These are just observations from the last few days; they aren’t by any means a comprehensive brief – and certainly not a comprehensive discussion of the issues and principles involved.
It’s more – and yet also, paradoxically, less – astounding with each passing day to see the blatant openness with which leftists in the media and politics are brushing aside truth, principle, and American philosophy about law and the state. The situation is spiraling downward at an accelerated rate.
There is less and less pretense of any kind that the forced public narrative – the narrative adopted by left-wing politicians and the MSM – will acknowledge the traditional claims of American ideas. The ideas they’re tossing aside now are the most basic ones, which haven’t even been sources of modern controversy for Americans; we’ve taken them for granted, on both sides of the political spectrum – or so we’ve thought. Yet the MSM pundits don’t even bother to address them.
I’ve put the important principles being dismissed in bold face below.
Example number one is the news that the new U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, visited with the family of Freddie Gray this week, reportedly in company with other Justice Department officials:
Lynch was joined by the head of the Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Director Ronald Davis and Community Relations Service Director Grande Lum.
Yet Lynch’s Justice Department has an investigation ongoing into the circumstances of Gray’s death in police custody. Visiting with the Gray family, alongside the extended kabuki theater in Maryland outlined in the rest of the linked article, is prejudicial under those circumstances. The public can’t be asked to believe in the objectivity of the DOJ investigation after this. Of course, Eric Holder took similar actions after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.
The circumstances of Freddie Gray’s death were indeed suspicious, and there should certainly be an investigation, although it’s a pretty wild stretch to launch a federal investigation. (Our minds are not attuned to that point, perhaps, but they should be.)
It may well be that state-level criminal charges against some or all of the officers involved are warranted. I don’t know of any serious person who disputes that, even if there’s room to dispute whether what the public currently knows about the incident would support criminal charges.
But rushing to judgment about the police, and sending the U.S. Attorney General to lionize the deceased’s family, are harbingers of falsehood, prejudiced dealings, and injustice, no matter what the race of any of the people involved.
We have become inured to these political demonstrations by the officials of our law enforcement system, in large part because the MSM just play along. Instead of viewing these political displays skeptically, and at least mentioning the harm they do to the principles of the rule of law and equality before the law, the MSM simply relate the narrative in the tendentious terms of cultural Marxism. For brains already washed in the public schools, the resulting corruption of our mindset about the “justice system” as a whole is incalculable.
Example number two comes from the narrowly-averted attack by jihadist wannabes in Texas on the Mohammed cartoon contest. As my colleague Howard Portnoy noted, the left’s response to this attempted attack has been to suggest setting a priori limits on free speech. The MSM seem to be going right along with this theme, treating it as a proposition that legitimately puts free speech on the defensive.
These are our fellow Americans, arguing for chains and slavery. It is, in fact, intellectual slavery to be subject in your speech to an open-ended “heckler’s veto.” A heckler’s veto is what Islamists would be exercising if they were allowed to silence Americans by resorting to homicide – or anything else criminal or disruptive – whenever they’re offended.
No amount of offense over speech justifies attacking someone. It may serve as a mitigating factor in how the justice system processes you if you do attack; that’s the “fighting words” legal defense referred to in HP’s post. But it doesn’t become a basis for preemptively repressing whole categories of speech. It’s the preemptive repression, on the basis of disputable and open-ended reasons for “offense,” that puts government on the side of evil, and forges the chains of slavery.
Keeping that straight isn’t actually that hard. Whether the MSM are simply incapable of understanding it, or are happy to be complicit in dismissing and ignoring it, they’ve been united in the “limit free speech” theme. There’s no robust or informed pushback; if you went by the discussion in their echo chamber, you’d think the point of free speech is to offend Muslims.
The point of free speech, of course, is to keep government out of the business of taking bids on what speech is “offensive.” There can be no universal standard – just as there is no universal human reaction. (The general patience of Christians and Jews with frequent, often obscenely and deliberately offensive “speech” about their beliefs and character is witness to that.) The free speech principle is about the inherent limitations of law and government, and the danger of turning them loose on something they are incompetent to regulate for good.
Charles C.W. Cooke had a nice post at NRO this week making the case that the Bill of Rights would never pass today. His construct resonates. And each example he gives is a perfect representation of the MSM’s narratives:
Posited in 2015, the First Amendment’s speech protections would likely be characterized as “anti-gay” or “pro-racist” measures that had been cynically contrived to protect the capacity of bigots to say disgraceful things with impunity and to reinforce the various power structures and privileges that are at present claimed to be destroying America. The “freedom of the press,” meanwhile, would be openly disdained as an overture to the corporate purchase of elections; the “right of the people peaceably to assemble” would be regarded as a direct threat to the sanctity of the land around the entrance to abortion clinics; and the wide-ranging conscience protections contained within both the establishment and the free-exercise clauses would be cast as a devilish recipe for theocracy that would allow the irrational to operate without oversight and the backward to undermine the great cause of Science.
He’s right; and as we see on a daily basis, all pretense has been abandoned that this evilly inverted perspective is a subtle assault on the American mind. It’s right out there in the open, mocking America and all she stands for from our TV screens, the pages of our newspapers, and the Internet websites scrolling past on our iPads.
I want to end with this point, however. Seeing this force-fed narrative all across the infosphere can be misinterpreted. It can make us think that all of our fellow Americans have fallen into a state of fatal intellectual and spiritual corruption.
I don’t believe that. I don’t pretend to know precisely how many of us retain spiritual strength and mental independence, but I do see plenty of evidence that a lot of us do. Don’t discount, for example, the importance of the fact that millions of Americans keep doing basic stuff like showing up for work every day and doing a good job. In crises and disasters, we rush to help each other. Our politics are contentious and unsettled, as befits a still-free people who are actually thinking for themselves. There are people who know what they’re seeing, and people who aren’t sure, but are disturbed inside because they know, viscerally, that it’s wrong.
There is still an “America” left to destroy. Mass communication is only one facet of the assault, which crosses multiple fields (including education and entertainment, as well as politics and government). The strange paradox of modern mass communication is that we see the attempt at destruction slow-rolling right before our eyes. We need not accept the false picture it tries to paint of reality. But we can stay mentally disciplined and recognize its falsehoods and dangers.