THE SILENCE BREAKERS (AKA # ME TOO)

Time Magazine has designated “The Silence Breakers” as its “Person of the Year” in recognition of the thousands of women who, at long last, have found the courage to speak out regarding their sexual harassment experiences.  The #Me Too can be traced to actress Alyssa Milano.  In October she tweeted “if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”  By the next morning she found that some 30,000 persons had responded, and the dam was breaking.

Before I continue, I feel compelled to say that I am at a loss to find the words to express adequately my shock, horror and revulsion with respect to this issue.  It seems that we are being bombarded with new revelations on a daily basis.  I am appalled that so many men feel the need to abuse, harass and even rape co-workers and friends simply because they feel they can get away with it.

During my 42 year business career I was cognizant of verbal interactions, which have now been deemed inappropriate, such as off-color jokes and comments, and I was aware of some illicit office romances.  But, I was ignorant of the depth and pervasiveness of this behavior.  In addition, until now, I did not appreciate fully the angst of the victims.  It is apparent that, as a society, we have a major social problem, and, furthermore, that it has been going on for many years, or, even, centuries.

Time has been selecting a “Person of the Year” since 1927.  Until 1999 it was called “Man of the Year.”  According to Time, the purpose is to honor and profile “a person, an idea or an object that for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year.”  The first one so designated was Charles Lindberg, the aviator, who, ironically, had not even “made” the cover earlier in the year following his historic trans-Atlantic flight from NY to Paris.

Some interesting facts regarding the honor:

  1. Every President has been honored while in office, except for three.  Can you name them?  See answer below.
  2. FDR is the only person to receive the honor three times.
  3. Several women have received the honor, including Wallis Simpson (1936), Queen Elizabeth II (1952), and Corazon Aquino (first female president of the Philippines)(1986).
  4. There have been many shared winners, such Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (1972), Nelson Mandela and F. W. deKlerk, Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin (1993) and Bill Clinton and Ken Starr (1998).
  5. Several groups of people have been honored, among them were the “Hungarian Freedom Fighters” (1956), “US Scientists” (1960), and “You”(2006).
  6. Inanimate objects, such as “The Computer” (1983) and “The Endangered Earth” (1988), have been honored.
  7. Some of the choices have been very controversial, such as Adolph Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and the Ayatollah Khomeini (1979).  Although they were heinous persons, their choices were in accordance with the criteria of the award.
  8. Winston Churchill was named “Man of the Half-Century” in 1949.
  9. Albert Einstein was named “Man of the Century” in 1999.

This year’s selection was very apt.  Women are finally finding the courage to speak out.  The Silence Breakers “(SB) include women of all ages, nationalities and occupations.   We are seeing that abuse and harassment is not limited to Hollywood.  Recently, I published a blog on Harvey Weinstein.  One of my conclusions was that he would not be the last predator to be unmasked.  True, but at the time, I had no idea what was to come.

Now, we see that it pervades all segments of society – the government, athletics, private industry, schools, even the church.  Probably, it has always been around.  Human nature has not changed.  It is what it is.  The victims were just afraid to report it due to the stigma and the feeling that nothing would be done anyway.

Now, the SBs give each other courage and support..  Each one gathers strength from those who went before.  The stigma has largely been removed.

Just a few SB examples should get the point across:

  1. Three members of the US women’s gymnastics Olympic team, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gaby Douglas, accused former team doctor, Larry Nassar, of sexual abuse.   Nassar pled guilty to molesting young girls at his office and his gymnastics club, even when parents were present, and to possessing “thousands of images of child pornography.”  Maroney called Nassar a “monster.”  Nassar admitted he has an “addiction,” adding “I really did try to be a good person.”  Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison.  Good riddance.
  2. In 1997, when Ashley Judd was just an aspiring actress, Weinstein invited her to his hotel room.  Once there, he tried to coerce her, unsuccessfully, into bed.   She told “everyone” [in the industry and her father] about it.  Judd recalled being told that Weinstein’s proclivities were an “open secret” in Hollywood, the implication being that she could not do anything about it, especially if she wanted a career.  Says Judd, “Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of ‘moviedom?’ ”  Now, we know how he was protected by the moguls, the press and even influential politicians.   Among Weinstein’s other alleged victims were Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow.  In October Judd finally went public and gave others the courage to do so.
  3. Following an intensive investigation Variety published a frightening account of Matt Lauer’s deviant behavior.  They included (a) exposing himself to a female staffer, then propositioning her, (b) giving another staffer a “sex toy” with explicit instructions of how he wanted to use it on her, (c) playing a crass game called “f…, marry or kill” regarding female colleagues, and (d) allegations of sexual abuse during the Olympics.  NBC fired Lauer, but the network’s senior executives may face lawsuits due to an alleged systemic culture of sexual abuse throughout the company.
  4. Representative John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress (1965) is being forced to resign amid allegations he has sexually molested several females over the years.
  5. Fox News fired its star rainmaker, Bill O’Reilly, amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment that Fox had settled for a total of $13 million.  Wendy Walsh, a former guest on the Factor, was the only one to go public.  She did so, she said, “for women everywhere and the women who are silenced.”
  6. SBs have surfaced in other countries as well, such as Great Britain, France and India, among many others.  It has become a worldwide movement.
  7. Perhaps, the king of sexual harassment, a dubious honor if there ever was one, is former President Bill Clinton, whose sexual transgressions were too numerous to name.  In my opinion, he was fortunate to have been president during a period when attitudes were vastly different than today, or else, he likely would have been forced to resign.
  8. Even President Trump is not immune.  Trump is being sued by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, for defamation after he called her a liar in response to her claims of sexual harassment on the show.

I could cite numerous additional examples, but you get the point.  Supposedly, there are dozens more allegations to come in the government and Hollywood.  Perhaps, even more frightening are the situations involving vulnerable women who do not have the means to fight back, such as the single-mom waitress who has to fend off her boss and even customers, or the chambermaid, who fears being assaulted while cleaning a room, or the office worker who works for a powerful manager, or the soldier who is admonished to “go along to get along,” or the immigrant, the disabled, or the LGBTQ.  Time reported it uncovered many, many examples like these.

Abuse is not always in the form of rape or groping.  Sometimes, it is the off-color jokes, the lascivious stare or insistent invitations for drinks or dinner.  Some men can offend without even being aware they doing so.  All of the above make for an uncomfortable work environment.  The cumulative effect of these types of behavior takes a significant psychological and emotional toll.

Going public is not as easy as one might think.  Many of the SBs s advised they were hesitant to do so because “your complaint becomes your identity.”  Lindsay Reynolds, one of the women who reported on the culture of sexual harassment at the group of restaurants run by celebrity chef John Besh, opined “nobody wants to be the buzzkill.”  One lobbyist, who was reporting about abuse in the California state government was warned “remember Anita Hill.”  On the other hand, many who have gone public report a catharsis of sorts.  Says Susan Fowler, the Uber SB, “there’s something really empowering about standing up for what’s right.  It’s a badge of honor.”

It is easy to forget that not long ago sexual abuse and harassment were ignored as described above.  In fact, before 1975 the term “sexual harassment” did not even exist.  With the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the creation of the EEOC things began to improve.  At least, we had a law on the books.   Corporations have been training employees as to proper behavior.  However, societal attitudes have been slow to change.  In 1991 Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas fell on deaf ears.  I dare say, things would have been different today.

CONCLUSION

This was a very hard blog for me to write.  I wanted to do justice to the victims.  I am glad that so many have found the courage to speak out, and I am gratified that society is finally willing to deal with the problem.

That said, I feel compelled to denote one important caveat.  I fear that we are now very close to a slippery slope with respect to this issue.  Once we head down that slippery slope there is no going back.  As I said, we are being bombarded with new allegations seemingly every day.   We have reached the point where any allegation is being deemed to be accurate.  Politicians and high-profile executives have had their reputations besmirched and, in some cases, been forced to resign.  Businesses are acting swiftly to terminate those who have been accused.  Most of us are applauding these actions, and rightly so, but we have to be careful not to overreact.

The US constitution guarantees due process for those accused of a crime.  I don’t want to be put in the position of defending these predators in any way, shape or form.  But, one could argue that, in some cases, due process, e. g. a thorough, impartial investigation and a trial, is being denied.  That, my friends, is the slippery slope to which I am referring.

Furthermore, in the eyes of the public, all instances are being perceived equally.  Thus, an inappropriate joke is being perceived as equivalent to a charge of groping or even rape.  Obviously, we as a society need to recognize that not all abuses are equal and the punishment for all of them should not be the same.

Quiz answer:  Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Gerald Ford.

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A DATE IN INFAMY

Today, December 7, marks the 76th anniversary of one of the most heinous, despicable acts in modern history.  As President Roosevelt forecast, December 7, 1941 is truly a date that has lived in infamy.  It is one of those dates we can never forget.  It is burned into our very souls.  Mention that date to a person of a certain age and their reaction will be akin to later generations’ reaction to November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001. Most any person over the age of five on those dates remembers where he was, what he was doing and how he felt when he heard the news. Those are dates that had a profound effect on our lives both individually and collectively.

On December 6, 1941 America was still working its way out of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 with the stock market crash. Unemployment was at 9.9%, not good, but a significant improvement from the peak of 25% in 1932. Americans were not thinking about war. After all, we had just fought the “Great War,” (the “war to end wars”). Sure, there was a war waging in Europe, but we were not involved directly. We had no boots on the ground, and we had a vast ocean between us and them. Most Americans were focused on their own lives, not on world events. America was in full isolationist mode. All that was about to change suddenly, violently, tragically and irrevocably.

We all know what happened on December 7, 1941. We know that the Japanese executed a devastating surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor that precipitated our involvement in WWII. Approximately, 3,500 lives were lost, civilian as well as military, along with most of our Pacific Fleet and airplanes. America switched immediately from peacetime mode to wartime mode. Patriotism and nationalism abounded. The “greatest generation” was on the march.

As we all know, America recovered to win the war after four years of intense and costly fighting. Consequently, there is no need for me to rehash those events.  The Pacific War has been the subject of numerous books, movies, and tv productions.  The central theme of this blog will focus on the events that led up to the war with Japan.

Every war has its immediate cause and its underlying causes. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the immediate cause. But, what were the underlying causes? What would make Japan start a war that it had virtually no chance of winning? Glad you asked. Read on.

Many, if not most, historians maintain that the US actually provoked Japan into starting the war, although we did not intend for them to devastate our naval fleet in the fashion they did.  Over the course of the 1930’s we took various actions that, in reality, left Japan no choice, to wit:

1. The US was providing assistance to the Chinese who were at war with Japan. This included providing airplane pilots, armaments and other supplies and materials. Japan had been at war with China since the 1930’s. Its extreme brutality was exemplified by the Nanking Massacre, aka the Rape of Nanking, which began in December 1937. In a six-week period over 300,000 Chinese civilians were murdered, and there was widespread raping and looting. This shocking brutality was a portent of the Pacific War.
2. Along with the British and the Dutch the military was actively planning prospective military operations against the Japanese in the Far East to counter its aggression.
3. Japan had few natural resources of its own; it needed to import raw materials, such as coal, iron, oil, rubber and bauxite, from the US and other countries in Southeast Asia to fuel its burgeoning industries. In the late 1930’s the US began to severely limit its access to these materials by enforcing sanctions, limits and embargoes. This aided the British and the Dutch, who were concerned about Japan’s aggressive behavior in the Far East, but it provoked the Japanese.
4. Thus, one can view the attack on Pearl Harbor, not as an isolated event, but rather as the last act in a long line of connected ones.

Many historians believe that FDR provoked Japan intentionally, because he wanted to go to war against the Axis Powers, and the American people were decidedly against doing so. Before you scoff at that notion, consider that we have fought other wars following provocations that may or may not have been fabricated. For example:

1. The Spanish-American War in 1898 began when the battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbor under mysterious circumstances. 75% of her crew was killed. “Remember the Maine” became the signature battle cry of that war. There is evidence that suggests that the Maine was not blown up by the Spanish, but may have blown up by accident or been sabotaged to provide a pretext for us to enter that war.
2. The legal basis for commencing the Vietnam War was the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of August 2 and 4, 1964. A US destroyer, the USS Maddox, exchanged fire with North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf, which is off the coast of Vietnam. As a result Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian country that was being jeopardized by “communist aggression.” Johnson was only too eager to do so. It was later determined that some key facts, such as who fired first, are in dispute.
3. President Bush, 43, “sold” the Iraq War to the American people by asserting there was “proof” that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons have never been found.

So, if FDR did, in fact, goad Japan into attacking us so that we could enter the war against the Axis Powers, it would not have been the only time the US Government used that tactic. In the 1950’s the renowned historian Harry Elmer Barnes (who, ironically, later lost much of his credibility by becoming a vociferous denier of the Holocaust) published a series of essays describing the various ways in which the US Government goaded the Japanese into starting a war it could not win and manipulated American public opinion. After the war, Secretary of War Henry Stimson admitted that “we needed the Japanese to commit the first overt act.”

CONCLUSION

Most historians agree that even the Japanese leadership in the 1930’s knew it could not win a prolonged war with the US. The US was vastly superior in terms of men, material and resources, and eventually, it would wear down the Japanese. That, in fact, is precisely what happened. In 1941 the die was cast when a more militant, nationalistic government came into power headed by Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. They spent several months planning the pre-emptive strike.  In his best selling book Killing the Rising Sun, Bill O’Reilly denoted that the Japanese sought to imbed spies into the Hawaiian civilian population to gather intelligence.  O’Reilly quoted one senior officer who found out that his Japanese gardener was actually a colonial in the Japanese army.

Many historians believe that the Japanese hierarchy was emboldened, in part, by the successful surprise attack on the Russians in 1905 led by then-Admiral Tojo during the Russo-Japanese War.   It had worked once; why not again?  Their intention was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific so that it would be unable to block Japan’s aggression in Southeast Asia. They determined that Sunday would be the best day of the week to attack. They also weighed the advantages and disadvantages of attacking the fleet in the harbor or at sea before settling on the attack in the harbor. Although the battleships were sitting ducks in the more shallow harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz denoted later that one crucial advantage to the US was that we were able to raze several of them later and return them to active duty.

Despite its years of provocations, the US was ill-prepared for an attack.  In addition, we had failed to confront the Japanese directly earlier when they could have been dealt with more easily. So, instead of fighting a small war in the 1930s we ended up fighting a world war just a few years later.

One could argue that there are strong parallels between then and now with respect to ISIS and other terrorist groups.  Once again, we failed to deal with the problem when it was small; once again most of the country is very reluctant to get involved in “other people’s problems;” and, in my opinion, once again we will end up fighting a much larger and more costly war as a result.  History, when ignored, does tend to repeat itself.

Ultimately, the Japanese underestimated the US. Their leaders knew we were in isolationist mode. They did not think we had the “stomach” to fight a prolonged, brutal war. Also, they knew we would be fighting the Germans and Italians as well. Furthermore, they figured that with our Pacific Fleet decimated, if not destroyed, we would be unable or unwilling to counter their aggression in the Far East. The Far East was their end game for reasons discussed above; they were not interested in attacking the US mainland, although much of the US civilian population feared that they would.

Obviously they were wrong. They were not the first enemy to underestimate the US, and they likely will not be the last.

With the passage of time there are fewer and fewer living survivors of the attack.  At one time, there was an official Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which, at its peak totalled some 70,000 members worldwide.  However, by 2011 only 2,700 remained alive, and many of those were in poor health.  Consequently, it was disbanded at the end of the year.

Today, some 20 survivors were among the 2,000 or so persons who attended a brief ceremony at Pearl Harbor to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice.  One of them was 94 year old Gilbert Meyer who was an 18 year-old fireman on board the USS Utah.   He recalled how a Japanese torpedo struck the portside of the ship, and he survived simply because he happened to be on the other side of the ship.  Such are the vagaries of war.  Meyer served through the entire war and was fortunate enough to witness Japan’s formal surrender in Tokyo Bay from the deck of the USS Detroit.

KATE STEINLE VERDICT

The thing about juries is that they are unpredictable.  Many trial attorneys consider them to be the key to the eventual verdict.  Some even go so far as to claim that many trials are won or lost before they even begin based on the composition of the jury.  Jury consultants earn considerable fees for their expertise in jury selection.  The hit tv series, Bull, is based on such a character.  When all is said and done, however, no one can predict a jury’s decision, and one can be hard-pressed to explain it afterwards.  Such was the case in the Steinle verdict.

The US constitution mandates that one be tried by a jury of his or her “peers.”  True in the legal sense, but not necessarily true in the real world.  In the real world, each juror comes with his or her own set of preconceived opinions and prejudices.  They are completely different from each other and the defendant.   For example, how and where would one find 12 “peers” of a billionaire businessman, a famous celebrity or, as in this case, an illegal immigrant?  Not happening in the literal sense, but we do the best we can.  The judicial system, though imperfect, is what it is.

The other major variables are the venue and the individual judge.  The venue determines the composition of the jury pool.  For example, in the infamous OJ murder trial, most objective observers believe that had the trial been held elsewhere, say, in Brentwood, the verdict would have been different.   Individual judges are supposed to be impartial, but they are human.  Each has his or her own set of prejudices and opinions, just like the rest of us.

In the Steinle murder trial, Judge Samuel Feng had to weigh the probative value of Zarate’s immigration and criminal history against its potential to prejudice the jury.  As we all know, this is a classic dilemma for a trial judge, who generally has wide latitude in these matters.  Feng ruled Zarate’s entire immigration and criminal history to be inadmissible.   I would think that those things were pretty significant factors of which the jury needed to be apprised in order to render a just decision.   But, apparently, Feng disagreed.

I believe that was the most crucial ruling of the entire trial and greatly affected the outcome.  Outside the courtroom in the eyes of the public the trial became a referendum on illegal immigration and the role of sanctuary cities.  At the moment, these are very controversial and sensitive issues with significant social, legal, economic and political overtones.  Inside the courtroom, on the other hand, the trial became solely about whether or not Zarate had “accidentally” fired a pistol he just “found” under a park bench.

Despite the incredulity of his story, the jury of his so-called “peers” believed it and acquitted him of both murder and manslaughter.  It only convicted him of felony possession of a weapon.  Most of the country was shocked, dismayed, and irate.  In retrospect, however, given the venue and Feng’s rulings it should not have come as much of a surprise.  Personally, I don’t see how any reasonably intelligent person could believe that story unless he had a preconceived bias, but I wasn’t on the jury.

The crime, itself, was pretty straightforward.   In July 2015 Kate Steinle and her father, Jim, were out for a pleasant stroll on a San Francisco pier.  Garcia Zarate, a homeless, illegal alien from Mexico with a felonious criminal record, who had been deported five times and re-entered illegally each time, began firing a pistol indiscriminately. (Zarate had recently been released from jail despite the fact that ICE had requested the City of San Francisco to hold him for them for deportation.  As a sanctuary city, SF authorities defiantly declined to do so, in clear violation of federal law.)

Zarate claimed he had found the gun under a park bench.  The pistol had been stolen from an officer’s car.  Did he find it or steal it?  No one knows.  In any event, one of the bullets ricocheted off the sidewalk and hit Steinle.  She died in her father’s arms.  Her last words were “Help me, dad.”  Tragic, and unnecessary.  It is hard to imagine anything worse for a parent than your child dying in your arms and you being helpless to do anything about it.

Reaction to the verdict was swift and predictable.  Some examples:

  1. President Trump tweeted that the verdict was “disgraceful.”
  2. Tom Horman, acting director of ICE, said he was “stunned” and “sickened.”
  3. Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett opined “If you are inclined to commit a heinous crime, San Francisco is the place for you.”
  4. The San Francisco Chronicle intoned “justice is not served” and denoted that Zarate “could be released on the streets today.”
  5. CNN covered the verdict moderately but soon as soon as the story about General Michael Flynn’s pleading guilty to lying to the FBI broke, it focused on it.
  6. MSNBC allocated some two minutes to the story over a two-day period.
  7. UC Hastings law professor Hadar Aviram called it a “triumph” for our judicial system.
  8. Finally, Jim Steinle put it succinctly and accurately: “Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, like it or not, in the eyes of the public this verdict, rendered in ultra-liberal SF, has become and will continue to be viewed as a referendum on illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.  It solidifies the impression that most Dems are in favor of very liberal immigration policies, if not outright open borders.  Remember, it was Congressional Dems who “killed” the passage of “Kate’s Law,” which was meant to preclude murders of this type, prospectively.   Going forward, every time an illegal alien commits a violent crime, they will “own” it.  The GOP, on the other  hand, has staked out the more reasonable position of securing our borders and denying sanctuary to illegal aliens who have been convicted of a felony.

I believe the Dems’ motivation for shamelessly kowtowing to Hispanics in this manner is to gain their loyalty and their votes.  Sometimes, it appears that Dem politicians favor the rights of illegal immigrants over those of US citizens.  But, I think that strategy is ill-advised and will backfire.  After all, one of the main reasons Donald Trump was elected was his tough stance on immigration and secure borders.  I predict this will be a major issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections to the detriment of the Dems.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TWEETS AND FREE SPEECH

President Donald Trump’s tweets and the inalienable right of free speech may appear to be two separate concepts, but I believe they are related, if not intertwined.  How?  Read on, and I will demonstrate.

First and foremost, let me say that some of Mr. Trump’s tweets are over-the-top, embarrassing and inappropriate to the office of the president.  I understand his general desire to tweet.  He perceives it as a means to counteract the predominantly adverse media coverage of his presidency by disseminating his opinions and viewpoints directly to the public, roughly equivalent to FDR’s “fireside chats.”  In these cases, he is merely exercising his right to free speech.

However, there is no need for derogatory name-calling.  For example, he doesn’t have to refer to Elizabeth Warren repeatedly as “Pocahontas.”  Everyone knows she lied about her supposed Indian heritage.  No need to “beat a dead horse.”  Similarly, repeatedly referring to Kim Jong Un as “little rocket man” is not helpful to resolving the current tension between the US and NK.  It may have been funny the first time, but no need to keep repeating it.  Sometimes Mr. Trump acts like he is engaging in a high school “rank out” session.

In addition, I disagree with his re-tweeting of the anti-Muslim video put out by the Britain First group.  That’s one case where he should have paused before hitting “send.”  On the other hand, I feel that the quotes of some of the members of Parliament (“racist,” “fascist,” “stupid”) were a bit extreme, but they are entitled to exercise free speech too.

All that said, I remain an avid Trump supporter.  I prefer to focus on what he has done, is doing and wants to do rather than on a few tweets.  For example, he has been very aggressive towards combating terrorism.  ISIS’ territory in the Middle East has been reduced considerably.  He is a strong supporter of the military and veterans’ rights.   I support his immigration policies, which, though much criticized, for the most part merely advocate enforcing laws already on the books.  Most Americans feel safer today than they did last year.  He advocates putting America and Americans first.  He has been a strong supporter of Israel and other allies, such as Japan and South Korea.  He has improved relations with China, which I view as critical, prospectively.  The economic outlook is promising.  Unemployment is down.  The stock market, which is an objective barometer of consumer and business confidence, is at record levels.  He has managed to arrest, if not reverse, the PC madness that has been afflicting us the past few years.  He managed to get a moderate Justice appointed to the Supreme Court.  Has he been a flawless president?  No.  After all, he failed to repeal/amend Obamacare, and he has yet to get tax reform passed.  But, name one president who was devoid of negatives.  One has to look at the overall situation.  Some of you may not like it either, but half the country does.

The larger disturbing issue is the deterioration of free speech, not only in the US but also abroad.  We are now on a slippery slope where it has become acceptable to object to, demonstrate against, or outright ban speech that is deemed, by some, to be objectionable.  Whatever happened to that oft-quoted philosophy “I strenuously object to what you are saying, but I will fight to the death defending your right to say it?”

On many college campuses conservative speakers, such as Ann Coulter, have been banned, demonstrated against or attacked.  Recently, this selectivity reached a new low when at Evergreen State University in Olympia, WA a group of students attacked a liberal professor because he refused to support a “Day of Absence.”  They labeled him a “white supremacist,” attacked and insulted him relentlessly and vociferously, and demanded the college terminate his employment.  The liberal-leaning NY Times characterized this an as example of “free speech activists …. turning their ire on free- thinking progressives.”  The article added “without free speech what’s liberalism all about?”  Indeed.

CONCLUSION

I am not a constitutional law scholar, but I do have what I think is a reasoned, logical, common sense opinion on this matter.  First of all, if we endorse the concept that certain types of speech by certain groups can be banned, where does it all end?  Furthermore, who decides what is objectionable and what is not?  Isn’t that what totalitarian governments do?

I think most people would agree that banning any speaker or speech puts us on a slippery slope.  Today, we ban Nazi sympathizers.  Most of us can agree that their ideas are repugnant in the extreme.  However, tomorrow, it could be advocates of abortion or “choice.”  After that, it could be gay rights or certain religious advocates.

In the 1970s the Supreme Court opined that the college classroom is a “marketplace of ideas. …. All viewpoints and opinions – no matter how offensive or disagreeable …should be allowed to come out”  Makes sense to me, but we have drifted away from that concept.

Another example.  Some of you may recall that in the 1970s the Supreme Court opined that Nazi sympathizers were entitled to march in a parade in Skokie, IL despite the public outcry and the fact that many Holocaust survivors lived in the area.

England has a law on its books banning free speech that constitutes “expressions of hatred toward someone due to their color, race, disability, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or sexual orientation.”  Sounds good, but, again, who decides what violates the law?  Today, the supposed violator is the group “Britain First.”  Tomorrow, who?

Like I said, where does it all end, and who decides?  Ultimately, the answer to the second question is the courts.  The answer to the first is badly…. very badly.