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Constitution Free Speech Politics Truth

Censorship Is Alive And Well In the United States!

by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

Harry Truman sagely observed, “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is on the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Clearly, the protection of speech, no matter how offensive that speech may be, is a time-honored, foundational plank in our nation’s birth and of our system of government. Indeed, our freedom to develop ideas free of government interference, and then deliver them without censure is so important that it earned a place within the most hallowed protections memorialized in the First Amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law. . . abridging the freedom speech.”

Consequently watching the devolution of our protections during the past two weeks would be as harrowing an experience for the Framers of the Constitution as it ought to be for every one of us who values our independence and fears the consequences of government encroachment.

The latest assault on our freedoms comes from fascist elements decorated with the perfect disguise; the cloak of anti-fascism. These promoters of disorder, violence, and hatred have managed to present themselves as fighters against bigotry while dismantling the very democracy in whose freedoms they take comfort in organizing their spiteful and evil campaigns. And the worst thing about it is that those on the left, and the uneducated who join them, are all too eager to swallow their poison and promote the dismantling of the nation’s foundational precepts.

Case in point?

 

The prelude to Boston

The run-up to the Aug. 19 Boston Rally was clearly a tumultuous affair. Charlottesville, reeling from the city council’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee Statue from its place of prominence in the public square (itself an act of censorship and thought control), saw a group of individuals organize a rally to protest the decision. Tragically, the members of the rally spewed hatred and ridiculous, indefensible messages of white supremacy and racism. But they clearly had a right to assemble and deliver their venomous speech.

In response, radical left wing elements hijacked the flag of righteousness and presented themselves with the proclaimed intent of mounting a counter-protest. But they were armed with the willingness, and perhaps even the desire, to engage in violence and promote mayhem.

We do not have any information over who started the violent confrontations in Charlottesville, but suffice it to say that violence did ensue directly resulting in the death of one upstanding citizen who clearly was not there to engage in any activity she did not have the right to pursue, and of two police officers charged with guarding the peace who died when their helicopter crashed.

Boston had been previously scheduled to host a rally by a group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Coalition on the weekend following the events in Charlottesville. Precious little was known about this group.  Through a radio interview the day prior to the rally, we learned that the group consisted of seven young people ages 17-23. Their leader and speaker was a young man named John Medlar. The Boston Free Speech Coalition had been in existence for less than a year and had successfully organized one event in its history, an event that took place in May 2017, at the gazebo in Boston Commons, the same location which was to house the Aug. 19 rally.  That event, although attended by counter-protesters, had been a peaceful affair.

We also know that the Boston Free Speech Coalition had no formal ties to any fringe groups and that their raison d’etre was their concern over what they perceived to be an erosion of First Amendment speech rights in our country. They cooperated fully with the authorities and gave the Boston Police Department every assurance that a) they were totally disinterested in causing any trouble; and b) they would cooperate fully in making sure that peace and order be maintained.  

It is true that in their May 2017, rally, they provided a stage for some pretty detestable speakers, but the Boston Free Speech Coalition openly disavowed themselves of their views. Again, their priority was to serve as a conduit for all speech. In fact, recurrently, Medlar said that he had invited all to share in the forum, regardless of the political inclinations of their views.

When Medlar was asked if his group sympathized with white nationalists or Nazis, he said, “The problem with white supremacy is that they don’t extend rights to other people. They use the First Amendment as a shield to protect themselves, but because they’re supremacists, they don’t extend the same rights to people of color, and we believe that the Constitution applies to everyone.”

And this is all we knew — and still know — about the Boston Free Speech Coalition.

Frankly, this doesn’t sound like a hate group. They may be naive.  They may be idealistic, as young people are wont to be. But in their dealings, there is no evidence at all that they a) wanted any trouble; or b) hated anyone or anything, except the assault on the First Amendment to the Constitution.

 

The censorship efforts of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

But how about government? Did the government consider the Boston Free Speech Coalition a hate group? Well, to answer that question, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh consulted that pinnacle of neutral arbitration on the matter, the Southern Poverty Law Center — the same extreme leftist group that classified the Christian based organizations like the Family Research Council as hate groups.

And what did the Southern Poverty Law Center tell the mayor?  Well, according to Mayor Walsh, they told him the following: “The Southern Poverty Law Center has been guiding communities throughout the nation on how to handle hate groups.”

Wait! Stop!

Who said the Boston Free Speech Coalition is a hate group? The Southern Poverty Law Center? Well, the Southern Poverty Law Center couldn’t say that the Boston Free Speech Coalition is a hate group because, there is no history to the group! Moreover (I checked), the Southern Poverty Law Center does not — repeat — not(!!) list the Boston Free Speech Coalition as a hate group in its website!  

So is it you, Mr. Mayor? Are you singlehandedly calling the Boston Free Speech Coalition a hate group?

Well, it seems so, and if that’s true, then the government of Boston has just injected itself on behalf of one party in a political debate — about free speech no less! And even more offensively, the Mayor brings all the power of the city against that group (Truman’s prophesied “opposition”) with the sole purpose of dissuading people from listening to their speeches.

The Mayor continues, “[The Southern Poverty Law Center] recommend[s] that people not confront (sic) these rallies. So we are urging everyone to stay away from the Commons.”

Translation, “Don’t go to the rally because the City of Boston says this is a hate group and the City of Boston does not want you to hear their message.”

This is the way of dictatorships.

Look, I’m not saying the invited speakers would have been anything other than repulsive. But they had the right to say whatever they were going to say, and the government dissuading others from listening is a core violation of the relationship we have established through our Constitution and its Amendments.  

That the mayor of Boston would have behaved in such a manner demonstrates either a gross disregard or a fatal misunderstanding of the importance of free speech to any country claiming to be a representative democracy.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”  

Mr. Mayor, in your zeal to align yourself with the left and ridicule the right, in your own small, little way and within earshot of the final resting places of those who died to protect our freedoms, you just took that very step.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com.

Categories
Constitution Free Speech Liberty Truth

Who’s To Blame for the Events in Charlottesville? Charlottesville!

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

The events that transpired in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 were truly vile and disgusting. Set into motion under the guise of protesting the city’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, the gathering instead devolved into a display of violence and intolerance that struck at the face of democracy and the ideals upon which our country was built.

The left is quick to cast its aspersions upon the white nationalist groups that organized the rally under the leadership of Jason Kessler. By the same token, it is quick to dismiss whatever disruptive behaviors may have taken place on the part of counter-protesters also present.

There are, however, three facts that are indisputable.

First, despite the repugnance of the message Kessler and his Unite the Right activists were delivering that Saturday, they had all the right in the world to deliver it as they were armed with the protections conferred by the First Amendment and a permit.  

Second, the City of Charlottesville had a duty to maintain order during the demonstration especially since it knew that the outermost fringes of our political spectrum would be in attendance.  

And third, the outermost fringes of our society’s political spectrum did indeed show up. 

Since March 2017, Charlottesville knew this rally was coming.  As a matter of fact, it acted to inconvenience Kessler and his band of protesters, ostensibly in the name of public safety, to the point of rejecting their petition unless they agreed to hold their rally at nearby McIntyre Park.

In fact, following the city’s Aug. 7 decision to reject Kessler’s original request, Kessler had to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking injunctive relief. On Aug. 11, the day prior to the rally, U.S. District Court Judge Glen E. Conrad granted Kessler the relief he sought stating, “Based on the current record, the court concludes that Kessler has shown that he will likely prove that the decision to revoke his permit was based on the content of his speech. . . Kessler’s assertion in this regard is supported by the fact that the city solely revoked his permit but left in place the permits issued to counter-protesters.” (emphasis added)

As a result, Conrad concluded that the city’s decision to disallow Kessler’s request was “based on the content of his speech” rather than on public safety, something that is specifically prohibited by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

And the city had already gotten a taste of what was coming.  On July 8, a similar rally was held at Emancipation Park where approximately 50 clansmen were in attendance and over a thousand counter-protesters showed up.  In that rally, a mere month prior to Kessler’s event, 23 arrests were made.  (Editor’s note: This conflict is a natural result of identity politics, which we explain here.)

Click for the Julio Gonzalez Podcast

Moreover, the city stated prior to the rally that it was expecting anywhere between 2,000-8,000 people to be at Emancipation Park, and it still provided an inadequate police force to handle such a gathering.  

Everyone understands that Charlottesville is a small town, but if the city’s police force was insufficient to protect the protesters in what was predicted to be a volatile situation, then it should have asked the Commonwealth of Virginia for help.  

The bottom line is that there was no excuse for the inadequate police presence at the beginning of the rally.  Charlottesville’s duty, just like that of any American governmental entity, was to protect Kesler’s right to peacefully speak and the counter-protester’s right to peacefully counter his speech. Sadly, Charlottesville shirked its responsibility, and the rest, as they say, is (another dark stain upon our) history.  

There are many who place the blame on the white supremacists accumulated that day at Emancipation Park. It seems, though, that the only reason they point fingers at them is the true repugnance of their message. However, such repugnance can never be the primary reason to assign blame since doing so is tantamount to censorship and suppression.

Although we would have all loved it if these Nazi whackos would have sat down and shut up, the reality is they had all the rights afforded them in the Constitution to speak that Saturday at Emancipation Park.  

Sadly, if we are to blame anyone for this tragedy, it is the City of Charlottesville, which failed to maintain the peace that day under the statue of Robert E. Lee because it didn’t like the petitioner and the message he was set to deliver.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com.

Categories
Constitution Free Speech Truth

The Imperative of Defending Liberty After Charlottesville

By KrisAnne Hall, JD

Let me start off by saying I do not support, condone, or defend any of the words or actions created by the white supremacist ideology.

However, I am hearing some very dangerous rhetoric coming forward from the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va. We need to understand the danger of this rhetoric, not just for our own safety, but for the security of future generations.

A pastor recently tweeted, “Every person who turns up to a white nationalist rally should be arrested. This is 2017.” This pastor speaks out of ignorance and this ignorance will serve to imprison him one day.

Guilt by association is a Marxist principle. America was formed upon natural law, which establishes that all people have a natural right to life, liberty and property. Frederic Bastiat makes this point very clear in his book, The Law:

“Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his life, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life and preservation of any of them is the preservation of the other two.”

Among these natural rights is the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is so essential to all freedom that if members of a society are denied this fundamental right, no other rights are secure. Benjamin Franklin wrote of this in his Silence Dogood letter of 1722:

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech…This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own…”

 

Consequences of not defending liberty

If members of a society can be limited in their speech by government force, then there is no defense of any life, liberty, or property; no peaceful defense at all. The consequence of establishing a government punishment of speech is two-fold.

In the first consequence, Franklin shows us that without freedom of speech there is no public liberty, no such things as wisdom. In that understanding, Franklin explains that without freedom of speech, all public liberty of the people is overthrown.

“Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors.”

Thomas Jefferson expounds upon this principle when he says, “…if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be.”   Without freedom of speech, without the public wisdom that comes from it, all men in that civilization are slaves to the government approved and dictated narrative.

The second consequence to speech controlled by government force is the establishment of a dangerous precedent. Thomas Paine explains this danger:

“An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to even misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

When you invite government to oppress the speech of your enemy, you set a precedent for government to oppress your speech when the times have changed and the government finds your speech a threat. This should be the most compelling motivation for this pastor to defend freedom of speech and association. History is replete with governments punishing religious speech. This is not a history we should ever want repeat in America.

 

Government’s role is protecting freedoms for all

Freedom of speech and freedom of association go hand in hand. They are so intimately related that the designers of our Constitutional republic placed them both in the First Amendment within our Bill of Rights. You cannot have one without the other.

However, Liberty is not without its limits. These limitations are necessary for the preservation of Liberty as a whole.

John Leland, a designer of our Constitutional republic wrote: “Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another.” Government’s obligation to our rights is to secure them, not regulate them.  

Government securing our rights does not involve regulating or punishing speech or freedom of association. There ought to be only one limiting factor to our liberty, as Leland and Franklin both state — your expression of liberty cannot harm or control the right of another. Franklin wrote in Silence Dogood letter number eight:

“… Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.”

Being offended is not a harm, it is a consequence we must suffer to ensure liberty’s survival. We must prosecute people for their actions, that is true. But arresting and prosecuting people for what they say or for simply being with people who say offensive things will lead America down a path of government oppression we cannot allow.

We must limit the government’s authority to those actions that result in the harm or control of another. We cannot give government authority over words or associations. If we give government this power today to control speech we don’t like, then tomorrow our own words and associations may come under the wrath of government when the government doesn’t like what we have to say.

Liberty is not easy, nor is it simple. But we must understand, as John Adams proclaimed, “Liberty must at all hazards be supported.”

We must also know this truth, we must suffer the rantings of fools to ensure that the voice of truth has its day. The future generations of Americans are relying upon us to make the right choices. We must choose Liberty First.

“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.” Thomas Jefferson

KrisAnne Hall is a former biochemist, Russian linguist for the US Army, and former prosecutor for the State of Florida. KrisAnne also practiced First Amendment Law for a prominent Florida non-profit Law firm. KrisAnne now travels the country teaching the foundational principles of Liberty and our Constitutional Republic. KrisAnne is the author of 6 books on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she also has an internationally popular radio and television show and her books and classes have been featured on C-SPAN TV. KrisAnne can be found at www.KrisAnneHall.com

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Constitution Free Speech Truth

In Defense of Wholly Free Speech

(Editor’s note: This column is in response to a Revolutionary Act column in the wake of the Kathy Griffin revulsion.)

By KrisAnne Hall, JD

When speech, political or otherwise, is taken to the heights of offensiveness one can expect there to be consequences. If a person wishes to push the boundaries into the vile and reprehensible, then that person should be ready to be shamed, shunned, boycotted or soon unemployed. Any or all of those consequences are understandable and often justified in a civil society. Yet to be targeted by the government for prosecution for being offensive is another issue entirely.

If America has forgotten one thing it is that, Liberty is not neat and tidy. It is quite often offensive and abrasive. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President declared: “Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem,” translated as “I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.”

However, the founders of our Constitutional Republic knew that Liberty was the most important thing in society and in life. Patrick Henry, a designer of our Constitutional Republic and delegate to the State of Virginia, professed that he would rather suffer death than a life without Liberty. It is when our ideologies are tested that our devotion to Liberty is truly challenged. No other liberty is more challenging and more delicate than the liberty of free speech.

 

America’s Founders took free speech to extremes

During our battle for Liberty with Great Britain, it was common for the Sons of Liberty to fashion life-sized, stuffed likenesses of politicians and then hold public mock hangings of these effigies. If that was not offensive enough, at the conclusion of the mock hanging they would also light fire to this caricature and rejoice in its burning.

The Sons of Liberty did not restrain their criticism of the crown. One opposition chronicler of the events noted “The sons or Spawns of Liberty and Inquisition were still venting threats and Insulting the Crown and Officers under it.” (Capt. John Montressor, The Montressor Journals)

Mock hangings were not the only form of potentially offensive free speech expressed by the founders of our Constitutional Republic. These supporters of Liberty also held mock funerals that began with processions marching down the streets with coffins in hand and likenesses of politicians and tax collectors on the caskets, concluding with a full eulogy and funeral service.

One Oxford historian describes our founders’ artistic processions of death: “In the make-believe world of 1764 and 1765, the stamp distributors died, resolving the problem of moral evil through creating surrogate victims which could be mutilated, hanged, and immolated with impunity.” (Ann Fairfax Withington, Mock Funerals and Mock Executions)

These are historical examples of free speech as expressed by the very authors of the First Amendment. Their own expression of political speech was often far from civil and even included artistic and (from the ruling British perspective) vile depictions of the death of the officers of the crown. Without such expressions fueling the understanding of and dedication to the cause of liberty, our nation would not likely have been birthed on this continent.

 

Founders battle for free speech

Even after our liberty was won from Great Britain, the battle for free speech in America continued.

On July 14, 1798, the political party in power, supported by John Adams, the second President, was able to pass through Congress the Alien and Sedition Acts. With the backdrop of the French Revolution spreading its terror throughout Europe and the fear of foreign subversives infiltrating America, the Adams administration and his party hoped to tighten immigration controls and silence dissenters. This act to protect national security was so destructive to free speech and free press, that our newly formed union nearly erupted in a revolt against this president and the Congress that passed this unconstitutional law.

The Sedition Act declared that people who assembled to protest a law, a politician, or any act of government was guilty of a “high misdemeanor.” This Act went on further to make it illegal to “write, print, utter or publish, cause to be written, printed, uttered, or publish…any…scandalous or malicious writings…” against anyone in the federal government with intent to “defame” or bring them into “contempt or disrepute” or to “excite against them the hatred of the people” is also guilty of this “high misdemeanor.”

As a result of this Act, 17 people were indicted, 10 were convicted, most were journalists, some were not. Here are a few examples:

  • Journalist Benjamin Bache would be arrested for printing in his publication “Aurora” that President Adams was a “old, querulous, Bald, blind, crippled, and Toothless.” Since his writings were classified as “abusive” to the President and written in “malice,” he was to be criminally prosecuted.
  • David Brown was arrested in April of 1799 for helping to erect a liberty pole with a sign that read, “A Speedy Retirement to the President. No Sedition Bill, No Alien bill, Downfall to the Tyrants of America.”
  •  Luther Baldwin, a Congressman, was arrested in July of 1798 for getting drunk and yelling out publicly “There goes the President and they are firing at his ass.” It was also reported that Baldwin shouted that “he didn’t care if they fired thro’ his ass.” A tavern owner, hearing these exclamations, declared the statements to be seditious and Baldwin was later arrested and convicted of Sedition.
  • The most outrageous case involved Congressman Matthew Lyon, a member of a political party opposing President Adams. Lyon wrote an article in the summer of 1798 criticizing President Adams’ “continual grasp for power” and his “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.” In a later writing, Lyon wrote that Congress should dispatch the President “to a mad house” for his handling of the French Crisis. In October, a federal grand jury indicted Lyon for stirring up sedition.

 

Mimicking the age’s tyrant kings

President Adams’ actions began to mimic those of the tyrannical kings that permeated this generation’s history: The imprisonment of Sir Edward Coke by King Charles I for establishing a petition of grievances against the king; The imprisonment of bishops by King James II for criticizing the king from the pulpit. These are just two examples of the struggle between Liberty and government that gave rise to the Five Liberty Charters from which we would inherit our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Knowing this history and the ways of tyrannical government, the people knew they had to organize against this unjust and unconstitutional act of their federal government. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were placed in charge of writing Resolutions for Virginia and Kentucky to express the outrage of the people. Madison’s Virginia Resolution pointed out that this Sedition Act was not only a power not delegated to the federal government but one that is expressly forbidden.

Madison charged that this act alone, “ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.” Madison characterized the federal government’s Sedition Act as a “reproachable inconsistency, and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shewn, to the most palpable violation of one of the Rights, thus declared and secured; and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.”

Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution carried on this list of criticisms and decried the assertion that the federal government had been granted any power to limit the free speech of American’s in order to avoid criticism or offense:

“That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism; since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers:”

These kingly acts by Adams would bring about his political demise. Thomas Jefferson would be elected president in a romping victory. The Sedition Act would be repealed. After being elected president, Thomas Jefferson immediately pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act.

It is not at all uncommon for a person to lose sight of the proper principles when he sits at the seat of power. He can easily become a tyrant seeking to punish all who oppose him. What he fails to realize is that his behavior is self-destructive. When he attacks the natural rights of his foes he threatens to damage those same rights for himself, his countrymen and future generations. As Thomas Paine had remarked previously:  

“An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates his duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” (Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, 7 July 1795)

As one studies the details of this stretch of history and looks out on the scene of America today it is obvious that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeating its mistakes.

 

Lose speech, lose the Republic

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.” – Benjamin Franklin, Silence Dogood Essay No. 8

Benjamin Franklin rightly declared that the only check a person’s liberty should suffer is that “he does not hurt or control the Right of another.” Expressing offensive speech is not hurting or controlling the Right of another. One doesn’t have a right to not be offended, nor a duty not to offend. If that is not the case then the very foundations of our Republic are illegitimate, the Constitution is invalid and the government has no basis upon which to exist much less upon which to prosecute. Thankfully, our founders understood that these principles were self-evident.

James Madison, our fourth President also known as the Father of the Constitution, described freedom of speech as a kind of property. In 1792, he wrote:

“…a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them… Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” (emphasis added)

Madison is reasoning from the principles of Natural Law. A man has property in his faculties by nature of his being. Man was created neither by government nor by another man and therefore has a natural right to what is his, including the faculty of his speech. Government being of creation of that man is instituted with a duty to protect the man’s property, which includes his inalienable rights. Note Madison uses the word “impartially.” For America to be a just government, it must be one that is willing to protect not just popular and palatable expression, but even the most offensive and vile.

To assert that the popular or majority opinion of appropriateness is the measure of the length and breadth of free speech is to ignore the history that demanded the necessity of our First Amendment and to cast aside the principles of Natural Law upon which our founding documents rest.

Benjamin Franklin believed that a nation rises or falls in connection with its handling of freedom of speech:

“This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors.” Silence Dogood #8

 

The foundation for freedom

Freedom of speech is the bedrock principle of all wisdom and liberty in society.

When the government can curtail speech, we the people will inevitably suffer the most arbitrary and oppressive governments known to history. Freedom of speech should be such a dear right to all Americans that we would rejoice over the fact that something offensive can be spoken publicly.

When government, or the mob, can determine what is offensive or acceptable, then no other freedom is secure. The protections of freedom of speech were not embedded into the foundation of this republic merely to protect that which my opponents might find offensive, but more than anything else that my speech might be protected when it targets government and its ministers.

These are the principles that truly make America great. It is unfortunately all too common for those who gain the position of power to tend toward an overzealous defense of themselves (like Adams) or, in our day, of their party, or mistake a sense of intense nationalism for a focus on the just cause of liberty. We would do well to understand that we must suffer the speech of fools, so that the speech of the just may have its day.

We cannot allow government to have the power to punish speech. If we wish to be the America that is true to our Liberty foundations, we must hold fast to these rights, even if they make us feel uncomfortable. All the people, all of government, from the local mayor to the President, should be dedicated to the unfeigned protection of all speech and assembly, regardless of how we feel about the message.

Let civil society deal with offense, keep government out of it. That is the definition of “freedom of speech;” that is only way to secure Liberty.

KrisAnne Hall is a former bio-chemist, Russian linguist for the US Army, and former prosecutor for the State of Florida. KrisAnne also practiced First Amendment Law for a prominent Florida non-profit Law firm. KrisAnne now travels the country teaching the foundational principles of Liberty and our Constitutional Republic. KrisAnne is the author of 6 books on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she also has an internationally popular radio and television show and her books and classes have been featured on C-SPAN TV. KrisAnne can be found at www.KrisAnneHall.com

Categories
Free Speech Politics Truth

Kathy Griffin’s Offense and Revisiting Free Speech Rulings

By Rep. Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

Kathy Griffin’s grotesque and vile defilement of the President of the United States is the most shocking and offensive display of hatred towards a public figure I have ever seen delivered by an American citizen. I have not yet seen or heard anyone defend her actions as being appropriate, or even valid. But recurrently, the left’s answer to her disgusting video is that they eagerly defend her right to have done it because the First Amendment protects her rancid form of expression.

Well. . . guess what?. . . it shouldn’t, as her expressions do not carry with them a sufficient sense of civility or decency to merit the protections of a provision as austere as the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Griffin’s “political expression” of stoically holding a very accurate likeness of the severed head of the President of the United States for others to marvel is not political speech.

There is no logic in it. It does not advocate for a particular policy, or a political philosophy.  There isn’t even a political opinion that is expressed. The “bold statement” that her “art” makes, at best, is a raw hatred for this President and the pleasure that she would take at his decapitation. At worst, it is an invitation for similarly sick people to take up arms against our nation’s leader and bring harm to him in a manner akin to those employed by our present enemies.

In short, there isn’t much veiling of the threat to the life of the President of the United States contained in the images fabricated and published by Griffin.

But Griffin, like her fellow leftist haters, will misguidedly shroud herself with the First Amendment; defiling it in no less a fashion than she did the President himself. How can she do that? How is it that a whole group of people can make such a deranged argument about the protections afforded to them by the Constitution?

 

Free speech precedents

If you think about it, their argument comes not from the Constitution itself, but rather the interpretations of that document contained in two opinions. Yes, that’s all they are; opinions.

The first proceeds from a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case known as New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a legal confrontation between the Montgomery, Ala., Public Safety Commissioner, L.B. Sullivan, and supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding an advertisement those supporters had taken out in the New York Times. In that advertisement, they published inaccuracies about the actions of the Alabama State Police and how they handled Civil Rights activists.

These inaccuracies included claims that the state police had arrested Dr. King seven times when in fact he was arrested four times. They also reported the wrong song that the demonstrators sang at the steps of the state capitol, and they misreported the reason for the expulsion of nine college students. Sullivan argued that these inaccuracies held him in a false light and were defamatory of him.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the New York Times. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that a successful prosecution of the defamation of a public official required that actual malice (so called New York Times malice) be proved. The Court then defined New York Times malice as one where the defendant (the person delivering a statement) displayed a reckless disregard for whether the statement was true or not.

 

Eliminating any accountability

The effect of this case was to strip any legal liability of what is said regarding a public official. This resulted, of course, in fake news, reckless media frenzies, and the misguided belief that one can say whatever he or she wants about a public official, regardless of how disgusting or personally threatening such an expression may be.

Following that was the opinion of the 1989 case of Texas v. Johnson. Here, the Supreme Court held that the burning of the American flag, the same flag hundreds of thousands of Americans died protecting, was a form of political expression and thus protected under the Constitution.

You now have all the precedents you need to legally make the argument for Griffin in court.

But the Johnson case was by no means unanimous, as it was decided by a 5-4 majority that, oddly, saw the revered conservative Justice Antonin Scalia join Justices Blackmun, White, Kennedy, Marshall, and Brennan in the majority. In his descent Chief Justice Rehnquist reminded us that the flag, as the national symbol, deserved special protections against its desecration while making the point that Johnson’s actions expressed no specific political thought, but rather represented “an inarticulate grunt.”

Fast forward to Kathy Griffin and her terrible video. Doesn’t the President of the United States who, like the flag, represents our nation and is a living, breathing human being, and the ultimate target of our nation’s enemies, deserve the defenses of which Chief Justice Rehnquist speaks?

 

Time to revisit some precedents

Griffin’s case highlights all the things that have gone awry with the nation, its culture, and its modes of political expression since the creation of New York Times malice precedent.

But like so many things, these degradations are a result of the legislative environment in which we live, which oftentimes comes not from the reasoned (or heated) policy battles waged within the halls of Congress, or in our state capitols. Rather, they are the result of misguided Supreme Court opinions inconsistent with the will of the people regarding the Constitution’s proper interpretation.

No, the First Amendment does not protect Griffin’s inarticulate, vile, and disgusting grunt. She should be held accountable, not merely through the punishments of her employers and of the public, but through our judicial system as well.

In light of all that has happened and continues to happen with the press and the nation’s predictable deterioration in the conduct of its activists and its political commentators, it is time the Supreme Court revisit its misguided decisions. More importantly, it is time for a judicial override amendment (about which I have previously written) to be passed.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com  to arrange a lecture or book signing.

 

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