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.”
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.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.