Category Archives: 1st Amendment

The Media’s Self-Censors

Oh, the USA is well on its way to censership by the Left.  You an tell by the absolute silence….   mrossol

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WSJ 6/11/2020

PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

In 1789, America’s Founding Fathers, acutely aware of the political bloodbaths that had consumed Europe for centuries, created a system in which disagreements would be arbitrated by periodically allowing the public to turn their opinions into votes. The majority would win the election. Then, because political disagreement never ends, you hold more elections. Aware of the natural tendency of factions and majorities to want to suppress opposition opinion, the Founders created a Bill of Rights for all citizens, including what they called, with unmistakable clarity, “the freedom of speech.”

Nothing lasts forever, and so it is today in the U.S., where the pre-liberal idea of settling disagreements with coercion has made a comeback.

In the past week, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the editors of Bon Appétit magazine and the young women’s website Refinery 29 have been forced out by the staff and owners of their publications for offenses regarded as at odds with the beliefs of the current protests.

It is impossible not to recognize the irony of these events. The silencers aren’t campus protesters but professional journalists, a class of American workers who for nearly 250 years have had a constitutionally protected and court-enforced ability to say just about anything they want. Historically, people have been attracted to American journalism because it was the freest imaginable place to work for determined, often quirky individualists. Suddenly, it looks like the opposite of that.

The idea that you could actually lose your job, as the Inquirer’s editor did, because of a headline on an opinion piece that said “Buildings Matter, Too” is something to ponder. It sounds like a made-up incident that one might expect in a work of political satire, such as George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

The issue here is not about the assertion that racism is endemic in the U.S. The issue is the willingness by many to displace the American system of free argument with a system of enforced, coerced opinion and censorship, which forces comparison to the opinion-control mechanisms that existed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

In 2006, the movie “The Lives of Others” dramatized how the Stasi, the omnipresent East German surveillance apparatus, pursued a nonconforming writer, whose friends were intimidated into abandoning him. To survive this kind of enforced thought-concurrence in the Soviet Union or Communist Eastern Europe, writers resorted to circulating their uncensored ideas as underground literature called samizdat. Others conveyed their ideas as political satire. In Vaclav Havel’s 1965 play, “The Memorandum,” a Czech office worker is demoted to “staff watcher,” whose job is to monitor his colleagues. You won’t see Havel’s anticensorship plays staged in the U.S. anytime soon.

Other writers during those years of thought suppression sometimes wrote in allegory or fables. In Russia, writers called it “Aesopian language.” We’re not there yet. Instead many writers and media personalities here have chosen to participate in keeping opinion and even vocabulary inside restricted limits.

Some will object that it is preposterous to liken them to a communist party. But social media has become a partylike phenomenon of ideological and psychological reinforcement. It avoids the poor public optics of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s, when dissidents were paraded in dunce caps. Today, endlessly repeated memes on social-media platforms, such as “silence is violence,” reduce independent thought to constant rote reminders. Instead of the Stasi, we have Twitter’s censors to keep track of dissidents.

Alarmed parents saw years ago that platforms such as Facebook were being used to humiliate and ostracize teenage girls. It is disingenuous to deny that this same machinery of shaming has been expanded to coerce political conformity.

It is also disingenuous to deny that this ethos sanctions the implicit threat of being fired from one’s job as the price for falling out of line just once. It’s beginning to look like nonlethal summary execution.

The Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse argued in 1965 that some ideas were so repugnant, which he identified as “from the Right,” that it was one’s obligation to suppress them with what he called “the withdrawal of tolerance.” Marcuse is a saint on the American left.

The ingeniousness of this strategy of suppression and shaming is that it sidesteps the Supreme Court’s long history of defending opinion that is unpopular, such as its 1977 decision that vindicated the free-speech rights of neo-Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie, Ill. But if people have shut themselves up, as they are doing now, there is no speech, and so there is “no problem.”

Free speech isn’t dead in the United States, but it looks like more than ever, it requires active defense.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-medias-self-censors-11591829694?mod=hp_opin_pos_2

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the Claremont institute takes a stand

6/6/20. I do applaud an institution willing to take a public stand. I agree with their stand. mrossol

America is Not Racist A Statement from the Claremont Institute
The pretext for this entire nationwide riot is that America is a racist country. That is not true. America is not a racist country. America is a country that has strived, imperfectly but passionately, to live up to its founding promise that all men are created equal. There is not—and will never be—a greater barrier to racism, or to tyranny in any form, than this American idea. 

The reckless charge that American law enforcement is “systemically racist” is also not true. As with any large organization of men wielding power, some will abuse that power. But police do not systematically target innocents—either by race or any other criteria. Any fair-minded review of the available data demonstrates that. 
Why is it that so many of our citizens believe that America is racist to its core? Because this lie has been preached by our universities and media like the Gospel for a generation. From there it has traveled throughout society, particularly among the elite. Even most leaders on the Right are unwilling to refute this destructive untruth. In failing to do so, they promote the falsehood, the riots that it has engendered, and ultimately America’s destruction. This is to say, the riots are the handiwork of the elite. A country that has been taught it is ignoble will not defend itself against its enemies, domestic or foreign. 

As we see written in flames in these riots and hear in all the commentary on them, the great divide in America is between those who believe that America is evil and needs to be destroyed, and those who believe that America is good and needs to be preserved. A version of that question is what the 2016 elections were about, and what the elections in 2020 will be about. The nation has a party devoted to transforming the American way of life; it needs a party devoted to preserving the American way of life. 

America must have a full accounting of how the riots happened, who made them happen, and who let them happen. Those in power must be held to account. Most fundamentally, the lies that have been the core curriculum of American education must be replaced with the truth. The only way America can survive is as a united country dedicated to living out the true meaning of its creed. The elite want to rob us of that future. The rest of us should pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to stopping them. 

Thomas D. Klingenstein Chairman 
Ryan P. Williams President The Claremont Institute
For 40 years, the Claremont Institute has been teaching and defending the true meaning of America’s creed, so dangerously distorted and degraded by the Left. Never has our work been more important than it is today. Please consider supporting us by sharing this statement or making a donation.
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The Class Struggle

I think Ms. Noonan has been “off” on her thinking as of late, but here she is right on the money. None of the experts are paying anywhere close to the price or feeling close to the amount of pain being felt by the average person. mrossol

WSJ. 5/15/2020 by Peggy Noonan

I think there’s a growing sense that we have to find a way to live with this thing, manage it the best we can, and muddle through. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. Summer may give us a break, late fall probably not. Vaccines are likely far off, new therapies and treatments might help a lot, but keeping things closed up tight until there are enough tests isn’t a viable plan. There will never be enough tests, it was botched from the beginning, if we ever catch up it will probably be at the point tests are no longer urgently needed.

Meantime, we must ease up and manage. We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest. We have to enter each day armored up. At the same time we can’t allow alertness to become exhaustion. We can’t let an appropriate sense of caution turn into an anxiety formation. We can’t become a nation of agoraphobics [inordinate fear of entering open or crowded spaces]. We’ll just have to live, carefully.

Here’s something we should stop. There’s a class element in the public debate. It’s been there the whole time but it’s getting worse, and few in public life are acting as if they’re sensitive to it. Our news professionals the past three months have made plenty of room for medical and professionals warning of the illness. Good, we needed it, it was news. They are not now paying an equal degree of sympathetic attention to those living the economic story, such as the Dallas woman who pushed back, opened her hair salon, and was thrown in jail by a preening judge. He wanted an apology. She said she couldn’t apologize for trying to feed her family.

There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side—those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in “The New Class War,” calls “the overclass”—and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutions—hospitals, companies, statehouses. The normal people aren’t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobs—service worker, small-business owner.

Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge—scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.

I’ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. There is an aspect of it that is not much discussed but bears on current arguments. How you have experienced life has a lot to do with how you experience the pandemic and its strictures. I think it’s fair to say citizens of red states have been pushing back harder than those of blue states.

It’s not that those in red states don’t think there’s a pandemic. They’ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualties—fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.

They’ll take the latter. It’s a loss either way but one loss is worse than the other. They know the politicians and scientists can’t really weigh all this on a scale with any precision because life is a messy thing that doesn’t want to be quantified.

Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They haven’t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. They often come from considerable family dysfunction. This has left them tougher or harder, you choose the word.

They’re more fatalistic about life because life has taught them to be fatalistic. And they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough it’s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they don’t think, “Oh what informed, caring observers.” They think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is.” And if you don’t know, why should you have so much say?

The overclass says, “Wait three months before we’re safe.” They reply, “There’s no such thing as safe.”

Something else is true about those pushing back. They live life closer to the ground and pick up other damage. Everyone knows the societal costs in the abstract—“domestic violence,” “child abuse.” Here’s something concrete. In Dallas this week police received a tip and found a 6-year-old boy tied up by his grandmother and living in a shed. The child told police he’d been sleeping there since school ended “for this corona thing.” According to the arrest affidavit, he was found “standing alone in a pitch-black shed in a blue storage bin with his hands tied behind his back.” The grandmother and her lover were arrested on felony child-endangerment charges. The Texas Department of Family Protective Service said calls to its abuse hotline have gone down since the lockdowns because teachers and other professionals aren’t regularly seeing children.

A lot of bad things happen behind America’s closed doors. The pandemic has made those doors thicker.

Meanwhile some governors are playing into every stereotype of “the overclass.” On Tuesday Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said in a press briefing that those pushing against the shutdown are cowards. Local officials who “cave in to this coronavirus” will pay a price in state funding. “These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war.” He said he’ll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations “racist and misogynistic.” She called the entire movement “political.” It was, in part—there have been plenty of Trump signs, and she’s a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee. But the clamor in her state is real, and serious. People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away. How does name-calling help? She might as well have called them “deplorables.” She said the protests may only make the lockdowns last longer, which sounded less like irony than a threat.

When you are reasonable with people and show them respect, they will want to respond in kind. But when they feel those calling the shots are being disrespectful, they will push back hard and rebel even in ways that hurt them.

This is no time to make our divisions worse. The pandemic is a story not only about our health but our humanity.

Source: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown – WSJ

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Sweeping Restrictions need Accountability

“Our country and our Constitution are finished, however, if the most sweeping, authoritarian and undemocratic restrictions on individual liberty ever contemplated are not subjected to legal challenge and accountability.”

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WSJ  –  5/13/20  by. Holman W Jenkins, Jr.

A CEO has obligations to share-h olders, among them not to let anybody take anything of value from the company that the taker has no right to take.
That Elon Musk’s resistance of California’s pandemic shutdown may well be due to fear that his company cannot survive if it doesn’t continue pulling in cash from delivering cars merely gives him a material and compelling justification for his defiance. He should protect his company’s right to do business and survive against what he considers unlawful and unjustified prohibitions. He would be derelict not to do so.

From the start of the crisis, the American Civil Liberties Union has advertised on its website: “The ACLU will be watching closely to make sure the government’s response is scientifically justified and no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.”

Its definition of scientifically justified appears to be about as rigorous as the media’s, which means anything the hive mind has somehow decided requires fashionable conformity. The irony is that the science has been speaking clearly and consistently, but the public and a virtue-signaling media haven’t wanted to hear it.

For weeks, a CDC web page, which remains widely quoted by other government and health-care websites, advised, “In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus.”

When the lockdowns started, I could write without qualification: “Experts now agree the virus’s spread can be slowed but not contained. It will take its place among mostly seasonal respiratory infections.”  Our flatten-the-curve strategy, likewise, was premised scientifically on slowing the virus’s spread in line with local hospital capacity. Unthinkable would have been sweeping and indiscriminate bans on economic activity in places not yet touched or barely touched by the virus.

A writer in the Atlantic suggests conservatives favor opening the economy and want the old and ill to take one for the team. My own email indicates dissent from the lockdowns has nothing to do with being a conservative and a lot to do with being a physician or immunologist. By focusing protection on the elderly and vulnerable, we bring closer the day when the elderly and vulnerable won’t need protecting because the epidemic has run out of a critical mass of people to infect.

An unusually sensible writer in the New York Times points out that pandemics in the past have ended not with the virus going away—the 1918, 1957 and 1968 strains are still with us. They ended when people decided to accept and adapt to the virus’s existence.

Which brings us to Mr. Musk. He is not the only business operator, but perhaps the only one running a public company, who has decided to resist his livelihood being destroyed by infringements on the most basic rights of U.S. citizens: to leave their homes, to engage in trade, to work and receive pay.  We expect Mr. Musk to be grandiose: Let me be the first to be arrested, he tweeted, Patrick Henry-like.

We expect legal plaintiffs of every description to be self-interested—his defiance has clearly been accentuated by Michigan’s decision to let his competitors reopen their auto plants. These infringements, it is vaguely but confidently asserted by politicians and their press cheerleaders, are justified by the science. Well, let’s test this idea in court.

You will be hard-pressed to find a scientist anywhere who maintains we don’t need to learn to live with the virus. Our incoherent lockdowns plainly lacked a scientific rationale for how to reopen when most of the public remains uninfected. An MIT group calculates that the desired benefits in terms of hospitals and the elderly could have been achieved far more cheaply by isolating the vulnerable rather than everybody, and with far less damage to civil liberties.

For some families, sheltering in place now appears to have increased their risk rather than reduced it. For most individuals, the danger was flu-like, which never before led to them being stripped of basic rights. Banning outdoor activities appears to have been absurd overkill. The notion that a vast testing and contact-tracing scheme is plausible and could halt the epidemic, much less is a requisite condition to resume most of our economic freedoms, would likely fall to sixth-grade math. Start with the challenge of identifying millions of asymptomatic carriers among millions of others whose symptoms are due to the common cold or flu.

That politicians took steps out of panic is understandable. That these steps were unjustified by the science that existed then much less now doesn’t mean their motives were bad. We can accept, especially in a panic, that the media will eschew complexity in favor of a story of an enemy who must be vanquished.

Our country and our Constitution are finished, however, if the most sweeping, authoritarian and undemocratic restrictions on individual liberty ever contemplated are not subjected to legal challenge and accountability.

BUSINESS WORLD
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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