First Amendment protection of speech liberals don’t like is under siege. Leading the charge is Prof. Jeremy Waldron, whose book was ably dismantled by Jared Taylor (“Why we should ban ‘Hate Speech’“; see also Anthony Hilton’s “‘Hate’ Laws” on Waldron’s earlier work). It’s clear that the entire focus of Waldron’s ire is the hurt feelings (“dignity”) of the targets of speech. As both Taylor and Hilton point out, in Waldron’s world true statements about group characteristics would be subject to ban. The outrageous basis for this is the claim that any departure from liberal orthodoxy—e.g., that races have the same talents and abilities and that multiculturalism is just wonderful for everyone—are so obviously false that they can easily be banned without any loss to legitimate debate. Waldron claims that “In fact, the fundamental debate about race is over—won; finished.” Race is “no longer a live issue.” Taylor summarizes Waldron’s position:
Diversity is glorious, the races are interchangeable, and any white who wants to live among other whites is a hatemonger. Professor Waldron would say that these ideas are now part of the “settled features” of our way of life, and so to crush dissent takes nothing away from the search for truth or legitimate debate.
Throughout the Western world, Jewish organizations are the main force in favor of this sort of legislation (“The Hate Crimes Prevention Bill: Why Do Jewish Organizations Support It?“). From the Jewish perspective, such legislation has several benefits, not the least of which is to ban honest, fact-based discussions of Jewish power and Israeli behavior. This can be seen in a recent resolution, adopted without debate by the California Assembly: House Resolution 35: Relative to Anti-Semitism. Introduced by two Jewish legislators, the bill artfully includes behaviors that would be illegal in any case (e.g., physical aggression against Jews) with a whole slew of items whose intention is to shut down open debate about Israeli behavior and Jewish power in America. The key section:
Over the last decade some Jewish students on public postsecondary education institution campuses in California have experienced the following: (1) physical aggression, harassment, and intimidation by members of student or community groups in student-sponsored protests and rallies held on campus; (2) speakers, films, and exhibits sponsored by student, faculty, and community groups that engage in anti-Semitic discourse or use anti-Semitic imagery and language to falsely describe Israel, Zionists, and Jews, including that Israel is a racist, apartheid, or Nazi state, that Israel is guilty of heinous crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide, that the Jewish state should be destroyed, that violence against Jews is justified, that Jews exaggerate the Holocaust as a tool of Zionist propaganda, and that Jews in America wield excessive power over American foreign policy;
Just to take the most obvious of these and as often noted on TOO, it is certainly reasonable to argue that Israel is an apartheid state and that it is engaging in ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the West Bank. And it is completely outrageous that there would be attempts to prevent discussion of, say, the role of Jewish activist organizations, media assets, and especially neocon operatives in high places in the government in promoting the war in Iraq to a clueless George Bush. On the face of it, the resolution implies that people like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt could not be invited to lecture on how the Israel Lobby dominates foreign policy related to the Middle East.
The resolution is actually an empty formalism because it makes no specific recommendations. It simply says “The Assembly urges both the University of California and the California State University to take additional actions to confront anti-Semitism on its campuses, with due respect to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” No specific “additional actions” are mentioned.
But it’s pretty clear that the people who drafted the resolution care nothing for the First Amendment. Indeed, it’s so obvious that the resolution violates the First Amendment that the University of California has announced that it will remain neutral on it because of free speech issues.
During the Cold War, Jewish organizations and the the left in general strongly supported free speech. But now that they are in power, every effort is being made to consolidate their power by preventing honest inquiry and debate. And although the First Amendment protections are still secure, there is certainly no guarantee that it will remain that way. The most recent appointee, Elena Kagan, has shown that she is entirely on board with Waldron’s logic:
[Kagan] is entirely on board with seeking ways to circumscribe free speech in the interests of multicultural virtue: “I take it as a given that we live in a society marred by racial and gender inequality, that certain forms of speech perpetuate and promote this inequality, and that the uncoerced disappearance of such speech would be cause for great elation.” She acknowledges that the Supreme Court is unlikely to alter its stance that speech based on viewpoint is protected by the First Amendment, but she sees that as subject to change with a different majority: The Supreme Court “will not in the foreseeable future” adopt the view that “all governmental efforts to regulate suchspeech … accord with the Constitution.” But in her view there is nothing to prevent it from doing so. Clearly, she does not see the protection of viewpoint-based speech as a principle worth preserving or set in stone. Rather, she believes that a new majority could rule that “all government efforts to regulate such speech” would be constitutional. All government efforts.
Clearly Kagan would be more than happy if Jeremy Waldron’s reasoning becomes the law of the land. And, as a Jewish patriot, she would be elated if the University of California banned all discussions of Jewish power and any suggestion that Israel is anything but a beacon of political virtue.