Selwyn Duke
December 1, 2006
How we will lose our freedom of speech
By Selwyn Duke

If people were asked about actor Michael Richards' epithet-laced outburst at a Los Angeles nightclub, there would be a lot of focus on the verbal assault but very little on an assault on freedom of speech. In truth, however, if there's anything at all relating to this story that rises above gossip-column fodder, it's that it's also fuel for demagogues who seek control over discourse in America.

Representing the two targets of Mr. Richards' bile, Frank McBride and Kyle Doss, "civil rights" attorney Gloria Allred appeared on Hannity and Colmes Thanksgiving eve. The stone-faced Allred opened with a very telling assertion, boldly proclaiming, "This is not free speech, this is hate speech!"

This was no spontaneous statement. No, it was well-crafted and calculated and, I believe, designed to serve a far more insidious end than simply extracting money from a goofy comedian. Let's examine this with the introduction of a subject that on the surface seems unrelated.

As a dissenting justice in the 1958 Baer v. Kolmorgen case, one Judge Gallagher is quoted as having warned that "If the court does not stop talking about the separation of church and state, people are going to start thinking it is part of the Constitution."

But the courts didn't stop, and the result is that four decades later this "fact" is imprinted upon the American mind. So much so, that now the average Joe has been inured to the denuding of the public square of historic religious symbols out of respect for this "principle" of the Constitution.

And this is why Allred's statement bears mention. There are social engineers in our time and I count Allred among them who are trying to imbue the American mind with the notion that so-called "hate speech" is not protected under the First Amendment. Now, let's try to understand how these puppeteers will transform America by taking a lesson in social engineering 101.

First, use the term "hate speech" as much as possible so as to burn it into the lexicon and establish it as a category unto itself. And it's not hard. This has already been accomplished with terms/concepts such as "sexual harassment" and, the concept of which hate speech is a corollary, "hate crime." Then, be sure to juxtapose the two terms frequently, as beautifully illustrated by Gloria Allred herself. Saying "This is not free speech, this is hate speech!" creates further separation between the two, cementing the notion that they are starkly different verbal species. Once this is accomplished, the idea that the latter is protected by the former may seem laughable.

Understand in its entirety what is being achieved here. Not only will this strategy persuade many legislators and judges that hate speech isn't protected under the Constitution and therefore can be criminalized, it will also influence the man on the street. And this harks back to the old advice, "If you really want something, act like you already have it." As long as you continually condemn "hate speech" and juxtapose it with "free speech," more and more people will assume that it already is illegal. And once enough Americans believe this, all that is left is to make it official. And the beauty of this is that you don't even have to lie. Success hinges mainly on the positioning of words, timing, tone and, most of all, re-pe-ti-tion.

Oh, you think it won't work?

To a great degree it's already a fait accompli. After decades of "positioning" (this refers to Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci's idea about the placement of leftist ideologues in positions of influence for the purposes of altering the culture), with social engineers in academia, the media, entertainment and various organizations and activist groups, it isn't uncommon to find Americans possessed of this lie. I myself have met them, and even pundit Bill O'Reilly uttered this misconception on his cable television show. Remember, as nineteenth century philosopher William James said, "There is nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough people will believe it."

Ah, but there is that impediment called the Constitution. Or, not really. Although some fancy it to be an insurmountable bulwark against tyranny, it erects no wall so high that it cannot be scaled by justices corrupted by popular swill and emboldened by popular will. Just as they were able to perform the intellectual contortions necessary to read the separation of church and state into the First Amendment, so will they read freedom of speech out of it. Although, how it will happen is not entirely uninteresting.

Since many western nations, such as Australia, Canada and England, already have hate speech laws, there is precedent for them. But foreign precedent doesn't constitute American legal precedent, you say? Well, then you forget that there is precedent for the idea of considering it precedent. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg herself once said, "We must look for inspiration beyond our borders, to the laws and constitutions of other nations." And she is no lone gunman. Sandra Day O'Connor and others have expressed similar sentiments.

Hate speech laws will come in like March goes out: Like a lamb. Most people won't object because, after all, who should be using offensive epithets anyway? I mean, common decency informs that a "good" person would prohibit such things. But it will be more like the ides of March.

But what am I talking about? Well, if you really take Ginsberg's advice and examine the "laws of other nations," you'll see that hate speech legislation was quickly broadened beyond the proscription of epithets to encompass unfashionable beliefs.

"Aha! So this will be the poison pill that disenamors people of this scheme! Surely the average person doesn't want to see legitimate dissent squelched," you say? Ah, you have much to learn.

A good salesman doesn't give specifics, knowing full well that many won't read the fine print. When we first sold people on the separation of church and state, we billed it as a defense against the imposition of religion. If we had told Americans that this principle would expand inexorably and one day be used to tear crosses off city seals and property, remove religious statues, ban the singing of Christmas carols in schools, rename Christmas Trees "Holiday Trees," and that ne'er do wells would seek to remove the word "God" from the pledge and currency, they would have balked. So we just marketed the idea as a way to protect Americans' rights. And that's exactly how we'll peddle this.

And you don't have to worry about people uncovering our machinations. Most don't think about the law of unintended consequences or the law of intended consequences of unintended motivations and "most" is all we need to effect our will. Most people, be they laymen, legislators or judges, will know no better. And many of those who will, will be our well "positioned" operatives.

And what of the rest? What of those troublesome prophetic voices of doom? They won't be a problem. Oh, they'll warn of how hate speech laws in other western nations have been used to imprison people for speaking in accordance with their consciences. They will mention how Canadians Mark Harding and Hugh Owens were punished for, respectively, criticizing Islam and homosexuality. They'll cite the story of English schoolgirl Codie Stott, who was jailed on a "racial offense" after requesting to be seated with English-speaking students. Or, they may mention the case of Ake Green, a Swedish pastor who was jailed for criticizing homosexuality in a sermon. And they'll also point out that freedom of speech is not freedom of speech at all unless it protects even the most unpopular speech, for popular speech's popularity is protection enough. Yes, they'll warn about the perils of setting dangerous precedents and that one thing leads to another. All to no avail.

You see, good chess players are rare. Most don't think a few moves ahead. And the "watchdog" of the mainstream media? Surely you jest; it's more like our lapdog. We can count on it to print neither articles like this one nor stories like the above, lest such admonitions rouse Americans from their slumber. Instead, along with Hellywood and academia, it will do its best to convince all that the grand imperative of silencing the occasional acid-tongued bigot justifies the rending of the First Amendment.

Thus, those prophetic voices will remain in the darkness, a location from which credibility is ever elusive. After all, if some a half century ago had predicted that the principle of the separation of church and state would be used as it has been, they would have been thought crazy. Likewise, mere laughter and a rolling of the eyes will suffice in answer to today's prescient minds.

In summary, once support for the criminalization of hate speech has galvanized, we'll have legislation. And once the legalistic rationalization that allows for it permeates enough jurists' minds, we'll have it upheld in court. Then, with the principle of hate speech enshrined in American law, it will be open season on positions contrary to those of the positioned. Once an unacceptable belief is identified, our culture-shapers in the media, entertainment and academia will simply define it as "hateful" and beat that drum until it becomes the next supposition. And then the legal definition will be sure to follow.

And hegemony will be ours. As it is, the media, entertainment realm and academia sing our tune. Even corporations feel the pressure, as evidenced by their sensitivity training classes, support of politically correct causes, refusal to support traditional ones, and the limiting of the dissemination of politically incorrect ideas by certain Internet entities. Yes, we have done our best to imprison dissenting voices in that small, dark box. The last piece of the puzzle is the destruction of that box. And then America will be a beautifully dark place indeed.

© Selwyn Duke

 

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Selwyn Duke

Selwyn Duke is a writer, columnist and public speaker whose work has been published widely online and in print, on both the local and national levels... (more)

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