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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

THE LAST WORD: How the left is shutting down free speech

Hubartt
Hubartt
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Saturday, May 13, 2017 12:01 am

Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel spoke Thursday before members of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., about her book, “The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech,” which includes first-hand accounts of attacks on conservative nonprofits, businesses and donors.

I listened to an interview of her by FRC President Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio program later that afternoon, which led me to watch a video of her entire lecture on the FRC website.

Her premise is to explain the disturbing bending of the concept of free speech in America into what she considers the misguided regulation of political speech. She argues that after nearly 40 years of holding up disclosure and campaign finance laws as “ideals and the path to cleaner and freer elections ... both have been hijacked by the left as weapons against free speech and free association, becoming the most powerful tools of those intent on silencing their political opposition.”

“The Intimidation Game” (Grand Central Publishing, 2016), is an expose of what Strassel calls political scare tactics and overreach.

Peter Berkowitz wrote about Strassel’s book for RealClear Politics saying, “The catalyst for the latest assaults was the Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United decision. On First Amendment grounds, the court’s five more-conservative justices struck down McCain-Feingold Act restrictions on political expenditures by corporations and unions. As the Tea Party was re-energizing conservatives for the midterm campaign ... progressives sprang into action. Led by Obama, who trumpeted his displeasure with ‘shadowy’ conservative organizations, and senior congressional Democrats, the left ‘moved to harass and scare and shame its opponents out of speaking.’ ”

Strassel says that 2010 decision was the turning point that led to several kinds of attacks intentionally designed by the left to stifle the free expression of its opponents. She says the attacks became necessary because the left could no longer defend its views in open debate. So the ultimate solution is to silence the other side.

She maintains that campaign finance laws are often used to muzzle the voices of opposition politically, sometimes, as Berkowitz wrote, “by criminalization of financial support for dissenting speech, sometimes by compelling disclosure of membership in, or support for, political parties and civic organizations, which enables corrupt government officials and ruthless private citizens to identify and strong-arm opponents.”

A memorable example nationwide was the IRS conspiracy to target conservatives prior to the 2012 presidential election. Strassel chronicles tales of private citizens, nonprofits, corporations and elected officials “caught in the maws of a vast and orchestrated campaign to close down speech.”

I’d like to read her book, although, as she explained in her lecture, it’s not really “entertaining,” but it reads like a thriller at times.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.

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