As bloody images roll in from Costa Mesa, Calif. where hard left protesters attacked supporters exiting a Donald Trump rally, the question that presents itself is, “How did things deteriorate to this point?”
The respect for free speech was once sacrosanct, to the point that liberals of a bygone era would repeat the bromide, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” But as seen in Costa Mesa, one can easily conclude that the sentiment is no longer widely held on the left. If a person who supports a political viewpoint or candidate can no longer safely express their belief in public, then it is clear that the ability to speak freely is under siege, and no longer safe from the intellectual descendants of the Visigoths.
In fairness, some on the left actually believed the above quote and used it in sincerity. Some holdouts exist, like Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, exist as some of the last vestiges of the old “Freedom Left” faction, otherwise vanquished by the “Force Left”, bent on imposing their worldview on others with impunity. This animosity toward freedom of speech and assembly did not effervesce from the grounds of a Trump rally, but from their educators and thought leaders that shelter in academia.
The war on free speech has been a cold war with hot spots that flare up from time to time. What is clear is that the hard left have been combatants, looking for their opportunity to use speech as a weapon, and as such, disarm opponents when possible. Their lesser tactics include shaming and using arbitrary means such as Title IX to silence their opponents. When that fails or is not applicable, they escalate, using more forceful means as we see in California; they are all facets of the same thinking that enforce cultural conformity at the expense of individual liberty.
Shaming is so pervasive, that it is exercised by lowly academic administrators and Presidential Candidates alike. Lukianoff reported that at the University of California-San Diego, a satirical student newspaper published an article with obscenities and pejoratives mocking the notion of safe spaces; university administrators responded with a press release denouncing them, leading up to the student council defunding all print publications. Sounds severe?
According to Lukianoff, the Department of Justice reportedly is threatening to deny federal funding to universities that refuse to abide by the administrative guidance that derive from Title IX. This is done under the guise of protecting students from sexual harassment via instituting de facto speech codes, but without a mechanism to adjudicate the claim, the accusation is a conviction in the eyes of the government. This means that universities are being coerced into violating the First Amendment, lest they forfeit federal funding, and taxpayers are being compelled to fund the erosion of their own rights
Elsewhere, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2011 that she would “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming” against those who would speak strongly against radical Islam, which she has characterized as “religious intolerance.” The inability to properly categorize radical Islam as a threat is nothing short of deadly, and the demonization of those who would do so is suicidal.
But the issue is by no means a partisan one. Numerous Republicans have quietly acquiesced as the anti-speech forces have used their politically correct cudgels to attain cultural hegemony. The Obama administration has engaged in scandalous behavior that would make Richard Nixon blush, from the IRS targeting tea party and other conservative groups to the Benghazi scandal, all things that might bring down mortal administrations. Any talk of impeachment led to unbearable levels of shaming from the President’s praetorian guard in Congress and the media, and the issues quietly faded away.
Those who believe in inalienable rights have two options: they can allow the freedom of speech to continue degrading, until a Costa Mesa like scene becomes so pervasive it takes full power that we are waiting for the Maoist struggle sessions to begin; or, we can mobilize with the remnants of the Freedom Left, and beat back the retrograde, anti-Enlightenment forces that left unchecked, would commence with their rehashed Cultural Revolution. This cannot occur without reinvigorating Congress’ Article I capabilities, reining in the judiciary and the executive branch’s administrative state by systemically dismantling the taxpayer-funded infrastructure they use to assail our freedoms.
We currently have the option to choose our battle. As we wait, we hazard that the battle will instead be chosen for us, on ground that is less advantageous. If the country comes to look like Costa Mesa did last week and Chicago before it, our choices will not be so appealing.