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Mar 5, 201409:04 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

When did progressives declare war on free speech?

(page 1 of 2)

Was it in the 1990s, when Donna Shalala’s University of Wisconsin-Madison enacted draconian politically correct speech codes? When professors were forced to defend against anonymous complaints deposited into drop boxes for that very purpose? When the crowd routinely shouted down minority opinions without repercussion?

Today, citizens asleep in their beds are being startled awake in pre-dawn raids. Armed police are shouting orders, rummaging through drawers, seizing computers, all the while detaining parents and children. Kitchen sink subpoenas have been issued for “all memoranda, email … correspondence, and communications.”

This is not Putin’s Russia but Wisconsin 2014, collateral damage of the secret John Doe investigation loosened by the Democratic district attorney in Milwaukee County. His quarry? Not heroin or the mafia. Not foreign or domestic terrorism. No, the strong arm of the state is using its police powers to ferret out evidence that American citizens of a conservative bent have conspired to commit free speech without government permission. Their alleged sin? One group of conservatives may have spoken with another group of conservatives in violation of campaign law. Coordination most damnable! The law is the law, but where is the proportionality?

What is frustrating is that none of the usual First Amendment suspects hereabouts can summon so much as a nervous cough. Can’t hear you, Bill Lueders of the Freedom of Information Council. Paging Jay Heck of Common Cause. Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, you’re missing in in action.

The Capital Times and The New York Times, both of them corporations, are all-in for gelding the First Amendment on the basis that some organizations have too much speech, others not enough.

With their liberal friends in Congress, including Mark Pocan and Tammy Baldwin, they want to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2010’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. They want to restore the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that forbade citizens organized as corporations from speaking out on issues important to their members 60 days before an election — with a generous carve-out for newspaper corporations, of course. (If I don’t own a press, may I rent Page 2 for an advertisement?)

The lawyer who represented The New York Times against President Richard Nixon in the Pentagon Papers case is appalled.

“The same journalists who would go to the barricades to defend the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, or who would write editorials of the strongest sort defending the rights of pornographers to put their stuff on the Internet, or people engaged in the vilest sort of hate speech to have their say on the Internet,” celebrated attorney Floyd Abrams said, “were now supporting a law that would criminalize the very kind of speech that deserves the strongest possible protection in our constitutional system.” (See The Weekly Standard.)

Freedom of speech is being attacked across the board. Last summer, Mayor Paul Soglin proposed a political test for companies seeking to do business with the City of Madison. Soglin “is wondering if companies supporting Republican causes would rather lobby against the city or do business with it,” The Capital Times reported, approvingly.

That same summer, it was revealed that the IRS had been sandbagging conservative applications for 501(c)3 organizations.

It now comes to light that the FCC tried to insert the federal government into newsrooms across the country to grill news people about how they decide which stories to run. One FCC Commissioner objected. “The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.” Byron York in the Washington Examiner exposed the role of the UW’s School of Journalism in this Orwellian enterprise.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Mar 5, 2014 11:52 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

If our glorious Dear Leader Comrade Obama thought you needed free speech, he would give some to you! Your potato rations will now be cut in half to pay for your insult to the People's greater good.

Mar 5, 2014 01:48 pm
 Posted by  osborn4

The best comeback I've heard to the threat of "insert[ing] the federal government into newsrooms across the country" is "How about inserting a reporter in every federal governement room?"

Mar 5, 2014 06:02 pm
 Posted by  Leo

If the Lyin King wanted to take away our First Amendment rights, he would lie by telling us if we like our freedoms, we can keep our freedoms. But it's no surprise (albeit a huge disappointment) that his former Labor Czar, who now runs the UW-Madison campus, lent the credibility of a once great university to the shocking FCC plan to gut the First Amendment. The Dear Leader gets to use the Madison campus as a prop anytime he's running for dictator and now that access has been extended, in a very corrupting way, into the bowels of Madison's J-school. Time for a bureaucratic colonoscopy.

Mar 6, 2014 10:23 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I'm sorry Dave but it would seem to me that this sort of "free speech" is akin to businesses collaborating for price fixing. It is the same concept.

Mar 6, 2014 12:43 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Question: When did progressives declare war on free speech?

Answer: When the little people began to exercise it.

Mar 6, 2014 12:48 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The silence from the usual critics in response to your blog is truly deafening. I must conclude it is because they are on spring break or vacation somewhere warm.

Mar 6, 2014 12:58 pm
 Posted by  madisonexpat

Some speech is more equal than other speech.

Mar 6, 2014 01:03 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

We should be defending the First Amendment against threats from the left and the right. The items identified by Mr. Blaska are all serious matters and, whether you are politically conservative or liberal, you should be concerned about so much government interference with free speech -- particularly political speech that is at the heart of the First Amendment. With very limited exceptions the government ought to stay out of the business of regulating speech and let the people sort things out for themselves. Prosecuting a political commentator, Dinesh D'Sousa, for his political speech is what is supposed to happen under repressive regimes in foreign countries. Actually quite frightening.

Mar 6, 2014 01:15 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The nastier politics get in this country the more each side tries to silence the other side -- winning at all costs even if rights are trampled on. That is precisely when the First Amendment is so important. Those who value freedom first should stand against political efforts to limit speech. To quote Sir Thomas More: "...when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

Mar 6, 2014 05:22 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Where was your outrage at police were sent to bring senators to the floor?

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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