Free speech is under attack, and America is damn tired of it

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The backlash to MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry’s suggestion that Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson is part of some kind of racist Republican ploy highlights a growing phenomenon. The Virus that targets and destroys conservative free speech and activity based on cynical accusations of bigotry is weakening. And mainstream America is roundly rejecting it.

The Virus can be traced back at least to the dawn of activist political correctness in the 1980s and early 1990s — exemplified by the rise of Al Sharpton in New York City, the Anita Hill-versus-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment case and O.J. Simpson’s racialized murder defense — but it gained new momentum in 2004 thanks to the generous wallet of Hungarian-born progressive billionaire George Soros and his allies.

Media Matters for America, founded by David Brock, and the Center for American Progress’ blog ThinkProgress were just two of numerous imprints that sprang up that year in a well-funded effort to build a progressive activism and media movement to combat the re-election effort of George W. Bush. These propaganda outlets exist to flag Republican and conservative P.C. violations in order to paint the right as the racist, sexist, homophobic half of the country and sow the seeds of hatred and division in primarily young and minority voters. Writer Byron York deemed it “The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”

For a while, working in the tradition of former Senator Joseph McCarthy, their tactics were virtually unbeatable. Media Matters, Sharpton and other rage-mongers landed on the cover of Time magazine in 2007 after radio legend Don Imus used the term “nappy headed hos” to describe the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Imus’ firing from CBS Radio sent the message that nobody is off limits — even entertainers — and ushered in a new age of paranoia, intimidation, and fear.

As the Tea Party rose to prominence in 2010, the Virus activated. Washington Post columns lumped anti-health care reform protesters in with the Ku Klux Klan and Timothy McVeigh. Their over-the-top rhetoric gained notice from IRS agents who subsequently targeted tea party groups in a manner that threatened the very fabric of constitutional democracy in this country.

Media Matters managed to force MSNBC’s 2012 firing of Pat Buchanan for suggesting in a book that America’s white majority is statistically declining, working in tandem with groups including Color of Change to pull Buchanan off the air.

“There are elements in our society and they are predominantly on the hard left that say it’s no longer enough to challenge and contradict or defeat or fight these fellas in arguments. We’ve got to smear them, stigmatize them as racists or homophobic and then we’ve gotta silence and censor them and the way we do it is go after the media outlets that put them on the air,” Buchanan warned, adding, “this is un-American what is going on right now.”

Media Matters and other groups forced a boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers for criticizing Sandra Fluke’s assertion that taxpayers should pay for her contraception – whipping up such an outrage that Fluke earned a prime speaking role at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. And, of course, the media and activist establishment successfully waged a campaign to prosecute George Zimmerman for the self-defense killing of Trayvon Martin, ignoring the epidemic of black-on-black violence in inner cities like Cory Booker’s Newark in order to sell the narrative that white racism is still alive and well in the American South.

So oppressive were these tactics that some influential people on the right started thinking that they needed to play the very same game. The Washington Free Beacon, which initially strove to pull apart the hidden threads of the Soros-funded conspiracy, claimed the political scalp of libertarian-leaning Rand Paul staffer Jack Hunter, a talented writer whose past oeuvre was characterized by the Beacon as racist, despite Hunter’s denunciation of racism in response. Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro’s new outlet Truth Revolt launched with a boycott of one of Al Sharpton’s MSNBC advertisers over accusations of racism, and a full-throated defense by Shapiro of Media Matters’ tactics.

I took some heat from conservatives for criticizing Shapiro, and even I wondered if the Right would adopt the Virus as its own. Sure, these tactics are unlikable and threaten to turn moderates off from giving conservatism a chance, but maybe they’re unavoidable. Maybe the back-and-forth volley of tribalized identity politics is so overwhelming now that both sides will end up fanning the flames of political correctness, creating an indistinguishable echo chamber of accusations in which nobody on either side of the aisle will stand up for sanity and the values of the First Amendment. Maybe the Virus has won. Or maybe not.

Since President Obama’s re-election victory, which the left won by ramping up the race-baiting and gender-baiting to unprecedented new levels, an interesting change is taking place. The Virus, now an organism unto itself, is increasingly turning on its liberal creators and slaying the likes of Alec Baldwin, Russell Simmons, Martin Bashir, and Melissa Harris-Perry. And the moderate American public, tired of assaultive finger-pointing by outlets like MSNBC, is refusing to play along with politically-motivated smear campaigns.

2013 will be remembered as the year conservatives and moderates stood their ground in the face of demagoguery and false accusations — and realized that they just might be able to survive. Here are five recent speech code cases that should give free-thinking people everywhere hope in the New Year:

Phil Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”

Phil’s Comments: Defended traditional heterosexual marriage, said that a woman’s vagina is preferable to a man’s anus because “there’s more there,” and articulated the Biblical view that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.

For the Prosecution: Gay advocacy group GLAAD

For the Defense: After his indefinite suspension from A&E, Robertson said that he would not “give or back off” from his statements, and insisted, “I love all men and women” and “I am a lover of all humanity, not a hater…I am just reading what was written over 2,000 years ago. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom. All I did was quote from the scriptures, but they just didn’t know it.”

The Verdict?: Not Guilty. Robertson gained the support of Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz and more than a quarter million people signed a petition circulated by the group Faith Driven Consumer urging A&E to re-instate Robertson. The duck-hunting mogul has been allowed back on the air, and his immensely popular reality show will continue.

Megyn Kelly, host of “The Kelly File” on Fox News

Megyn’s comments: “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

For the Prosecution: The mainstream media, Jon Stewart

For the Defense: Kelly appeared on “The Tonight Show” to defend her comments to host Jay Leno: “I’m a straight news anchor, I’m not one of the opinion hosts. The way we do it on the Fox News Channel is the straight news anchors like us give a hard time to both sides.”

The Verdict: Not guilty. Kelly criticized the tactics used against her, saying, “Outraged? Well, this would be funny if it were not so telling about our society. In the particular the knee jerk instinct by so many to race bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel.” Kelly’s program continues to soar in the ratings, and her tough stance during the debacle inspired viewers everywhere.

Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins

The charge: Snyder’s team name, “Redskins,” which originiated in 1933 when the team played at Fenway Park in Boston, is offensive to Native Americans.

For the Prosecution: Obama fundraiser guest and disputed Oneida Indian Nation leader Ray Halbritter, who is not even a legitimate member of his tribe according to a New York State Assemblywoman and U.S. Census Rolls. President Obama also joined the prosecution, saying that if he was the Redskins owner he would consider changing the name.

For the Defense: “We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder said.

The Verdict: Not guilty. 71 percent of the public opposes a name change while only 18 percent support it, according to a recent poll by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling.

The Daily Caller and Rush Limbaugh

The comments: My December 8 piece, “Liberals want to stop men from checking out women,” which defended the constitutional right for men to be able to look at attractive women in public places, despite a critical study on the “male objectifying gaze” and liberal media demonization of so-called “rape culture.” Limbaugh cited our piece and asserted that “the unattractive women are left out of all of this” among other hilarious critiques of the liberal speech police.

For the Prosecution: The Democratic National Committee (DNC), which launched a boycott of Limbaugh and also the Daily Caller, which DNC deputy communications director Lily Adams called “The Rush Limbaugh of websites” (“high praise” according to conservative commentator Erick Erickson).

The Verdict: Not guilty. The Daily Caller publicly refused to be intimidated, Limbaugh ridiculed the DNC’s cynical fundraising attempt, and the DNC effort was widely mocked and condemned on social media.

Bob Newhart, beloved comedian and star of classic sitcoms

The charge: Newhart was set to appear at a December conference for the Catholic business networking group Legatus, founded in 1987 by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, which takes the traditional Christian view on marriage, and thus obviously must be a bigoted organization.

For the Prosecution: GLAAD and the George Soros-funded liberal activist group Faithful America, founded in 2004, which launched a petition to discourage Newhart from appearing at the event.

The Verdict: Hung jury. While 84-year old family-friendly comic Newhart pulled out of the event, some conservatives refused to be intimidated by the anti-Newhart campaign. “They’ve made it their mission to publicly shame anyone who associates with any Christian/Catholic groups or teachings,” Lisa de Pasquale wrote of the Left in a column for Breitbart News. “What’s next?  Shaming hotels for hosting their event?  Printers for accepting their business?”

So where do we go from here?

These recent examples may still be the exceptions that prove the rule that free speech is being increasingly phased out in progressive America. But they should provide hope for Americans who are sick and tired of routinely being called bigots just for expressing views that conflict with a well-funded political agenda that marches in lockstep against the principles that James Madison and Thomas Jefferson once risked their lives to bestow upon this country.

“Birthday wish #2: @patrickhowleydc and the @dailycaller could stop using the Constitution to defend their misogyny,” tweeted DNC communications director Mo Elleithee on December 13.

You keep trying to get your wish by any means necessary, Mo. But as for now, that little document adopted in a humid Philadelphia convention hall in 1787 is still on the books. And Americans are showing that they still care about it.

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