Today, the political left is aggressively seeking to limit freedom of speech for those who disagree with them. NPN readers are aware of the threatening “anti-hate” bill, HR 254, but may be less versed in the widespread thought control of university speech bans or of another threat now looming over talk radio. This third prong of attack is the Fairness Doctrine, a broadcasting rule that would shatter talk radio’s freewheeling retorts to mainstream media leftism.
The Fairness Doctrine, enacted in 1949, required licensed broadcasters to devote time to important issues and, when they did, to represent both sides. The Supreme Court said the government can require a licensee “to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.” The Supreme Court here unjustly privileged consumers over producers' rights. The court's decision forced risk-taking entrepreneurs to spend their time and money providing expensive broadcast services to their ideological opponents!
The Court’s horribly wrong decision was overturned in 1987, allowing talk radio to double with the soaringly popular careers of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Dr. Laura, and other conservatives. The right’s fresh radio voices provided a counterpunch to left-dominated mainstream TV networks and galled the left no end.
America wanted the conservative voice that broke out on talk radio, not more left-wing looniness. Al Franken’s “challenge” to patriotic talk radio, Air America, was a flop that has ended in bankruptcy.
What’s the left to do when people won’t buy the ideas they want to sell? Resort to force. Earlier this year, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Kucinich, Hinchey, and Slaughter announced their support of legislation that would bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
Many conservatives have spoken out against this legislation, and we can hope press secretary Tony Snow was right when he said it isn’t likely to pass. The Fairness Doctrine would bring back to the airwaves the kind of mind control already exercised on university campuses across the nation.
We Teach Tolerance…so Shut Up!
University speech bans—enacted in the late eighties and early nineties—remain perhaps the most successful mind control tool of the political left in America (although their horrible power would be nothing compared to a thought police bureaucracy enacted by a federal hate law, such as HR 254).
.Speech codes rear our most educated class to think political correctness and social harmony trumps truth—and enable academics to ban dissent while teaching the wackiest political and social falsehoods (such as that motherhood is an invented cultural value—no, I’m not kidding).
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a devastating report on campus speech codes last December. Their 17-page report details scandalously restrictive speech bans on universities across the United States.
FIRE gave a school a “red light” rating if they had at least one policy that “unambiguously infringes on protected expression,” which means banning speech that public schools are Constitutionally bound to protect. Out of the 334 schools FIRE reviewed, a whopping 229 deserved this red-light failing grade. Ninety-one earned a yellow-light rating, meaning they enacted speech codes that weren't as explicit but could be interpreted as limiting protected speech.
“The data showed that, despite a legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment rights of their students and faculty, public schools were actually more restrictive of speech than their private counterparts.” (p6) Speech codes were struck down by federal courts at universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and other states. But universities have not complied with this legal precedent; speech bans have actually increased since these court rulings.
“If universities applied these rules to the letter,” comments FIRE, “major voices of public criticism, satire, and commentary would be silenced on American campuses, and some of our greatest authors, artists, and filmmakers would be banned. These codes also lead students to believe they have an absolute right to be free from offense, embarrassment, or discomfort. As a result, other students begin the compromise of self-censorship.”
Speech bans’ breadth and vagueness can take your breath away. For example, you can get in hot water at Davidson College in NC for “comments or inquiries about dating.” (Wow, that’s femi-nazism at a whole new level!) At Jackson State in Alabama, you can be punished for “offending” anybody on university property. At the University of Mississippi, FIRE reports, you are forbidden from using “offensive language” while talking on the phone. West Virginia University commands incoming freshman not to use gender-specific language like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” but instead gender-neutral terms like “lover.” In their 2005-06 policy, West Chester University banned “any actions which demonstrate a lack of respect for the human rights and personal dignity of any individual.” William Paterson University’s definition of punishable “disorderly conduct” would sure have been useful in my drama class with that kid who blew his nose too often; unbelievably, WPU bans “behavior that annoys!” “In 2002, Syracuse University charged a student with disorderly conduct for dressing as Tiger Woods at several graduation costume parties.” (p14) Bowdoin College bans jokes “experienced by others as harassing.”
Macalester College says harassment includes “speech that makes use of inappropriate words or non-verbals,” whatever that means! Princeton, that Ivy League paragon of higher miseducation, says sexual harassment can be “intentional or accidental, subtle or obvious.” FIRE points out that this “sharply contrasts with the definition of real harassment, which is a severe and pervasive pattern of conduct that effectively bars the victim’s education access—there is nothing subtle about that!” (p13)
Many universities basically threaten punishment for anything that offends anybody at any time—although the policies rarely protect hurt feelings if the offended “anybody” is white, male, or Christian. These policies are muzzles used to silence religious, politically conservative expression and ideas, while leftist professors freely trash the Western civilization that gave them their freedom.
Raise Your Voice, There’s Hope
FIRE says university speech bans are highly defeatable—through public exposure. “In the past year alone, public exposure has brought down a number of speech codes at both public and private universities.” (p14) For example, after having their policy made infamous as FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month in July 2005, Albertson College in Idaho totally rewrote their speech ban—replacing its broad censorship with a statement affirming free speech!
Individual students have also been powerful advocates against speech bans, by challenging their punishment or suing their university on violation of Constitutional rights. After only a few months of pressure from student activists aided by FIRE and the Nevada ACLU, the University of Nevada at Reno revoked their speech ban and promised free speech on the entire campus.
.These victories reveal the power of free speech activism. Assuming defeat without fighting speech bans, hate laws, or the Fairness Doctrine is like walking away from a fire in your oven, assuming your house is already past saving. We have more power than we think. We can change the course of our nation, which is presently set to self-destruct through steady erosion of civil liberties and ruinous, resource-draining foreign policy.
We can’t apathetically allow the muzzle-crazy left to dictate terms of debate in the USA. Free speech is every American’s right, to be protected; but custodianship of the First Amendment now lies primarily with the conservative right. Most censorship attempts are coming from the "politically correct" left and from liberal Jewish social activists, shepherded by the hate-spewing Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. It is up to conservative patriots to defend the freedom that is daily used and abused by liberals. If we don’t defend our right to freedom of speech, soon we will have no voice left with which to defend anything.
Harmony Grant writes and edits for National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog group. Read more of her work at www.hisnamesake.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The federal hate bill, H.R. 254, remains in the House Judiciary Committee, awaiting action. Call all 40 members, available at www.truthtellers.org and protest.
Also call your House member and two state senators at 1-877-851-6437. Send them and their influential legislative aides Rev. Ted Pike's flyer, "Anti-Hate Laws Will Make You a Criminal." All this information is available at www.truthtellers.org.
TALK SHOW HOSTS: Interview Rev. Pike! Call 503-631-3808.
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