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Why Liberals Attempt to Silence Honest Debate

The suppression of open discourse is anathema to our nation’s founding principles.

Most Americans, and certainly most liberals, are uncomfortable with silencers on pistols.  After all, it stands to reason (even if not always the case) that someone who has acquired the ability to use violence with a low risk of detection is more likely to be violent; silencing a weapon might indicate that someone is already planning such an act.

But when organizations which do violence, in both literal and figurative senses of the word, to far more people than criminals ever could, aim to do their dirty work in silence, those same liberals have no objection.

The most important institutional pillars of a free country include the government (not just the elected politicians, but also the bureaucracies which they spawn), the schools which mold our future leaders, scientific organizations (especially those which impact public policy), and the media which informs the citizenry.

In each of these areas, the detection of misdeeds, of a breach of faith, of inappropriate bias, should be open to exposure. Whether from a “customer,” an employee, a journalist, or even just a concerned citizen, the ability to discover what powerful societal forces are doing and to disclose that information is the political and academic equivalent of the retort of a gunshot. It alerts all around that something has happened. Just as most weapons (outside of war) are fired at targets or while hunting, the sound of a gun is not necessarily an indication that something bad has happened. But when it comes at an unexpected time and place, that sound is the best indication that some investigation, and perhaps some caution, is in order.

Instead, liberals in so many critical areas for civil society are walking around installing silencers (the more correct technical term and equally appropriate for this discussion being “suppressors”) on their colleagues and critics alike. No good can come of this; but then no good is intended of it.

The breadth and depth of suppression of dissent by “liberals” throughout our most important institutions makes clear that this is not a tactic occasionally implemented by a loose cannon or “rogue employee in Cincinnati.” Instead, it is a determined strategy of the entire political left, implying recognition of the inherent weakness and unpopularity of their philosophy and their policies, and the distances they are willing to go to impose both on an unwilling populace.

The most high-profile recent case involves Lois Lerner and the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations using their power to delay and deny 501(c)(4) status to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Tea Party and other conservative-leaning organizations. Using one of the most powerful and most feared arms of the US government (at least to Americans; the Taliban probably fears the Air Force more) to silence those with different political views is so far outside of what should be permissible in the United States that the only thing more remarkable than the IRS’s actions is the utter lack of reaction by the “mainstream” media. (More on this in a moment.)

The IRS was encouraged in their unethical (and almost certainly illegal) behavior by “liberal” politicians such as Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Carl Levin (D-MI). Schumer is no stranger to the idea of silencing dissent: he is one of the Senate champions of reinstituting the “Fairness Doctrine,” a now defunct but still longed-for-by-liberals FCC rule which required broadcasters to offer equal time to opposing views on matters which the Commission viewed to be of particular public importance. In other words, a conservative radio station would have to offer equal time to liberal views – and do so in a way which satisfies the presumably liberal commissioners – while risking the station’s broadcasting license for non-compliance.

The same mindset pervaded the boneheaded recent effort by the FCC to put “monitors” in newsrooms across the country as part of a “Critical Information Study.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, “The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about ‘the process by which stories are selected’ and how often stations cover ‘critical information needs,’ along with ‘perceived station bias’ and ‘perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.’”

Neither the Fairness Doctrine nor the proposed CIN are actually intended to increase “fairness”; they are designed to suppress points of view which dissent with government, especially a left-of-center government.

In other words: If you don’t broadcast enough news beneficial to government generally, and liberals specifically, we’re going to crush you. Reporters who were absolutely silent several years ago during discussions of renewing the Fairness Doctrine were suddenly outraged when the federal government was planning to intrude into liberal bastions rather than conservative ones. But it wasn’t about any principal. The useful idiots in the newsrooms felt insulted that the government could possibly think they weren’t already choosing stories using the desired liberal bias.

Neither the Fairness Doctrine nor the proposed CIN are actually intended to increase “fairness”; they are designed to suppress points of view which dissent with government, especially a left-of-center government.After all, if there is a much larger market demand for conservative talk radio than for liberal radio (which annual ratings and events such as the bankruptcy of Air America in 2010 demonstrate to be the case), requiring conservative radio hosts or stations to include liberal content would simply mean a reduction in listenership, perhaps enough of a reduction to end the economic viability of currently profitable franchises. And that is the true goal of the Silencers.

Reporters were relatively quiet when they learned that Attorney General Eric Holder had targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen as a possible criminal co-conspirator (and lied about it to Congress), because Fox is perceived as right-of-center, but found their voices when the liberal Associated Press had their records subpoenaed by the Department of Justice. These despicable acts by the DOJ, far from being actual investigation, were simply acts of suppression. Yet even in this case, the media response was tepid, given a combination of their investment in this president and their fear of retaliation by an administration which has no true allies, only their enablers and accomplices, for whom they hold no loyalty or allegiance.

Whether any of these many executive agency actions will have their intended suppressing effect, or whether members of the broadcast and print media, conservative or liberal, will refuse to be cowed into submission, remains a question for longer-term study.

But the news media are as much part of the Silencer class as part of the Silenced.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, ironically the host of a show called “Reliable Sources,” recently argued that when it comes to the issue of climate change, “There’s no necessity to give equal time to the quote/unquote other side.” He went on to repeat the alarmist lie that “between 95 and 97 percent of scientists agree…” But even if that were true, didn’t 95 percent of leading thinkers at various points in history agree that the Earth was the center of the solar system, that the world was flat, that all creatures were created as they exist today? (Even the Catholic Church acknowledges at least some forms of evolution.) Didn’t they believe in alchemy and phlogiston? Science is not – and must not be – about consensus.

Stelter, himself a scientist (though apparently no better a scientist than a journalist, and not a climate scientist), shares the mindset of other science Silencers. The clearest instance of recent scientific malpractice aimed at changing public policy was the 2009 “Climategate” revelations of some of the worlds “leading” climate alarmists pressuring academic journals not to accept papers from “skeptics” who are not convinced that humans are about to cause a climate apocalypse. Writing about the journal “Climate Research” which had accepted a paper from such a skeptic, Michael Mann (one of the biggest scoundrels in the alarmist movement) wrote “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”

So much for the scientific method, open discourse, and other underpinnings of science as understood for at least two millennia.

This is the same Michael Mann who is now trying to silence Mark Steyn, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review magazine because he doesn’t like being criticized. Steyn is now counter-suing, with claims more likely to stand up in court than Mann’s obvious attempt to shut down anyone who disagrees with his self-serving proclamations of impending doom.

(The Climategate Silencers also admitted to using “tricks” to manipulate data in order to fool the public into fear of “global warming” – which has not occurred for nearly 18 years.)

And last week, a professor (of philosophy, not science) at the Rochester Institute of Technology argued that because a majority of scientists agree on global warming (again pointing to the 97% lie), “an organized campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.” He went on to make the astounding (and absolutely false) claim that “more deaths can already be attributed to climate change” than to a 2009 earthquake which killed about 300 people.

His only valid point, which should strike fear in any rational person, is that the Italian government actually tried six scientists (and a government official) for publicly underestimating the risk of an earthquake. They were sentenced to six years in prison though the sentence is on hold pending an ongoing appeal. Rather than recognize the Italian action as the insanity that it is, the RIT professor suggests that anyone who funds communication of information which challenges climate alarmists should be held criminally liable for their “willful disregard for human life.” This goes beyond just silencing the opposition, but aims to force them to state things they don’t believe.

So much for the scientific method, open discourse, and other underpinnings of science as understood for at least two millennia. Not only do some of the most visible climate scientists (publicity-seeking should itself be a clue about them) disdain debate, but too many science reporters who should keep them honest are co-conspirators in the great Silencing.

Whether in government, journalism, or science, many influential people attended elite colleges and graduate schools, places where one might expect an open debate of ideas to be an explicit goal of students and teachers alike. But you would be wrong.

At Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, two Princeton professors – the conservative Robert George and the liberal Cornel West – “culminated a campus-wide discussion on the meaning of discourse at Swarthmore,” according to the student newspaper.

A student named Erin Ching represented what tolerance and diversity mean to the “educators” who are filling our children’s minds with this incoherence and implicit hatred: “What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” If I understand Ms. Ching right, we must silence conservatives in the name of “hearing a diversity of opinion.” Can you say “Newspeak”?

And writing for the Harvard Crimson last month, a college senior named Sandra Korn (who you may not be surprised to learn is majoring, in part, in “studies of women, gender, and sexuality”) penned an article which calls for institutions of higher learning to “give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.”

Ms. Korn offers this deep thought: “It is tempting to decry frustrating restrictions on academic research as violations of academic freedom.” You think? This is the product of four years at perhaps the planet’s most famous university.

If you wonder what sort of place creates the Silencers who inhabit our government, our news rooms, and sadly even our scientific institutions, just look at America’s “best” schools. It is no wonder that control over education has been one of the highest goals of the Progressive movement since Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey, the latter a particular hero of Marxists, not exactly known as supporters of America’s founding principles or American exceptionalism.

Actually, I can think of a prominent politician who shares those views. And come to think of it, he went to Harvard. It’s all starting to come together, isn’t it?

The suppression of open discourse, of fact-finding, of honest debate is anathema to our nation’s founding principles. It creates a fatal environment for any semblance of good government but has become the go-to strategy for today’s liberal assassins of liberty and reason.

Just as seeing a well-equipped hit-man should cause some serious concern, the silencers being put on American patriots, scientists, journalists, teachers, students and others should instill something between caution and fear in all freedom-loving citizens.

Follow Ross Kaminsky on Twitter.

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