Americans generally do not appreciate the United States’ astonishing free speech regime, particularly compared to the historical bastions of political liberalism in Western Europe.
The French penal code criminalizes “defamation” of people based on “their membership or non-membership, real or supposed, of an ethnic group, nation, race or religion;” in Britain the police can investigate you for criticizing Muslims; in Ireland they have something called the “Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act,” which prohibits “inciting” “hatred” against anyone based on, among other factors, “membership [in] the travelling community” and “sexual orientation” (Ireland also forbids speech that “undermine[s] public order or morality or the authority of the State”). Even our neighbor to the north, Canada, forbids people from “incit[ing] hatred against any identifiable group.”
America is not like that: in the United States, you can incite hatred against a gay gypsy Muslim bureaucrat, even specifically because he is a gay gypsy Muslim bureaucrat, and you will not be thrown in jail. In America you can say just about any offensive thing imaginable, directed at just about any group or person imaginable, and you’ll be okay. Add to that the strong protections for political speech that statute and Supreme Court precedent have established, and America is almost unique among the nations of the world in terms of freedom of expression. We have it good.
But that might not always be the case. In fact in the very near future American free speech may be sharply curtailed. It is not a sure thing—Supreme Court precedent regarding the First Amendment is robust enough to present would-be censors with something of a challenge—but nevertheless there is a good chance that American enemies of American free speech will shortly mount a sustained and eventually successful effort to drastically reduce American speech freedoms.
Who are these enemies? There are three of them: Hillary Clinton (backed by a Democratic Party that is rabidly anti-free speech), Donald Trump (unchallenged by a weak and useless Republican Party), and, most tragically, the American people themselves.
With the possible exceptions of John Adams and Woodrow Wilson, there might never be a president more hostile to freedom of speech than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton has promised, if elected, to introduce a constitutional amendment within her first month in office that would effectively repeal the First Amendment by overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v FEC decision from 2010.
Very simply, Citizens United ruled that Americans do not lose their freedom of speech rights when they band together in corporate form and under the auspices of labor unions and other types of organizations. Practically speaking, this was an uncontroversial and obvious affirmation of American First Amendment rights. But Hillary Clinton has set herself up against this ruling as if it were the Black Death, claiming her litmus test for nominating Supreme Court justices is if they will vote to overturn Citizens United and thus make it more difficult for Americans to speak freely and openly.
Clinton actually has a long history of anti-free speech positions, so in a sense this is unsurprising. But now she is poised to become president of the United States, and with that bully pulpit—and the power of the executive order—you can be sure her avaricious, relentless desire to curtail free speech will be a potent threat to our precious First Amendment freedoms.
You can be equally certain the Democratic Party will be happy to help her out. The Democratic platform not only calls for overturning Citizens United but also calls upon the Justice Department to “investigate allegations of corporate fraud” of fossil fuel companies “accused of misleading shareholders” on “the scientific reality of climate change.” This is a creative way of calling on government to prosecute skeptics of global warming hysteria.
In addition, the DNC calls upon Democrats to “condemn hate speech that creates a fertile climate for violence.” It is essentially guaranteed that, within a few years’ time, the “condemnation” of “hate speech” will progress to demands for an outright prohibition. Progressives in Europe have already done it; progressives in America are assuredly not far behind.