Archive for the ‘Freedom of speech’ category

UK: Extremely Selective Free Speech

October 12, 2017

UK: Extremely Selective Free Speech, Gatestone InstituteJudith Bergman, October 12, 2017

(Please see also, Britain Moves To Criminalize Reading Extremist Material On The Internet. — DM)

The issue is not hate preachers visiting the UK from abroad. While banning them from campuses will leave them with fewer venues, it by no means solves the larger issue, which is that they will continue their Dawah or proselytizing elsewhere.

The question probably should be: Based on available evidence, are those assessments of Islam accurate? Particularly compared to current messages that seemingly are considered “conducive to the public good.”

At around the same time as the two neo-Nazi groups were banned at the end of September 2017, Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused to ban Hezbollah’s political wing in the UK. Hezbollah itself, obviously, does not distinguish between its ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings. In other words, you can go ahead and support Hezbollah in the UK, no problem. Support the far right and you can end up in jail for a decade.

Apparently, 112 events featuring extremist speakers took place on UK campuses in the academic year 2016/2017, according to a recent report by Britain’s Henry Jackson society: “The vast majority of the extreme speakers recorded in this report are Islamist extremists, though one speaker has a background in Far-Right politics….” That one speaker was Tommy Robinson both of whose events were cancelled, one due to hundreds of students planning to demonstrate to protest his appearance. The report does not mention student protests at any of the Islamist events.

The topics of the Islamist speakers included:

“Dawah Training… to teach students the fundamentals of preaching to others… Western foreign policy towards the Islamic world in general… Grievances…perceived attacks on Muslims and Islam in the UK… [calling for] scrapping of Prevent and other government counter-extremism measures [critiquing] arrest and detention of terrorism suspects… [challenging] ideas such as atheism and skepticism… religious socio-economic governance, focusing on the role of religion in fields such as legislation, justice… finance… religious rulings or interpretations, religious verses or other texts, important historical or scriptural figures…”

London was the region with the highest number of events, followed by the South East, according to the report. The most prolific speakers were affiliated to the Muslim Debate Initiative, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF), the Hittin Institute, Sabeel, and CAGE. Most speakers were invited by Islamic student societies, and a high proportion of the talks took place during campus events such as “Discover Islam Week”, “Islam Awareness Week” and “Islamophobia Awareness Month”.

One of the most prolific speakers, Hamza Tzortis, is a senior member of iERA. He has said that apostates who “fight against the community[…] should be killed” and that, “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”.

That so many extremist speaker events continue to take place at British universities should be cause for alarm. In March 2015, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA) imposed a dutyon universities, among other public bodies, to pay “due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism”, yet at 112 events last year, the number of extremist Islamist events on campuses have not dropped significantly. In comparison, there were 132 events in 2012, 145 events in 2013 and 123 events in 2014.

Evidence shows that the danger of becoming an actual Islamic terrorist while studying at British university campuses is also extremely real. According to one report, also by the Henry Jackson society:

“Since 1999, there have been a number of acts of Islamism-inspired terrorism… committed by students studying at a UK university at the time of their offence…there have also been a significant number of graduates from UK universities convicted of involvement in terrorism, and whom… were at least partially radicalised during their studies”.

The most well known case is probably that of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who in 2002 was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. He is believed to have been radicalized while studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the early 1990s.

While removing extremist speakers from campuses might possibly reduce the risk of radicalization, extremist speakers are readily available to talk to Muslim youths outside of campuses. The issue is not hate preachers visiting the UK from abroad. While banning them from campuses will leave them with fewer venues, it by no means solves the larger issue, which is that they will continue their dawah or proselytizing elsewhere.

What, then, have been recent responses by the British government to the issues of Islamic radicalization and terrorism?

One response has been a proposal to tighten existing law on viewing ‘terrorist content’ online. People who repeatedly view terrorist content online could now face up to 15 years jail, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced. The law will also apply to terrorists who publish information about members of the armed forces, police and intelligence services for the purposes of preparing acts of terrorism. Tightening the law around viewing terrorist material is part of the counter-terrorism strategy the government is reviewing after the increased frequency of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.

Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that people who repeatedly view “terrorist content” online could now face up to 15 years jail. (Image source: UK Government/Flickr)

Amber Rudd has included ‘far-right propaganda’ in the new law, saying:

“I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law.”

What is ‘far right propaganda?’ Based on previous British policies, ‘far right propaganda’ would likely include reading Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch or Pamela Geller’s ‘Geller Report’. While local hate preachers from legal Muslim organizations freely roam UK campuses, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller were both forbidden entry to the UK in 2013 by the British Home Secretary, because their presence would “not be conducive to the public good”. This is what Geller was told:

“After careful consideration…you should be excluded from the United Kingdom on the grounds that your presence here is not conducive to the public good…You have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours by making statements that may foster hatred, which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK…You co-founded Stop Islamization of America, an organization described as an anti-Muslim hate group… You are reported to have stated the following: ‘Al-Qaeda is a manifestation of devout Islam … it is Islam’ [and] ‘If the Jew dies, the Muslims will die as well: their survival depends on their constant jihad, because without it they will lose the meaning and purpose of their existence.’ The Home Secretary considers that should you be allowed to enter the UK you would continue to espouse such views…”.

The letter to Robert Spencer was in almost identical form:

“The Home Secretary notes that you are the founder of the blog Jihad Watch (a site widely criticized for being Islamophobic). You co-founded the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, both of which have been described as anti-Muslim hate groups. You are reported to have stated the following: “… it [Islam] is a religion and is a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers… for establishing a societal model that is …incompatible with Western society…”

The question probably should be: Based on available evidence, are those assessments of Islam accurate? Particularly compared to current messages that seemingly are considered “conducive to the public good.”

It is also conceivable that reading quotes from Winston Churchill’s book about Islam online would be seen as ‘far right’ and therefore punishable by up to 15 years in jail. In 2014, Paul Weston, chairman of the Liberty GB party, was arrested on suspicion of religious/racial harassment for quoting an excerpt on Islam from Churchill’s book, ‘The River War’ — written in 1899 while he was a British army officer in Sudan — in a public speech.

Another recent government response to terrorism has been to outlaw two far-right groups: Scottish Dawn and NS131, which are aliases for the group National Action, a fringe neo-Nazi group, banned in 2016. Being a member of these groups or merely supporting them is now a criminal offense that carries a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Amber Rudd said in September:

“National Action is a vile racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group which glorifies violence and stirs up hatred… Our priority as Government will always be to maintain the safety and security of families and communities… we will continue to identify and ban any terrorist group which threatens this, whatever their ideology”.

Apparently, however, to paraphrase George Orwell, some terrorist groups “are more equal than others.” Amber Rudd recently refused to ban the political wing of Hezbollah, an equally racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group that has actually committed terror attacks all over the world, as opposed to the banned neo-Nazi groups. Banning Hezbollah’s political wing would have closed a legal loophole that allows demonstrations in support of the political wing of Hezbollah, while its military wing is banned in the UK. Hezbollah itself, obviously, does not distinguish between its ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had written to Amber Rudd asking her to close the legal loophole after Jewish groups pleaded with him to stop a large Al Quds day march, which nevertheless took place in London in June 2017 and featured Hezbollah flags. While the British government decided that supporters of fringe neo-Nazi groups should be jailed for up to 10 years, it apparently thought that supporting Hezbollah is just fine. In response to Khan, Amber Rudd wrote :

“The group that reportedly organised the parade, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, is not a proscribed terrorist organisation. This means they can express their views and demonstrate, provided that they do so within the law. The flag for the organisation’s military wing is the same as the flag for its political wing. Therefore, for it to be an offence under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000, for an individual to display the Hizballah flag, the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group”,

In other words, you can go ahead and support Hezbollah in the UK, no problem. Support the far right and you can end up in jail for a decade. Evidently, free speech in the UK has become extremely selective.

Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.

U.S. Mayor Assures Mexican Consul His “Sanctuary City” Will Provide Safe Spaces for Illegal Aliens

October 10, 2017

U.S. Mayor Assures Mexican Consul His “Sanctuary City” Will Provide Safe Spaces for Illegal Aliens, Judicial Watch, October 10, 2017

Judicial Watch obtained the files as part of a California Public Records Act request for information surrounding riots by the radical leftist Antifa movement against President Trump and conservative personalities scheduled to speak at the University of California Berkeley. Media reported that fires were set, fences and windows broken, firebombs launched and commercial-grade fireworks thrown at police.

The documents show a coordinated effort between Democratic city officials nationwide to “build the movement to resist Trump.” The operation is being financed by leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros through one of his groups called Center of Popular Democracy. Earlier this year Judicial Watch uncovered a scandal in which the U.S. government quietly gave millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with Soros’ Open Society Foundation. The U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, worked behind the scenes with Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The cash flowed through the State Department and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and Judicial Watch sued both agencies for records related to funding and political activities of the Open Society Foundation in Macedonia.

The Soros-backed, northern California movement includes a taxpayer-salaried physics professor at UC Berkeley who advises Mayor Arreguin on how to handle conservative protestors at a spring rally. The professor, James McFadden, tells the mayor in an electronic mail obtained by Judicial Watch to “create a corral” and ask the Trump supporters to “get in the corral.” He describes Trump supporters as “delusional and paranoid about the world around them” and says they’re “willing to use violence to impose that order on us, especially when they have the blessing of a narcissistic authoritarian president.” A professor at another California public university tells the Berkeley mayor that the arrest of Antifa leader/middle school teacher Yvette Felarca for assaulting a political opponent (captured on video) at a Sacramento rally, in which seven people were stabbed, was a “McCarthyist political persecution” and he condemned Felarca’s arrest and teaching suspension “in the strongest possible terms.”

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Shortly after Donald Trump got elected president, a California mayor arranged a meeting with the Consul General of Mexico to assure the diplomat that his “sanctuary city” will continue providing safe spaces for illegal immigrants, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch. The documents show that Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s top aide, Stefan Elgstrand, sent an electronic mail to the Mexican Consul General in San Francisco, Gemi Jose Gonzalez Lopez, stating the following: “The recent events around Trump’s executive order reminded me to reach out to you. We are a sanctuary city and will continue to be. I imagine you are very busy dealing with the concerns and fears of many residents in the Bay Area, and we want to assist in providing safe spaces for them.”

Judicial Watch obtained the files as part of a California Public Records Act request for information surrounding riots by the radical leftist Antifa movement against President Trump and conservative personalities scheduled to speak at the University of California Berkeley. Media reported that fires were set, fences and windows broken, firebombs launched and commercial-grade fireworks thrown at police. A renowned, San Francisco-based pop culture magazine wrote that the uprising raised some big questions about the future of the free speech movement. Judicial Watch requested the files to shed light into how city, police and university officials handled the lawlessness, which received global news coverage. The request asked for records of communications between officials in the Berkeley mayor’s office and the Berkeley Police Department as well as records of communications between the mayor’s office and officials at UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s top public research universities.

The documents show a coordinated effort between Democratic city officials nationwide to “build the movement to resist Trump.” The operation is being financed by leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros through one of his groups called Center of Popular Democracy. Earlier this year Judicial Watch uncovered a scandal in which the U.S. government quietly gave millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with Soros’ Open Society Foundation. The U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, worked behind the scenes with Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The cash flowed through the State Department and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and Judicial Watch sued both agencies for records related to funding and political activities of the Open Society Foundation in Macedonia.

The Soros-backed, northern California movement includes a taxpayer-salaried physics professor at UC Berkeley who advises Mayor Arreguin on how to handle conservative protestors at a spring rally. The professor, James McFadden, tells the mayor in an electronic mail obtained by Judicial Watch to “create a corral” and ask the Trump supporters to “get in the corral.” He describes Trump supporters as “delusional and paranoid about the world around them” and says they’re “willing to use violence to impose that order on us, especially when they have the blessing of a narcissistic authoritarian president.” A professor at another California public university tells the Berkeley mayor that the arrest of Antifa leader/middle school teacher Yvette Felarca for assaulting a political opponent (captured on video) at a Sacramento rally, in which seven people were stabbed, was a “McCarthyist political persecution” and he condemned Felarca’s arrest and teaching suspension “in the strongest possible terms.”

Ironically, Berkeley’s official government website brags about being a bastion of the free speech movement. “In Alameda County alone, Berkeley is ranked fourth in population behind Oakland, Fremont, and Hayward,” the website states. “And yet, we are famous around the globe as a center for academic achievement, scientific exploration, free speech and the arts.” Indeed, Berkeley is renowned as the birthplace of the free speech movement in in the 1960s. An opinion piece in a California newspaper points out that the city’s free speech movement has gone full circle, however. “Nowadays, Berkeley is rapidly becoming famed as one of the least tolerant cities in the country — where any challenge to left-wing orthodoxy is met with terrorist threats and mob violence.”

Video: Robert Spencer on the Left’s war against reality and attempts to crush all dissent

October 8, 2017

Video: Robert Spencer on the Left’s war against reality and attempts to crush all dissent, Young Americans for Freedom via YouTube, October 7, 2017

(Please see also, A must watch, it is your time more than worth! An old geezer, it’s my bedtime so I haven’t watched Mr. Spencer’s address yet. I will do so tomorrow morning. –DM)

 

Today I spoke at the Young America’s Foundation’s 2017 Chicago Freedom Conference. As usual with YAF, the young people in attendance were informed, committed, and enthusiastic.

I start at 8:09 in this video.

Britain Moves To Criminalize Reading Extremist Material On The Internet

October 5, 2017

Britain Moves To Criminalize Reading Extremist Material On The Internet, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, October 5, 2017

(What do “extremist” and “far right” mean in this context? For example, is anything deemed “Islamophobic” or critical of government policies “extremist” or “far right”? — DM)

 

Rudd told a Conservative Party conference that she wants to crack down on people “who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions.”   So sites deemed “far-right propaganda” (but not far-left propaganda) could lead to your arrest — leaving the government with a sweeping and ambiguous mandate.

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For years, civil libertarians have warned that Great Britain has been in a free fall from the criminalization of speech to the expansion of the surveillance state.  Now the government is pursuing a law that would make the repeated viewing of extremist Internet sites a crime punishable to up to 15 years in prison.  It appears that the government is not satiated by their ever-expanding criminalization of speech. They now want to criminalize even viewing sites on the Internet.  As always, officials are basically telling the public to “trust us, we’re the government.”  UK home secretary Amber Rudd is pushing the criminalization of reading as part of her anti-radicalization campaign . . . which turns out to be an anti-civil liberties campaign.

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).  Even the Home Secretary has been accused of hate speech for criticizing immigrant workers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously called for greater government control of the Internet.  Now, the government not only would make reading material on the Internet a crime, but would not necessarily tell you what sites will be deemed the ultimate click bait.  Rudd told a Conservative Party conference that she wants to crackdown on people “who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions.”   So sites deemed “far-right propaganda” (but not far-left propaganda) could lead to your arrest — leaving the government with a sweeping and ambiguous mandate.

The law would move from criminalizing the downloading of information to simply reading it.  The move confirms the long criticism of civil libertarians that the earlier criminalization would just be the start of an ever-expanding government regulation of sites and speech.  Rudd admits that she wants to arrest those who just read material but do not actually download the material.

In the past, the government assumed near total discretion in determining who had a “reasonable excuse” for downloading information.

Britain has long relied on the presumed benevolence of the government in giving its sweeping authority in the surveillance and regulation of speech, including the media.  This move however is a quantum shift in government controls over speech and information.  Indeed, this comes the closest to criminalization not just speech but thought. It is a dangerous concept and should be viewed as disqualifying for anyone who want to hold (or retain) high office.

What is particularly striking is that this new law seeks to create a new normal in a society already desensitized to government controls and speech crimes.  There is no pretense left in this campaign —  just a smiling face rallying people to the cause of thought contro.

Sound familiar?

“We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

George Orwell, 1984

Pamela Geller’s film: “Can’t We Talk About This?” | Islam & free speech

September 9, 2017

Pamela Geller’s film: “Can’t We Talk About This?” | Islam & free speech, Rebel Media via YouTube, September 9, 2017

Berkeley Mayor Objects To Those Trying To Block Free Speech Events So He Asks For Free Speech Week To Be Cancelled

August 30, 2017

Berkeley Mayor Objects To Those Trying To Block Free Speech Events So He Asks For Free Speech Week To Be Cancelled, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, August 30, 2017

It is hard to [find] the evidence that Arrequin “believes in freedom of speech” when he is willing to yield to the mob to deny it.

There is another approach. The city can arrest those committing mayhem and the university should expel any who are students at Berkeley.  The thing about free speech is that people actually have to speak.

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Yesterday, I posted a column on the violence of Antifa protesters and their war on free speech.  Judging from the actions of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin they appear to be succeeding.  After Antifa and counterprotesters chased and beat people trying to attend the event this week, Arreguin immediately came up with a solution to their denial of free speech: cancel the free speech event.  That is like solving bank robbery by asking banks to empty their vaults.

Arreguin asked conservatives to forego their events because counterprotesters would show up and violently oppose their exercise of free speech:

“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag . . . I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem. It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.”

Arreguin sees the problem as the exercise of free speech as opposed to those who want to stop it.  He has asked UC Berkeley to halt plans by the conservative  Berkeley Patriot to host conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. No free speech, no problem. It is that simple for Arreguin.

It is less simple for the rest of us who are not so willing to yield to the
“heckler’s veto.”  Arreguin treats free speech like it is some illicit temptation for those inclined toward mayhem:

“I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street.”

Imagine if all leaders like Arreguin and, as previously discussed, Nancy Pelosi, could simply cancel events when others might object to the content of speech.  Like Pelosi, Arreguin mouths support for free speech while curtailed it on the basis of how such views would be received by others.

“I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety. That is where we have to really be very careful — that while protecting people’s free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses.”

It is hard to [find] the evidence that Arrequin “believes in freedom of speech” when he is willing to yield to the mob to deny it.

There is another approach. The city can arrest those committing mayhem and the university should expel any who are students at Berkeley.  The thing about free speech is that people actually have to speak.

The Public Safety Pretext: Liberal Leaders and Writers Seek To Protect The Public From Free Speech

August 30, 2017

The Public Safety Pretext: Liberal Leaders and Writers Seek To Protect The Public From Free Speech, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, August 30, 2017

(My only objection to Prof. Turley’s column is his reference to “liberals.” They are not “liberals.” Those who venerate free speech, popular or unpopular, are liberals. Those who oppose our First Amendment right to free speech are more appropriately labeled Fascists. — DM)

It is not those speaking but those who want to silence speech that are a “clear and present danger” to our system. Just as the Wilson administration was furious with those who opposed the war, Pelosi is furious with those who oppose her values. By simply declaring their speech as inciteful, Pelosi wants the government to stop them from speaking on public grounds.

These voices advocate content-based discrimination of speech, long anathema in our country. It is part of a trend sweeping across the West with crackdowns on any speech deemed intimidating or inciteful or hateful. Pelosi would bar the right of conservatives to speak on the basis that their event might pose a threat to public safety, particularly given counter-demonstrators drawn to such events. Thus, free speech depends not only on what you are saying but how it will be received by others. The rally was canceled by the organizers out of concern over counter demonstrators, but Pelosi believes that the group should not have been given the choice.

We do not need the First Amendment to protect against popular speech. Pelosi and others seek to convince a free people to surrender a core freedom by focusing on how free speech is being used by unpopular groups. They might just succeed in bringing about a new era of censorship. Voices calling for speech limits play to the fears of a society that can come to view free speech as an abstraction or even an irritation. The truly sad part is that they use free speech to convince others to diminish it

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Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the call of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to cancel the permit of a conservative group seeking to hold a “Patriot Prayer” event in San Francisco.  As discussed in the posting today on Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s call to end a Free Speech event, leaders are latching on to a new way to limit speech. While professing fealty to free speech, Pelosi, Arraguin, and others seek to deny it on the basis for how critics might react.  The West has grown weary of Free Speech and these are the voices calling for greater restraints and regulation of speech. It is the new anti-speech pretext: leaders seek to protect the public from free speech in the name of public safety.

Here is the column:

Many in the United States appear to be losing faith (and patience) with free speech. Various Democratic leaders and commentators have called for limits on free speech to target “alt-right” groups, from declaring them terrorists to denying them the right to demonstrate in public. This week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a mixed metaphor as a substitute for our bright line rule protecting speech.

Pelosi demanded that the National Park Service deny a permit for the conservative “Patriot Prayer” event in San Francisco. In an interview, she said, “The Constitution does not say that a person can yell ‘wolf’ in a crowded theater. If you are endangering people, then you don’t have a constitutional right to do that.” In point of fact, there is nothing unlawful about yelling “wolf” in a crowded theater. Wolf attacks in movie theaters are not particularly common and unlikely to cause panic. Most urban audiences would assume it was a misplaced reference to a Kevin Costner film.

Pelosi appeared to confuse the quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Supreme Court decision in Schenck v. United States, which said, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Pelosi also appears unaware that Schenck, which is viewed as one of the court’s most troubling rulings, was effectively overturned in 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

Ironically, Schenck is a case that should deeply offend most people. Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer were convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 for simply opposing conscription. The two socialists called on their fellow citizens not to “submit to intimidation” and to “assert your rights.” They argued, “If you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain,” and described military “involuntary servitude.”

Today we view such statements as core protected speech, but Holmes said that opposing a draft was like “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic” and creating a “clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Consider that for a second. Merely opposing a war and conscription was deemed to be causing a “panic” and a “substantive evil” that the government must prevent.

Pelosi’s garbled use of Schenck is telling. It is not those speaking but those who want to silence speech that are a “clear and present danger” to our system. Just as the Wilson administration was furious with those who opposed the war, Pelosi is furious with those who oppose her values. By simply declaring their speech as inciteful, Pelosi wants the government to stop them from speaking on public grounds.

Of course, she ignores that many would view liberal groups as inciteful and “evil.” Many conservatives have objected to the violence at Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests. Indeed, many liberal groups now oppose the same type of military interventions by the Trump administration that Schenck opposed in the Wilson administration.

Pelosi’s “schencking” of free speech places her on the wrong side of history but nevertheless with a growing group of speech-phobic liberals. Among the chorus of people criticizing free speech as a weapon of the right are two professors who wrote recent columns in the Washington Post and New York Times.

In a column in the Washington Post, Skidmore College Professor Jennifer Delton decried how “provocateurs seek to bait liberal institutions by weaponizing the concept of free speech.” She warned that free speech is facilitating rather the deterring these groups and that “quoting Voltaire is not going to preserve anyone’s liberties — least of all those populations most vulnerable to vicious racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic attacks.”

Delton encouraged people to move beyond free speech inhibitions and, chillingly, that liberals have previously denied free speech to different groups: “American liberals were forced to sidestep First Amendment absolutism to combat a political foe… when New Deal liberals purged U.S. communists from American political life.” While Delton stops short of calling for purges of anyone deemed “alt-right,” she suggested that, given “the threat posed by the actions of alt-right provocateurs,” past censorship and criminalization of speech “may bear revisiting.”

In an editorial in the New York Times, K-Sue Park, a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, rails against “color-blind” approaches which “support hate-based causes” and insists that such “colorblind logic [has] never secured real freedom or even safety for all.” She calls for an end to this broad protection of free speech as based on “a misguided theory that all radical views are equal” and that ‘it fuels right-wing free-speech hypocrisy.”

These voices advocate content-based discrimination of speech, long anathema in our country. It is part of a trend sweeping across the West with crackdowns on any speech deemed intimidating or inciteful or hateful. Pelosi would bar the right of conservatives to speak on the basis that their event might pose a threat to public safety, particularly given counter-demonstrators drawn to such events. Thus, free speech depends not only on what you are saying but how it will be received by others. The rally was canceled by the organizers out of concern over counter demonstrators, but Pelosi believes that the group should not have been given the choice.

We do not need the First Amendment to protect against popular speech. Pelosi and others seek to convince a free people to surrender a core freedom by focusing on how free speech is being used by unpopular groups. They might just succeed in bringing about a new era of censorship. Voices calling for speech limits play to the fears of a society that can come to view free speech as an abstraction or even an irritation. The truly sad part is that they use free speech to convince others to diminish it.