Tag Archives | First Amendment

The Hush of Charlottesville

Buy the Book

This summer’s violent clashes, climaxing with a neo-Nazi’s recent murder of a protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, highlight the false left-right division destroying the nation’s political discourse. A desperately needed debate over the government’s proper role has been replaced by mindless assaults, grunts and rants between warring tribes — an anonymous band of anarchists, Marxists, transgendered, Moslems, feminists and multiculturalists versus a band of Nationalist Socialists, traditionalists, Christians, racists and nativists — bringing what Leonard Peikoff subtitled his great study The Ominous Parallels, “the end of freedom in America”, closer. If you really want to know why both left and right are destroying America, read The Ominous Parallels. If you prefer the great novel, read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

First, much of the horror over what happened in Charlottesville strikes me as insincere. If you value life, you’re rightly horrified that the young woman in Charlottesville was murdered by a car driven by a Nazi. However, you were also horrified when an innocent American in Barcelona was mowed down by a vehicle driven by an Islamic terrorist days later, too. Why the glaring disparity in public expressions of horror? I think it’s because Islamic terrorist attacks murdering Americans are accepted by most Americans as common and normal. Why does a Nazi’s murder elicit outrage while a jihadist’s murder does not? Or, for conservatives, vice versa? That’s the vicious cycle; those on the left, who dominate today’s major businesses and media, deny and downplay wrongdoing on the left and among their favored tribes, such as Moslems. So do those on the right, who deny and downplay wrongdoing on the right and among their favored tribes, such as Christians. Both should consistently and persistently defend the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some on both sides do to the extent possible with mixed premises.

But, in general, those on the left and the right do not. I think this leads both to today’s deep, tense political disunity and also to the pervasive sense of sameness, the maddening status quo that Donald Trump claims to oppose (i.e., “drain the swamp”) which actually makes an anti-intellectual leader of his low caliber possible and which he, in fact, supports (see his continuation of Obama policies on ObamaCare, such as community rating and guaranteed issue, the Iran deal and, last week, more endless war with yet more troops in Afghanistan). This is my second point — that, as families and friends, conservatives and liberals, colleagues and teammates are divided over a range of issues, the state gains more power over the life of the individual. (Again, read Leonard Peikoff’s brilliant book, The Ominous Parallels, about pre-Nazi Germany to learn why). Voters for Trump and Obama may fight in the streets, forums and media threads but on fundamental issues, such as health care as a right or Snowden as a traitor, Obama and Trump loyalists agree. As they do, the government spreads more of the same.

This goes to my third point. Here, I invoke this moment in American history as the hush of Charlottesville; a kind of national silence and suppression as the public essentially stops speaking the thoughts on their minds. This is extremely dangerous. As I argued when I endorsed Starbucks‘ idea for a national discourse on race, the fragmented nation needs more speech, not less. Banning Nazis from dating apps, as OKCupid recently did, banning “hate music” from music apps, as Spotify recently did, and supporting groups that persecute the individual for exercising free speech, as Apple recently did when endorsing the Southern Poverty Law Center, which persecutes secular feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and former Islamic jihadist Maajid Nawaz for denouncing Islam on principle, discourages exercise of free speech, though certainly as private companies they have the right to such actions.

Look at what happened to the Starbucks campaign, which was attacked by both the leftists and the conservatives. Anti-Starbucks leftists and anti-Starbucks conservatives came together to denounce a free speech exercise initiative. The result is widespread silence among reasonable people who think they can’t get a decent hearing and more inflammatory speech, including by the inflammatory president (again imitating his inflammatory predecessor), and, worse, initiation of the use of force on both sides. The left, especially Communists and anarchists, has a long history of trying to destroy the U.S. government, from assassinating presidents to riots whether attacking President Truman, the Standard Oil Building or Carnegie Steel with anarchists, Puerto Rican terrorists or the Unabomber. So, too, does the right, from assassinating President Lincoln to blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City and abortion clinics with Confederates, Christian terrorists, and various misanthropes. The worst monsters in history, from Charles Manson and the Rev. Jim Jones to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, spawn from the left. But both sides seek government control and are fundamentally wrong.

Buy the Book

I do not digress. Leftist U.S. political strategy and tactics, I know firsthand and this originates with the New Left, is systemized to initiate the use of lower levels of force, such as throwing rocks at police and others they oppose, in order to provoke greater acts of force in defense or counter-offense. As we’ve seen with the vile, racist thugs of the right, followed by the president’s outrageous equivocation, the right responds to the use of force with the use of force. So, the cycle disrupts civil law and not in some benign display of civil disobedience. The use of force as a means of resolving disputes becomes more common. Judges are shot (the most recent by a rapist’s father in Ohio). A left-wing terrorist from Illinois attempts this summer to assassinate members of Congress. The assault on Dallas police, too, which murdered five police officers, is committed by a racist who’d cited Black Lives Matter and says he sought to kill white policemen.

Police, legislators and judges are crucial to the proper role and function of the United States government. At the same time, government officials such as President Trump and San Franciso’s mayor and police chief make reckless statements which exacerbate tensions, leading to more destruction of private property and bloodshed, as happened before with Obama and the first Bush. In this sense, the false left-right dichotomy is especially damaging and dangerous. Contrary to the left’s hyperbole in the aftermath of the murder at Charlottesville, however, the gravest danger lies not in the racism expressed in exercises of free speech and free association, which is relatively rare and was widely denounced. Leaving aside the deficiency of Charlottesville’s government in protecting the public and preventing the murder, the greatest danger lies in the silence that follows our deepening divisions. It precedes worse outbursts to come.

An orthodox Jew opposed to the Trump administration recently wrote about this self-imposed silence, this soft censorship, in Forward (read the essay here). Those on the right, too, undoubtedly know in a hardened, pompous and cynical culture dominated by New Left orthodoxy why one might feel compelled to go silent. But, to paraphrase the gay community’s anti-AIDS slogan, silence in this tense, national post-Charlottesville hush ultimately equals death. Conservatives and leftists alike, and, of course, those of us Objectivists and like-minded Americans for rights, reason and capitalism who are the true liberals, must speak up and strive under the most difficult circumstances to engage in rational discourse as often as possible. Going silent now, as the left and right resort to murder, masked destruction and radical plans for their respective forms of religious totalitarianism is the worse thing one can do. (For a preview of what horror may result from your silence, read religious conservatives’ anti-gay, anti-contraceptive Nashville Statement, a kind of pre-theocratic companion piece to the New Left’s Port Huron Statement — which condemns, for instance, “sexually immoral behavior” and affirms, for instance, “obedience to Christ”).

The more you exercise your absolute right to free speech — which is not a right to initiate the use of force, block traffic and violate the law — today, the less likely there’s murder, mayhem and dictatorship tomorrow. Americans must break the hush of Charlottesville and start speaking up and speaking out, especially with those with whom one disagrees. In a few weeks, as the University of California at Berkeley is scheduled to host conservative speakers on campus, the silence will be tested. If America still stands for liberty, the hush will be breached in peace with voices exercising free speech. In the meantime, to make sense of the world, as always, I urge every adult to read The Ominous Parallels and Atlas Shrugged.

Free Speech, Advocacy and Alain Mabanckou

The freedom of speech urgently needs defending, as a college campus club recently learned in LA’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, and intellectuals across America are rising to defend the First Amendment. From outspoken writers, journalists and bloggers across the political spectrum to filmmakers, academics and wealthy businessmen, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, the nation’s most influential thinkers and creators are exercising the right to free speech by denouncing government control, coercion and censorship—and, in the case of an African novelist I met earlier this year, by praising persecuted voices.

t-o_k0ji

Read the interview with Alain Mabanckou

His name is Alain Mabanckou. I had read about his choice to present an award for courage and freedom of expression by a writers’ group to the French satire publication Charlie Hebdo after its office was assaulted by radical Moslems in Paris after printing a caricature of Islam’s prophet Mohammed. Mr. Mabanckou is a member of the group, PEN American Center, which is dedicated to protecting the freedom of speech.

Under pressure to withdraw the award, PEN and Mabanckou refused to compromise.

That he did so after an Islamic terrorist attack on a similar type of event—a cartoon contest in Texas—hours before his New York City event, caused me to ask for an interview, which Alain Mabanckou granted. We met at a lounge and talked about Charlie Hebdo, his thoughts on free speech and his writing. In posting this interview, I wanted to demonstrate that not everyone who stands up to irrationalism, including radical Islam, is a conservative, a libertarian or an Objectivist.

As with the Brandeis University professor I interviewed about his lonely defense of a writer targeted by radical Islamic types and their apologists for expressing her ideas, I wanted to show the reader that it is possible to “think different” and be different from usual voices defending absolute free speech and act on principle. I think that, more than ever, it is important for rational Americans seeking to defeat barbarians and tyrants to know that the one who acts for good might be an intellectual who isn’t hiding in an ivory tower, removed from ordinary life here on earth. He might be an immigrant or refugee. He might express himself as kind, colorful and eager to know—as against harsh, bitter and filled with rage—yet be strong and capable of advocating free speech on principle.

Though it’s clear that in a matter of weeks this historic presidential election is likely to result in an American president wholly opposed to absolute freedom of speech, and despite more Islamic terrorist attacks happening here, I remain optimistic about the future for freedom. There are left-wing and right-wing intellectuals—moviemakers are intellectuals—making thought-provoking motion pictures about lone heroes defying the status quo, as I wrote about in a Medium post here. There are great American heroes realizing the spirit of “Let’s Roll” everywhere, as I wrote about here. And there are brave and benevolent gentlemen taking stands based on reason and these facts demonstrate that, while these are desperate times for civilized man, victory is possible.

On the eve of this year’s PEN American Center gala in Beverly Hills, I’m proud to post my interview with one such individual, the writer who names, recognizes and rewards Charlie Hebdo‘s courage in exhibiting the freedom of expression. Read my exclusive interview with Alain Mabanckou here.

Assault on Free Speech in Texas

Today, a free speech event in Texas was attacked by two gunmen, who were shot and killed by police when the attackers opened fire and injured security guard Bruce Joiner (read the event and assault details here). Because the event, featuring a speech by a member of Dutch parliament, involves a cartoon award bestowed for the best drawing of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, the assault must be presumed to be another Islamic terrorist attack.

Despite—or due to?—the nature of the event, there is no mention of Islam or Moslem terrorism by the statement issued by the conservative, Republican governor of Texas, which mimics every Obama administration knee-jerk response to an act of potential Islamic terrorist violence and merely refers to a “senseless act”.

In fact, before the event, which is sponsored by an activist against Islam who says she sought to exercise free speech on principle, the Texas town’s residents denounced the event on principle, comparing its intent and purpose to shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater and denying even the fact that it is an exercise of free speech. One resident spoke out against the anti-Islamic event, which is currently protected by the First Amendment, as a threat to “public safety”. Of course, the oft-cited fire in a theater claim is also a distortion of the freedom of speech; it is totally justifiable to speak up in case of one’s belief that there is an impending emergency, such as a fire, even if one turns out to be wrong.

There is more to learn about today’s attack, such as who sponsored it, the motive of the attackers, and why the government failed again—as in Boston, Benghazi and on September 11, 2001—to stop an act of war by Moslem radicals in spite of mass, unchecked surveillance of the entire U.S. population and government control of travel.

Whatever the specific facts about today’s act of war against America and the individual liberty America once stood—and, still, mostly stands for—May 3, 2015 marks a major turn for the worst for liberty in the United States. Americans should already know that we are at war with state sponsors of Islamic terrorism. Americans should already know that we are in conflict with our own American government, which sanctions, appeases and actively supports state sponsors of Islamic terrorism and seeks to control the everyday lives of Americans.

With this news of an assault on a cartoon event in America’s Lone Star state, especially after the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo, a mass murder of artists for cartoon depictions of Mohammed, Americans can no longer deny, ignore or evade that more Americans—the most religious, Christian, conservative Texans—oppose the freedom of speech. After today, in my estimation, more bad Americans will follow and rise to oppose the freedom of speech in the name of “public safety” and the fire-in-a-theater nonsense.

Today’s attack should motivate defenders of liberty. However, as seen by the town’s opposition to this event, it is likely to motivate the advocates for censorship.

This should make the good Americans and those who support the absolute freedom of speech, such as PEN American Center, CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour, Salman Rushdie—who this week came out in support of PEN’s courage award for Charlie Hebdo—focus and fight more strongly and with more passion and reason while speaking out more often than ever. As Pamela Geller, the organizer of the anti-Islamic event, said and asked: ‘This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

The few and best Americans must rise to defend today’s artists and thinkers and oppose the voices for tyranny—on the right, on the left and especially those waffling in the middle of the road—with a united and uncompromising stand for reason, egoism and individual rights. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the rational American must never surrender—and never submit to silence, censorship or the sickeningly insidious attack on free speech. This is the real fight of the century. Liberty must be avenged.

The Press Defies the State

PPThough serving what is largely a symbol of pretentiousness, the Pulitzer Prize juries boldly defied the American government and awarded the highest prizes to those who reported facts disclosed by an American who worked for the government, defied the government, fled the country, heroically spoke against total government control and was deemed a traitor by the state.

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize today for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs. An award also went to a team associated with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which also reported extensively about the NSA’s secret programs. The Guardian’s NSA articles are also based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government employee and contractor who fled to exile in Russia.

In a statement about the awards, the Jeff Bezos-owned Post‘s executive editor, Martin Baron, said today that the NSA reporting exposed a national policy “with profound implications for American citizens’ constitutional rights” and that “[d]isclosing the massive expansion of the NSA’s surveillance network absolutely was a public service…In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All of this was done in secret, without public debate, and with clear weaknesses in oversight.”

But, as far as what barely remains of a free press is concerned, the best part of what Baron said is that, without reporting on Snowden’s disclosures:

  We never would have known how far this country had shifted away from the rights of the individual in favor of state power.”

Today’s press is bullied, pressured and dominated by the state, and permeated by faith in either the dogma of statism or traditionalism, as evidenced by most of media including MSNBC and Fox News, a fact reflected by the worst part of what Baron’s statement says: “… As even the president has acknowledged, this is a conversation we need to have.”

The free press is not based on need and does not exist to have a conversation, though a conversation may be fostered and may occur, whether a conversation is acknowledged by the leader of the executive branch in a republic based on individual rights. By using the language of the Obama administration, which controls the government that has a monopoly on the use of force and has seized unprecedented power through unconstitutional means, the Post‘s editor undercut the truth of what he said – that individual rights are paramount. The press exists to express, report and speak in free exercise, but at least the editor identified, named and defended individual rights, he said it out loud, and he said it in defiance of a government that exhibits contempt for the rights of the individual, aims to destroy the nation based on this sacred ideal and seeks total power over every aspect of the individual’s life, liberty, property and pursuit of happiness.

The nation’s capital newspaper editor defied the nation’s government in explicit support of “the rights of the individual.” This fact, and the free exercise of press independence, is pure progress.