Bruce Burleson – March 26, 2017

There is a famous quote: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  The quote is generally attributed to Voltaire, although some give credit to Beatrice Evelyn Hall, an English writer.  Regardless of the statement’s origin, it encapsulates the principle of free speech that is being threatened today in America: the right to express ourselves without fear of violence and recrimination.

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

If you’ve been following the news for the past year, you’ll have noticed many instances where at least two stipulations of the First Amendment have been violated: freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.  Time after time, Trump supporters have attempted to exercise those two rights—at rallies, in campus forums, and most recently the nationwide MAGA Marches.  And time after time, expression of support for the president (or previously, the presidential candidate) have been met with counter-protesters whose sole mission has been to prevent Trump supporters from exercising these two rights.

How can anyone “peaceably assemble” if they’re being hit with sticks, bricks and pepper spray?  Just yesterday, when Trump supporters marched on a beach in California, members of the group “Antifa” (meaning “antifascist” although their own behavior is quite fascistic) shoved and pepper sprayed Trump supporters.Fortunately, they were arrested and charged with assault.  But more often, the rioters and violent protesters get off scot free.

On January 20th, shots were fired amid protests outside Milo Yiannopoulis’ event at the University of Washington.  A few weeks later, leftists rioted at Berkeley, forcing Yiannopoulis to cancel his speech.  I myself was in Washington, DC on January 20th and saw the aftermath of the riots that took place there—the smashed windows of a coffeeshop, the incinerated trash cans and vehicles.  It resembled a war scene.  Not only that, but one of the activists I was with at the inauguration—a woman who was 6 months pregnant—was assaulted by “feminists” at the women’s march the next day.  On March 3rd, conservative scholar Charles Murray was prevented from giving a lecture in Vermont by a mob of protesters who also assaulted another professor who was escorting Murray out of the building.


The list goes on and on, and we’re seeing a pattern: it’s okay to be leftist in your political orientation, and to express that set of ideas anywhere you want.  But if you’re conservative, libertarian or a Trump supporter, a different set of unwritten rules applies.  If you’re a leftist and want to hold a forum on campus, nobody objects.  You simply set it up, post flyers, and then hold the event.  (I know a thing or two about this since I was once that campus leftist.)  But if you’re Charles Murray or Milo Yiannopoulis, or anyone else espousing similar politics, you’re shouted down, prevented from speaking, and even physically assaulted.  The climate of anti-conservative violence has reached the point where conservatives are no longer safe on college campuses—the very places that claim to be “safe spaces” where “tolerance” is practiced!  In fact, during much of his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” Yiannopoulis had to rely on bodyguards—former Navy Seals or Special Forces—to get him in and out of numerous venues without being attacked by mobs of the “tolerant.”  David Horowitz has also spoken about not being safe on campuses without bodyguards.


When I was in college in the early 1990s, none of this was going on.  You could hold a debate between liberals and conservatives, and the worst that would happen was that a handful of people might hold signs in the audience or walk around in a circle outside.  “Hey hey, ho ho, their freedom of speech has got to go.”  But at least everyone got to exercise their First Amendment rights without being shouted down.


It’s of little use to discuss violations of free speech rights without looking at why all of this is going on.  And it is no coincidence that incidents of violence against conservatives have skyrocketed since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.


For decades, liberals and leftists enjoyed relative free reign on campuses, in the media, in Hollywood and across society.  Since the 1970s, “progressives” have essentially taken over academia, setting up various departments from which to promote their respective brand of identity politics.  All of a sudden, you could go to college and major in “Women’s Studies” or “African American studies” instead of pursuing a more traditional educational program.  It is no coincidence that these same “academics” hailed from the 1960s “New Left” generation—one that espoused Marxism, Leninism, and even Maoism.  What happened during the 1970s was that the basic tenets of Marxism—the division of society into economic classes that “inevitably” war against each other—were extended to other social strata, particularly race, gender and sexual orientation.  The maxim of Martin Luther King, Jr.—that we should be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character—was tossed aside in favor of the ideology of “us versus them.”  Instead of the unity and equality of King’s movement, the dominant paradigm shifted to black vs. white, gay vs. straight, man vs. woman, and of course the original: rich vs. poor.  So the politics of unity was replaced by a politics of disunity and division.  This is the source of what we today refer to as “political correctness”—a cultural Marxism that divides instead of unites.


What we are seeing today is a culture war, the end of which will see either the continuation of our Republic or its total destruction.  On one side of the war are those who believe in the First Amendment as it was originally written—guaranteeing the right to speak one’s mind and to peaceably assemble.  On the other side are the cultural Marxists who, when they hear a set of ideas that contradicts their “us versus them” mentality, are compelled to attack advocates of free speech.    So, when Milo goes out on stage and says “political correctness is garbage” or “I want 2017 to be the year when social justice dies,” those whose understanding of “social justice” has been shaped by indoctrination in identity politics or “us versus them” are compelled to revolt.  Repeatedly, conservatives present actual facts that contradict much of what is being taught in the “Women’s Studies” and other departments.  In other words, they make more sense to college students than the professors do!  And there is reason to believe that wealthy liberal players such as George Soros as well as former President Obama are fueling this fire by paying provocateurs to protest, riot, and create disarray whenever someone verbally disagrees with “us versus them.”


The left’s weapons in the culture war aren’t just pepper spray and sharpened sticks.  They also use language to hammer into submission anyone who disagrees with them.  If for example you disagree with affirmative action programs, you’re labeled a “racist.”  If you don’t like abortion, you’re “sexist.”  If you argue—as I often do—that Islam is a negative influence on Western civilization, you’re “Islamophobic.”  The list of “isms” and “phobias” goes on and on.  This linguistic war tactic has nothing to do with the struggle for equality.  Alex Jones is correct when he says “there’s a war on for your mind.”  Blacks, women, and the LGBTQ community are pawns in this larger war for control of the American mind.  The far left has seized control of academia, presenting its ideology as the “truth” and insisting that any opposing ideas be suffixed with the “isms” and “phobias.”  It’s ironic, in a sense, that they use the term “phobia,” because ultimately they are the ones who are afraid.  Fear of being proven wrong, and losing your influence because of that, drives the left absolutely stark staring mad.  So is it any wonder we have riots, people shouting down conservatives, town hall disruptions, and counter-protests at pro-Trump events?


So, what do we do with this culture war?  We win it!  We refuse to back down in the face of protests or violence, and we defend ourselves when we are attacked (as happened in several places across the nation during the MAGA Marches).  What the left wants is for us to shut up and go away, so they can conveniently resume ruining society with their failed collectivist ideas and policies.  Our role is to not allow them to shut us up.  Even if they surround us with a violent mob, we can use technology (e.g. social media) to get our point across instead—and probably to a larger audience!  One tactic that is working wonderfully is for Trump supporters to shout, “USA! USA! USA!” when leftists try to shut down their freedom of speech.


But also, as Milo Yiannopoulis has pointed out, it is time to retake our colleges and universities.  They are the ultimate source of the violence and the systematic violations of our First Amendment rights.  There are a few things that need to happen.  Firstly, federal funding for institutions of higher learning needs to be contingent upon those institutions offering a free and open environment for the sharing of ideas.  In other words, if conservatives are shouted down or attacked because of their politics, funding gets pulled.


Secondly, young conservatives who are working on their PhDs need to seriously consider academia as a career choice.  The reality is that most college professors are liberals—even far-leftists.  Here in Massachusetts, the ratio of liberal professors to conservative ones is 33 to 1.  Is it any wonder which set of ideas dominates in academia?  It is time to level the academic playing field, and frankly that means hiring more conservative professors and fewer liberal ones.  Liberal academics love to shout and holler about “fairness,” but what is more unfair than their dominance of higher education?  Liberals also love “affirmative action,” but only when it applies to their narrow interests.  What if conservatives were to implement a “quota” system in the hiring of faculty?  The left will screech endlessly in protest, but the end product is an academic environment where once again—just like when I was in college—we can enjoy a free and open sharing and comparing of ideas.


We had better fight for the reinstatement of free speech across society or ultimately it will cost us our freedom.  George Washington famously wrote: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”  His words ring prophetic in today’s America.  Critical thought has been replaced by the “us versus them” ideology of identity politics, and political correctness.  Although the First Amendment continues to exist on paper, it is time to return it to public discourse—in the media, in Hollywood, and on our campuses.  But that is not going to happen accidentally.  We have to make it happen.  The future of America hangs in the balance.  If we do not learn from history, e.g., the experience of Germany during the 1930s, when all free speech was crushed by totalitarianism, we will repeat it.