jews as their goal. But powerless people invariably resort to extremism when no other approach offers hope. Any one of us living in an environment controlled by Bibi Netanyahu might have a similar response.

    While there’s much to be said on both sides of this issue, Israel’s position grows less tenable by the day. It seems rooted in the Trumpian intellectual notion of, “Let’ show ’em how tough we are.”

    Now that Trump and Bibi are so tight, it is in no way surprising that what looks like American policy is merely a response to a request from Israel’s corrupt leader. Bibi and AIPAC are so Trump-whipped that Palestine has little to look forward to, even in the long run. At this level of desperation, Palestine has few friends, fewer options, and no way of determining if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

    Is there a viable “campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians?” If so, it’s not adept at getting publicity. Who, with any clout, is backing the idea? Does it have a head of steam? Didn’t Barghouti found this organization? I’m not suggesting he shouldn’t have, just that he should have been cognizant of the possibility of international repercussions given how publicly Trump has fawned over Bibi and his American lobby.

  19. What has happened to us? I was an officer in the Army Reserve trained as an artillery forward observer, among other things. You need “forward observors” in American politics also, but, unfortunately, those with the ability have been systematically removed and reputations attacked.

    It all started with the character assassination, of Grace Halsell (1923-2000), a former speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson and a journalist who covered both Korea and Vietnam, by the ownership of “The New York Times” newspaper.

    See “Forcing God’s Hand: Why Millions Pray for a Quick Rapture—And Destruction of Planet Earth” by Grace Halsell (Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, 1999).

  20. Terry,

    Trump doesn’t give a damn for Israel or American Jews. His benefiting Israel is a message to the American Jews that if they effectively counter his anti-Semitism, his evangelical supporters in Congress will cut off aid to Israel. It’s is a simple as that.

    That is, exactly, what President George Bush did just before he left office when I exposed his control of the same situation in http://www.TheAlarmReport.info in 1991. He cut off all aid to Israel.

    In other words, “keep your mouth shut, or you won’t receive a dime.”

  21. It’s important to remember, anti-Semitism will destroy a democracy. It destroyed the Weimar Republic and eventually over 300,000 Jews were killed. Along with the death, as I best remember, of over 1,000,000 non-Jewish civilians.

    Anti-Semitism is always much more than just a Jewish problem. It can only be treated by joint action, like that which was instigated against Sadam Hussein by Desert Shield, a force that included both Jews and Arabs.

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