The Disappearing Free-Speech Panic

After 9/11, the Left worried about Americans’ free-speech rights. After the Benghazi attack, not so much.

After the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, members of the American Left found one thing they could all agree on: Our First Amendment rights were in peril.

The American Prospect insisted on September 12, when the rubble was still burning and the dead had not yet been retrieved, that “a number of government agencies and their cheerleaders would be clearly tempted to lock the Bill of Rights away in some basement dustbin of the National Archives.” Two weeks later, novelist Barbara Kingsolver warned, “Patriotism threatens free speech with death.” She bravely attacked the claim that “free speech is un-American.” Author Richard Reeves penned an op-ed for the New York Times under the headline “Patriotism Calls Out the Censor.” Conferences were rapidly convened; vows to fight the crackdown on free speech were issued.

The fact that this response was elicited by no actual crackdown on free speech seemed irrelevant. It was a classic example of “Fire, ready, aim!”

Later, when there was at least some theoretical basis to be concerned about lost liberties, the reaction from prominent liberals was nonetheless unhinged. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, goaded by the press to respond to a bigoted comment from a Republican congressman and a typically stupid comment from “comedian” Bill Maher, said such statements are “reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”

Then–New York Times columnist Frank Rich spent much of the next five years treating this comment as the end of liberty in America. He even said Fleischer’s comment was as significant as the terror attack itself. “Even as we’re constantly told we’re in a war for ‘freedom’ abroad,” Rich wrote, “freedom in our culture at home has been under attack ever since.”

I will admit I was vexed by this riot of knee-jerkery. At the time, I largely agreed with then-attorney general John Ashcroft, who said: “To those . . . who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.”

But in retrospect, I have a bit more sympathy with those self-anointed defenders of free speech. It was, in its way, a thoroughly American, even patriotic reaction. Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, remarked — in 1775! — that the proto-Americans of the colonies had a tendency to nip attacks on liberty in the bud. “In other countries the people . . . judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance,” but in the American colonies, “they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”


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commented 2014-05-02 15:03:45 -0400 · Flag
T.N. writes:

David Rhodes was named President of CBS News in February 2011, his brother Ben Rhodes works as a deputy national security advisor … he authored the White House Benghazi talking points that Susan Rice, mediocrity personified, then served up to the peasant masses via the MSM conduit following the September 2012 terrorist attack.

The ONLY MSM reporter, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson who had the audacity to take on the Obama and his collective band of apparchiks on the stink emanating from Benghazi terrorist attack was repeatedly thwarted by CBS News, on instructions from David Rhodes (see above) from revealing the cover-up,

she has resigned from CBS News effective March/April 2014.

For anyone on this list who still fails to realize that we are living in a Tyrannical Police State, I say good luck with your Facebook understanding of this World !!
commented 2014-05-02 15:01:40 -0400 · Flag
V.M. writes:

And what is more perplexing is that the press is complicit even thought it too has been treated unfairly and harshly and unconstitutionally by the White House……
commented 2014-05-02 15:00:58 -0400 · Flag
A.R. writes:

If a Republican was President the criminally under-reported, impeachable scandals (Benghazi, IRS, Fast+Furious, ad nauseum) would have – rightly – destroyed a Presidency. A victory in 2012 would have been impossible. The Left’s domination of the cultural capital and the levers of finance and power allows these catastrophes to go under-reported and unpunished. Imagine a Republican administration ever surviving something like Benghazi…not so much the attack itself but the amateurish and unconstitutional cover-up and scapegoating and arrest of a scumy little video-producer afterwards. Unimaginable.