Righting Wrongs by Wronging Rights

The president of an Ivy League university opined several years ago that to secure freedom of speech on his campus it was necessary to resort to censorship. He tried to dignify the policy, of course, by saying that the university

strives to ensure no member of the community is prevented from full participation in [the free exchange of ideas] by intimidating and abusive racial slurs intended only to wound, rather than to enlighten.

In other words, the university in question — like many throughout this “land of the free” — bowed to pressure from vociferous “victims” and began to suppress and punish speech deemed offensive by said “victims.” Thus “academic freedom” became an oxymoron and the end became a justification for the means (hmmm, sounds familiar).

Rightful outrage and courageous resistance to such Orwellian trends has, in some quarters, muffled the jackboots of the academic Gestapo. But the banner of political correctness continues to wave defiantly on many a campus. And contrary to what you might think about life in this post-big-government era (Clinton says it’s so), government has moved to the forefront of the campaign to suppress freedom of speech. (Maybe that’s why it’s called “government.”)

Take the anti-smoking hysteria, puh-leeze. Yes, smoking is a filthy, unhealthy habit, which was well known long before the government made it official. But why punish the makers of cigarettes for the self-destructive acts of smokers? And why punish us all by carving the right to advertise cigarettes out of the First Amendment, as many anti-smoking zealots would do?

How about the recent verdict by a Chicago jury which found a group of abortion opponents guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO (talk about a politically incorrect acronym!). If you can’t get your political opponents for committing a real crime (e.g., assault), get them for committing a phony one (e.g., a “conspiracy” in the form of a concerted exercise of freedom of speech).

Coming to a court near you — and eventually to the Supreme Court — if the campaign-reform zealots have their way: a test of tighter restrictions on campaign spending. If the right to spend money for or against a political candidate or proposition is severed from the First Amendment, the right to publish and broadcast ideas will be next on the chopping block.

God knows what idiocy will flow from the spate of murders committed by schoolboys. The right answers would be (1) to restore justice to the “criminal justice system” and, congruently, (2) to hold parents accountable for the acts of their minor children. The wrong answer, but one that will hold broad appeal — because individual accountability doesn’t “resonate” with Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and the politicians who pander to them — would be to ban all movies and TV shows with even a hint of violence. Stay tuned, at least until TV is banned.

This is getting scarier by the day, if not by the minute. I expect some Senator or Representative to suggest repealing the First Amendment so that the government can get on with the job of deciding what’s best for all of us. Maybe that would bring the special-interest zealots to their senses. On second thought…they’d probably embrace the idea.

Remember when we were afraid of “creeping socialism” and “dictatorial communism”? Well, the creepers have a stranglehold on liberty and the dictators are in the wings. But it’s all in a good cause, of course.