The actor Sean Penn, speaking on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, defended Venezuelan Communist dictator Hugo Chavez, accusing the American media of being biased against left-wing causes. He complained, that "every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it! And accept it. And this is the mainstream media…there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."
Lecturing in Modern Global History daily at Colorado Christian University, I often refer to Chavez as a dictator, but Sean Penn thinks that should be a felony. However, our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, so I am free to call a dictator a dictator without fear of prosecution. That isn’t true in any current Communist country, among them Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or Zimbabwe, and won’t be true here, if the left continues to solidify its control of our country and continues to reinterpret our Constitution any way they want.
We must do all we can to protect our Constitution from so-called “Progressive”, left-wing innovators who advocate a “living constitution”. If we allow them to convince us that the Constitution is outdated, merely the product of “dead white males”, if we allow them to more loosely reinterpret our Constitution, distorting it to fit their own wealth-redistributing agenda, then all of our Constitutional freedoms are in danger of being lost. First they will convince us to give up our right to bear arms, then they will convince us of their right to indoctrinate our children, then they will convince us of the dangers of allowing people to speak freely.
The day may come when people like Sean Penn will insist that my lectures be more “politically correct”. Like political dissidents in Communist and most Islamic countries, I may be carted off to prison for calling a dictator a dictator. One may say, “Watson, you are committing the ‘slippery slope’ fallacy.” However, we have already slipped quite a bit down that slope, and we should begin to consider how far down we have already traveled on Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom.”
Editor's Note: The annual Conference on World Affairs, hosted by CU-Boulder each spring since 1949, wrapped up last week with at least one conservative undergrad having a sour taste in her mouth from the liberal intolerance, intellectual bullying, and groupthink she encountered in place of the "civil discourse" CWA is supposed to foster. Erin Flynn filed the following report with one of her professors, Vincent McGuire (who is also a Centennial Fellow).
I've attended three CWA panels over the past two days and at the 2nd and 3rd I got to ask questions. So I'm at the third panel "Progressives Getting Their Groove Back" which I find to be very interesting since I think progressives are ruining America (that's just me though). But to the point, I get to ask the first question, and this is what I say (directed to the proud card-carrying socialist speaker):
"How can you defend and rationalize socialist government when our forefathers fought a bloody war to protect us from government and wrote a great document known as the Constitution of the United States to prevent socialism and progressivism?"
Though my wording was aggressive, my delivery was quite nervous-sounding, since I was in front of a couple hundred people in the Glenn Miller Ballroom. But before I could get any sort of answer, another speaker on that panel says "Wait, just wait a minute, are you some sort of plant? You keep coming to these and asking conservative questions so what's the deal?"
What followed was the panelists, moderator, and crowd ganging up on me. People in the crowd were yelling at me to "sit down" and "shut up" and the panel continued to insult my intelligence while simultaneously cutting me off. The socialist-loving speaker didn't even answer my question (and in his response decided to say that totalitarian governments haven't existed since Stalin fell. Apparently China and Cuba don't count).
I was really upset, but sat through the rest of it and listened to the all of the other questions. As soon as I got back to my computer, I sent Glenn Beck an email but I know that was just a whim. So what should I do, Professor? The CWA program states "it's conversation, where CWA promotes civil discourse, debate, disagreement, depth, discernment, and delight". I can easily disprove all of this alliteration. But I feel like even if I write to the CWA leader or some dean they'll just ignore me because really they don't care about me having any sort of voice, since I'm sure I would disagree with them politically too. All of the panels are recorded, so maybe that's a start.
It's so frustrating, and I'm sick of people hiding by saying they are about something reasonable when they are actually the opposite. Do you know of anyone reasonable I could talk to as a start? Or maybe 9News would care about intolerance on the Boulder campus?
By the way, the panelist who called me a conservative "plant" happens to be a student government officer who is paid in part by MY fees. I will definitely be going to all future panels featuring that individual. Maybe with a video camera too.
The author can be reached at Erin.Flynn@Colorado.EDU
"We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress," wrote Bob Herbert in his New York Times column the other day. A Democrat friend of mine from Rochester, NY forwarded me the Herbert piece, entitled "An Absence of Class," about the alleged ugly incidents in the aftermath of the US House's healthcare vote. She accompanied the link with this single sentence: "You would never ever defend this." The following is how I responded.
If you think I would defend it, then you completely missed the point I was trying to make before. I don't defend the things Bob Herbert describes--if they really happened (I am completely open to the possibility that they didn't actually happen as described, or that they were grossly exaggerated, or that Democratic members of Congress and their lackeys would make up or even stage such incidents in order to achieve exactly what the incidents have achieved: a smear against thousands of people).
But let's assume that it all did happen exactly as reported. I say, So what?
Any time you gather thousands of people together, no matter what the cause they're gathering to demonstrate for, you can take it as virtually guaranteed that some of them aren't going to be nice or well-behaved people. The vast majority of humans, of any political stripe, aren't exactly saints. Obviously, in any gathering of large size, you'll have a bell-curve distribution on the civility spectrum, and at one end of the curve you'll have bad apples.
This method of gathering an unruly mob to make a political point in the streets, by chanting and waving signs (as opposed to making the points on the pages of a newspaper or at the debate lectern or in some other measured and intellectual manner) has been a favored practice of the Left for decades; seeing the same tactic on the other side is a fairly novel thing.
You wouldn't seriously assert that nothing vile ever took place at any of the demonstrations in support of causes dear to the Left, over all the decades? I've seen a little bit of it myself. For example, sometimes I'd walk out of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California by its Franklin St. gate, during the height of the Iraq War, to find an anti-war mob with signs at the bottom of the hill, and some of them would jeer at me and call me things like "Nazi"--people who didn't know anything about me except that I sported a military-looking haircut. But you know...so what?
It wasn't unusual for acts of mob violence--looting, arson, etc.--to happen where MLK made a public appearance, even though King explicitly decried any such activity. Things got pretty ugly right there in your town, if I'm not mistaken. Should we paint all members of the civil rights movement with the brush of a few thuggish individuals who made the event a pretext to behave in a vile manner? Everyone who favors desegragation is is a thieving incendiary...if YOU favor desegregation then YOU're on the side of looting and arson...yeah, okay...strong argument, huh?
Herbert says, "We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here." Oh really? We can't allow it? How short his memory is, because he and his ilk were perfectly happy to keep quiet and allow it just a few years ago, when protesters were saying and doing things at least as vile against the previous administration. I doubt if any president has received the amount of abuse that Bush did. And I don't care about that. He's a big boy and he wasn't drafted into the job of president, and having a thick skin is part of the job. So what?
Why is this Herbert article even worth serious consideration? His chosen method of decrying a lone idiot who spat on some politician is to spit on tens of thousands of people with vile statements like these: "For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness...." "This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry."
What is this? Fight fire with fire? This is Herbert's own commitment to hatred and bigotry on display.
The whole article is nothing but an ad hominem. He's not critiquing the Tea Party's central message--he's trying to turn people off to that message with guilt-by-association. "If you are tempted to favor shockingly radical, fringy ideas like...oh, let's say, a limited government that is accountable to the people and stays within the bounds of the Constitution...then you're in the company of bigots, and therefore a bigot yourself." That's what he's saying. This is just the latest flavor of McCarthyism.
I've been called a racist and a Nazi for criticizing Obama about issues that have nothing to do with race--those names were hurled at me based on nothing other than the ethnicity of the target of my criticism, as though the only thing that keeps me from cheering him for his policies is that he's not pure Anglo-Saxon. Apparently nobody is allowed to criticize a public official on any grounds, if the official happens to be a minority. That's about the level of Herbert's argument here.
I don't care. They can call me whatever they like. All they're doing is revealing the Orwellian inversion of language that infects their thought: If I am color-blind, applying the same standards of criticism to a black man that I would to a white man, then I'm a racist It's no longer prejudice and racial double standard, but the absence of prejudice and racial double standard, that makes you a racist. If I'm for limited government and against the kind of centralization of economic decision-making that Nazis and other varieties of socialists espouse, that makes me a Nazi. Opposing socialism makes you a National Socialist. Up is down, black is white.
(CCU Faculty) The other day, Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post took Congressman Jared Polis to task for his hypocrisy regarding free speech. Polis has strongly criticized the recent Supreme Court decision rolling back restrictions on corporate speech accusing the latter of using their resources to “confuse and trick people.” Carroll pointed out that Polis is fine with using his considerable private wealth to, I assume, “confuse and trick people” since that’s what money is for.
Carroll points out the buckets of money Polis has poured out to buy allies and elections—especially his own. Par for the course—lots of politicians buy their way into office. But today Polis rebutted Carroll’s accusation.
I guess it was a rebuttal, if by rebuttal we mean using hypocrisy to defend hypocrisy.
Polis’ defense was this: corporations aren’t “human beings.” They aren’t “alive.” That’s it. As a result they don’t have the same free speech rights as plutocrats like Polis. He can spend his money any way he wants because he is a live human being.
Is it lost on Polis that labor unions aren’t “human beings?” What about 527s? What about political parties? What about newspapers? They are afforded exceptions to campaign laws but last time I looked the New York Times was not a human being—just a propaganda arm for the left wing elite.
If Polis is so worried about the role of money in politics he could have started with the last presidential election. His candidate outspent his opponent by 300 million dollars after pledging to only feed at the public trough. Or he could have gone after trial lawyers who do more than anyone else to “confuse and trick people.”
Jared Polis is proof-in-person of one iron law I have observed over the past thirty years. I have never met a single Leftist who believed in unrestricted political speech. Like Jared Polis they all have one standard—free speech for me and not for thee. Polis’ problem with corporations is not that they are not human beings but they might spend their money to support causes he opposes. And that’s the rub. It’s always the rub. The Leftist vision cannot be implemented if people are allowed to freely choose from equally represented alternatives. Because the Left will be rejected every time just as their vision of healthcare and economics is being rejected by the American people at this very moment.
Tricking and confusing people is what the Jared Polises of the world are all about. And they don’t want anyone else to have the opportunity to do it.
(CCU Faculty) In a graduate seminar at the University of California 30 years ago, I made the mistake of using the word ‘gals’ instead of ‘women’. The feminists in the class verbally assaulted me at being insensitive to their gender issues. It seems that wherever we go now, we must be careful not offend the hyper-sensitive feelings of those who wish to limit our speech, and force us to use the words they prefer.
Last week the NBC cafeteria served fried chicken, collard greens, and corn bread in honor of black history month. The chef, who happens to be black, had wanted to do this for years but didn’t understand the controversy that flared as other African-Americans claimed they were offended. NBC apologized, took down the sign in the cafeteria, and quickly changed the menu. Had it been St. Patrick’s Day would some have been offended by corned beef and cabbage? Had it been Cinco de Mayo would some have been offended by enchiladas and beans?
The overwhelmingly number of those ‘political correct’ whom I have met were disciples of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty. Those who cajoled me 30 years ago to use their words were leftist feminists, who often cited these thinkers in our class. Marx stressed the overturning of traditional power structure based on wealth. Nietzsche stressed the ‘will to power’ that impels the intellectuals to dominate others. Lenin stressed the seizure of power by a small group of intellectuals, who would then remake society by eliminating traditional power structures and re-educate the masses.
Foucault considered power to be “actions upon others' actions in order to interfere with them”, to make them “behave in ways than they otherwise would not have done.” These disciples of Foucault want new “belief systems to gain momentum as more people come to accept the particular views associated with that belief system as common knowledge.” The politically-correct hope through intimidation to dominate our language and our minds, and thereby alter our culture into one which they believe is more ‘socially just.’
Derrida insisted that ideas don’t even exist outside of the language we use to express them, and that language actually constructs reality. If progressives can change the meaning of words, they believe they can alter reality itself. When the meanings of words change, they believe they can change the nature of truth itself.Rorty claimed, that truth “cannot be out there, cannot exist independently of the human mind, because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own—unaided by the describing activities of humans—cannot.” There is no objective truth, only what we subjectively create by our use of words. By manipulating vocabulary, we impose whatever truth we wish. Grammar destroys science. The politically-correct have read (or are at least following the agenda of) Foucault, Derrida and Rorty. They want to sweep away our world and create their own.
Let’s recognize these claims of ‘offense’ for what they often are, attempts to use power over language to take away our freedoms and way of life, all in the name of their ‘progressive’ agenda. Let’s not allow the thought police, the tyrants of ‘politically-correct’ speech to feign ‘offense’ and intimidate us any longer. Let’s recognize their actual agenda, which is to force us to yield to their use of power, to force us to use their terminology and accept their aberrant world-view. In doing so we will expose their claim to power for what it really is, another attempt to take away our freedoms (especially of speech) and impose their radical agendas.
Our current season of protest, demonstrated by the Tea Parties and the recent health care protests at numerous town meetings around the country, provides an opportunity to observe the leadership of the Democrat majority spinning themselves in circles.
In the waning years of the Bush administration, the nearly constant refrain from Democrats, Moveon.org, and other liberal groups to explain their opposition to anything President Bush attempted was: “dissent is the truest form of patriotism.” The inference was, of course, that in opposing everything the administration attempted, they were actually exhibiting “patriotic” behavior.
We are now in a new era where the political tables have turned. In this new era, we find a White House who has made a request that supporters of President Obama “turn in” the names of people who are opposing his healthcare takeover. We also have an editorial by Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer accusing the opponents of the Obama plan as being “un-American.” From the liberal-friendly pundits, there are accusations that those dissenting from the Obama plan must be “racists” and “motivated by cultural and racial fear.” Somehow dissent no longer appears to be the “truest form of patriotism.”
So what explains their reversal? Why are the President and Congressional leaders, who rose to their current office on an “opposition” platform, so infuriated by opposition? It appears that dissent isn’t such a good thing after all.
The suggestion that “dissent is the truest form of patriotism” is, of course, a rather silly notion when proposed as a general rule. It is like suggesting that dissent for the sake of dissent is the only justification needed in order to disagree. When we review the Democrat/liberal opposition to the Bush administration, it often appears that their dissent was just that: dissent for the sake of dissent. In reality, it was often dissent, veiled as “patriotism”, hiding an unhinged and exaggerated hatred. Under the Democrat model, comparison of Bush to Hitler was patriotic dissent but opposition to a government takeover of healthcare is “un-American.”
So now that the Democrats have gained the majority, they argue that opposition really isn’t such a great thing. So as much of their opposition to Bush was based upon unreasonableness, perhaps they can only assume that opponents of the Obama plans must be motivated as they were. They seem to suggest that dissent is good when they are leading the opposition, but opposing voices to them are intolerable.
Liberty University recently decertified the College Democrat club on their campus. Mark Hine, Vice President for Student Affairs, explained the reasoning behind this decision:
The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of LU and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the 'LGBT' agenda, Hate Crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc).
The College Democrats of America Alumni Association criticized the decision arguing that it amounts to an attack on “our freedom of expression."
This critique poses an interesting question: has the right of freedom of expression really been denied and has Liberty improperly censored their students, thus violating the 1st Amendment to the Constitution?
Two important distinctions need to be made clear:
1. Liberty University is a private institution and not a government entity, so claims of censorship and a first amendment violation do not apply. The first amendment of the Constitution is designed to protect against government-imposed censorship of free expression. A private institution is, of course, allowed to control the content of any message that emanates from it.
2. Liberty University is a Christian entity with its own protections under the First Amendment, which establishes the free exercise protection. The intent of the free exercise clause was to ensure that religious groups would be free from state interference in how they practice their religious faith. This has historically included the guarantee that expression, behavior or ideas that were contrary to the religious faith of a religious institution, would not be protected. Examples of how this has historically been interpreted include protecting religious hospitals that oppose abortion because of their religious beliefs from being forced to perform abortions. Additionally, the free exercise clause has protected religious intuitions that refuse to employ or admit homosexuals, because of the Biblical prohibition of homosexual conduct.
So the decision by Liberty University to decline its recognition of the College Democrats is based on solid Constitutional protections.
Obviously there are significant implications for other Christian institutions, including Colorado Christian University. Circumstances might arise where CCU would have to consider whether it wanted its name (and implied official approval) associated with organizations, ideas, or beliefs that its leaders considered contrary to Christian doctrine and the Strategic Objectives established by the Board of Trustees, which stem from the tenets of the faith.
For any private Christian institution to deny certification of such groups would in no way be a denial of free speech. It would merely reflect that institution’s serious, consistent, principled application of its core tenets and worldview.
So in the present case, Liberty’s action is neither government censorship nor school censorship. Students are still able to meet, debate, and hold their personal beliefs. Voicing those beliefs in appropriate forums is not being denied. It is simply a Christian institution holding true to its beliefs and what it wants to put its name to.