July 31, 2020
In 1978 the American Civil Liberties Union took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where many Holocaust survivors lived.
Many ACLU members were horrified, but the laws the ACLU cited to defend the neo-Nazi’s right to free speech were the same laws they invoked during the 1960’s, when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches.
The ACLU stood on its principle of supporting free speech, regardless of how odious the message of the group they defended.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once stated, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought – not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Holmes’ support for freedom of expression is under severe attack today. It’s worth reviewing recent history to see why.
The Free Speech Movement (FSM) began in 1964 at the University of California – Berkeley. With thousands of students participating, the FSM was the first mass act of civil obedience on an American college in the 1960’s. Students advocated lifting the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledgement of their right to free speech and academic freedom. The FSM incorporated support for the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War Movements.
Let’s fast forward 50 years. Questions are legitimately raised as to whether Berkeley (or many other colleges) is still a place that values intellectual discourse and divergent opinions. Berkeley student Max Keating wrote a 2017 article in National Review sharing his thoughts. “Unfortunately, rather than experiencing the free exchange of speech and ideas, I have encountered violence and intolerance.”
Keating recalled that after attending a lecture by conservative writer Ben Shapiro, he saw a young woman who held a pro-Shapiro poster be attacked so badly she needed to be hospitalized. “This was not an isolated incident. I’ve seen students shut down others for merely expressing their opinions. I’ve witnessed Berkeley College Republicans being spat on while trying to recruit new members.”
A New York Times survey found that some Berkeley professors believe that violence is acceptable to shut down free speech when it is used by perceived “fascist intruders.” Who exactly represents fascism is left to these professors (often leftist radicals) to judge, and it seems that only conservatives are targeted. This kind of intolerance makes me wonder who the real fascists are.
We’ve recently seen calls for a boycott of Goya Foods by radical leftist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. What was Goya’s crime? Its CEO, Bon Unanue, a grandson of Spanish immigrants who founded the company in 1936, had the audacity to praise President Trump.
Unanaue stated at a White House meeting of the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, “We’re all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder. And that’s what my grandfather did; he came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper. And so we have an incredible builder, and we pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”
For those simple words AOC and other leftists have urged Americans to boycott Goya products. Never mind that Goya is an incredibly philanthropic company that supports many Latino groups and has generously donated to food banks during the current COVID-19 crisis. Forget that Unanue supported efforts by President Obama to promote better nutrition in minority communities and similarly praised his administration.
Unanue concluded “So you’re allowed to talk good or praise one president, but you’re not allowed when called to be part of a commission to promote economic prosperity, to make a positive comment about another administration.”
He refused to apologize for being graceful and wouldn’t bow down to leftist demands that he be submissive to their point of view. Unanue labeled this “suppression of free speech.”
Despite the left’s attempt at destroying the largest owned Hispanic food company that employs over 4000 people (mostly people of color), Goya’s products are flying off the shelves in stores across the country.
Even if the left doesn’t get it, the majority of Americans do. We treasure our freedom of speech and will fight those who seek to repress it.
As Ronald Reagan stated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
How right Reagan was. It should be obvious to all Americans exactly who supports the defense of freedom, and who does not.