Washington Post Calls For Rethinking Free Speech Absolutism To Fight The Alt-Right

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free speech

The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to free speech and express their opinions, no matter how abhorrent or “problematic.” In the wake of Charlottesville and fearmongering over the rise of the so-called alt-right, The Washington Post published a piece Tuesday by history professor Jennifer Delton calling for liberals to reconsider their stance on free speech.

Delton argues that the same right that gives her the privilege of expressing opinions on the Post is a dangerous “political weapon,” which she claims is being used as “part of a strategy, deployed first by conservatives and perfected by the alt-right.”

Crediting Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer with popularizing the alt-right movement, Delton claims that these opponents of “liberal cultural hegemony,” which “they think, is perpetrated in the United States by the mainstream media and on college campuses” are baiting universities into weaponizing free speech against itself.

She acknowledges that academic institutions brought the hammer down on themselves by extreme speech policing and tacit support for protesters who shut down speakers like Yiannopoulos, but claims that the “alt-right and conservatives are using ‘free speech’ to attack and destroy colleges and universities,” which she argues promote “different variations of the internationalist, secular, cosmopolitan, multicultural liberalism that marks the thinking of educated elites of both parties.”

To curtail these activities, the Post contributor, who is only able to share her views on the publication thanks to her right to free speech, is calling on liberals to recall the 1940s, when they “were forced to sidestep First Amendment absolutism to combat a political foe.” She refers to the age when New Deal liberals purged communists from U.S. politics.

Citing New Deal liberals and unionists like President Truman, Hubert Humphrey, and other anticommunists, Delton praises their efforts to disenfranchise communists or communist sympathizers from their unions, organizations, jobs, and universities.

“They did so because communists were a disruptive force that was baiting and dividing the liberal left,” she says, validating these actions with arguments by liberal activist Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who said that communists hid behind the First Amendment to attack liberal democracy.

These arguments later became points of contention for liberals, who acknowledged how it opened the door for McCarthyism, allowing the Red Scare to flourish for decades and the subsequent impact it had on free expression and creative agency in the entertainment industry.

Delton states that the supposed rise of the alt-right, the inauguration of Donald Trump into office, and the “actions of alt-right provocateurs” adds merit to the legitimacy of the arguments of old, if only to protect marginalized people.

“Quoting Voltaire is not going to preserve anyone’s liberties — least of all those populations most vulnerable to vicious racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic attacks,” she says.

Delton concedes that the reason the right has “been able to so effectively exploit ‘free speech’ is because campuses have become places where the free exchange of ideas has been curbed by peer pressure, self-policing and a self-righteous call-out culture.”

However, she fails to offer solutions to dealing with outrage culture and the proponents of “social justice,” whose policing of speech demands dissent.

Ironically, Delton does not mention how contemporary student activists and progressive academics who share her views on ending free speech are vocal proponents of socialism and communism. These same individuals are largely in control of college politics, and even hold sway in corporations as powerful as Google, whose actions support the curtailment of the free speech to restrict classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives from airing their views.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • Simon says

    WP is just pissed no one is reading their garbage of rag that used to be a news for the beltway and nationally….now just future paper recycled waste…should be sold next to Enquirer and Star

  • Jeff

    I would re-consider the “absolutism” of free speech — which is the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, and all those other pesky Amendments — if it meant shutting down the “Washington Post,” the “New York Times,” CNN, FOX News, NBC, CBS and all of the wholly owned, propaganda machine calling itself MSM. “The Fourth Estate” counts for sh*t in this country. God, these people are pathetic. You listening Jeff Bezos?

    • ProudAmerican

      Not just the WP, but why patronize Amazon at all? Why help profit one of our oppressors?

  • Phil_Ossifer

    The First Amendment is the closest thing to an “absolute” right referenced in the Constitution; indeed, it is near-sacrosanct. Any compromise of this right begs the obvious questions: 1) for what purpose; 2) who decides what that compromise shall be; 3) to what extent; and, 4) how is it to be enforced? The left won’t come out and say so but their answers to those questions are: 1) to shut down anybody who doesn’t agree with the left; 2) whatever the left decides; 3) as much as the left wants; and, 4) the government, by violent means. In other words…it’s only free speech is the left agrees with it and approves it. And they call the right a bunch of Nazis? Hypocrisy much, shitlibs?

  • AmericaIsToast

    We have the second amendment to guarantee the first amendment.

  • tonye

    Brown Shirts, Part II.

  • csfurious

    This individual’s views should deeply disturb anyone who believes in freedom. This professor is a Commie-Pinko-Marxist who should be whipped.

    • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

      With barbed wire.

    • ProudAmerican

      …after a trial.

      • csfurious

        We should bring flogging back as a sentence.

  • George W Hill Jr

    See this fool – he advocating allowed speech …allowed by who well him… that is not free speech… it allowed speech by wp …the fuck is that ? that would be controlled..by some lying communist with no integrity or honor.. he will not decide for me for I do not respect him/her /them…try to stop me others have and paid the ultimate price…

  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    “They did so because communists were a disruptive force that was baiting and dividing the liberal left,” she says, validating these actions with arguments by liberal activist Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who said that communists hid behind the First Amendment to attack liberal democracy.” Monopolies on speech by any group run directly counter to the First Amendment’s intent. One thing is clear-no one group has a monopoly on “weaponized speech”.

    • Phil_Ossifer

      These shitlibs at the WaPo and NYT tend to forget that it’s the First Amendment that gives them their freedom to operate and to publish whatever tripe they feel like. But now, for some reason, it’s only okay if they (read: leftist shitlibs) do it. Everybody else (read: anybody to the right of them) needs to have their speech censored or curtailed. Again…hypocrisy much, shitlibs?

      • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

        It is hypocrisy of the highest order to use a Constitutional protection for the purpose of limiting or removing another’s Constitutional rights. It isn’t only the political left who does this, although they have mastered it and incorporated it as a foundational tactic in their ideology. This is why I despise the two party system. The notion of left vs. right keeps The People divided while our masters hold the stick and stir the pot. They are getting what they want, regardless of party affiliation, and we’re getting the shaft.

        • TrevorD

          Bang on!

  • Nancy Keeler

    That’s funny…in 1940 The 2nd Amendment had to be side-stepped to “purge” the Communists, in 2017 the 2nd Amendment has to be side-stepped to “mollify” the Communists.

  • Nancy Keeler

    In the 1940’s the 1st Amendment had to be sidestepped to “purge” the Communists. In 2017, the 1st Amendment has to be sidestepped to “mollify” the Communists.

  • slk5

    liberal socialist mantra #1- do as we say, not as we do!!!

  • Mark Brickey

    And this from a college prof – a so-called intellectual?!? Orwell’s rolling in his grave!

  • Carl-Cathy Wisnesky

    Freedom is a difficult concept to keep & requires a lot of work. The
    most basic concept of freedom is our 1st amendment & that is why our
    Founders put it 1st, stating that you may not agree with or even totally hate
    what someone is legally saying or doing, but you will defend their
    constitutional right to say or do it. An example would be that most people hate
    it when someone burns an American flag or sits for the National Anthem, but our
    veterans have fought & died over the past 240+ years to preserve our Constitution
    that gives them the right to do it without fear of government reprisal or mob
    attacks.

    How great our Constitution is & the freedoms under laws that protect
    the minority as well as the majority it gives to all of us. And let’s not
    forget that our Constitution has been improved over what our Founders
    originally gave us, during the past 240+ years, by amendments, some of which
    cost our country dearly. How do we lose our freedom – one little piece being
    taken away at a time over decades until one day the citizens are surfs. That’s
    why the Revolutionary War was fought – over many decades the colonists had
    become surfs of the Crown.

    How does it happen? 1st they came for the smokers, but since you did not
    smoke, you said it was ok & allowed it. Then they came after the sugary
    drinks, but since you did not drink them, you said nothing. Then they stopped
    or restricted the parents making bagged lunches, but since you don’t do that,
    you said nothing. Then they started Common Core & dumbing down of the
    curriculum, but since it did not affect you, you did nothing. Then they started
    removing historical statues, flags, books from libraries, certain words, TV
    shows, & movies, etc., but you did nothing. Soon they will come after
    certain groups & at first it will be groups you hate, so you will do
    nothing. But eventually they will come after you or a group you associate with
    & because you gave the government so much power, our Constitutional
    Republic will have been lost & replaced by a Dictatorship, an Oligarchy, or
    a Socialist/Communist Democracy. If you don’t know the difference, watch this 8
    minute video on the types of world government compared to the USA’s
    Constitutional Republic.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIcOfu6Udec

    Time for all decent people to realize the Big Picture & end this assault on our country. The main thing stopping the Soros funded One World Order Shadow Government elites from taking over most of the world’s governments is the US & its
    Constitution. If they can eliminate our Constitutional Republic form of
    government & relegate the US to a minimally important Democracy like the
    U.K., France, Germany or a Socialist government like Greece, Spain, Portugal,
    they will be very close to forming their desired One World Order, where they
    control all the wealth while the rest of the world population are their surfs.
    That’s why the OWO elites are funding a Shadow Government (the swamp) within
    the USA while also funding BOTH the Alt-Left & Alt-Right = to destroy our
    Constitutional Republic form of government from WITHIN.

  • dav1bg

    Create a problem and then offer the solution that you wanted all along.

    • TrevorD

      Yes agree. Spot on……

  • TrevorD

    The extremists on both sides should be encouraged and funded. The moderates should be left in total confusion and the true Sheeple should be encouraged to turn a blind eye by pumping them with tv soaps, movies, junk food and false hope. The ingredients for division and then soon after total social collapse and financial anarchy, Marshal law to be introduced supported by UN Troops, thus leading to the `NWO` plan starting in the USA, followed by Europe but then spreading rapidly.
    Possible scenario maybe?

  • tonye

    What a fascist.

  • Tatiana Covington

    Freedom’s price is risk: to others as well as to oneself.