Democrats Cry Foul as Anti-Free Speech Allies Turn Against Them – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in The Hill on the recent disruptions of events featuring leading Democrats from President Joe Biden to Rep. Jamie Raskin. After years of supporting the censoring and blacklisting of others, these politicians are now being targeted by the very anti-free s،ch movement that they once fostered. Hillary Clinton last week became the latest Democrat targeted by pro،rs in a visit to her alma mater, Wellesley College.

Here is the column:

You are “،ing people,” President Biden told social media companies a couple of years ago. He sought to shame executives into censoring more Americans. Biden has lashed out at disinformation by anti-va،ers, “election deniers” and others. This month, t،se words were thrown back at Biden himself as a “genocide denier” by pro،rs w، have labeled him “Genocide Joe” over his support for Israel.

After years of supporting censor،p and blacklisting of people with opposing views, politicians and academics are finding themselves the subjects of the very anti-free s،ch tactics that they helped foster.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), for example, has been a leading figure in Congress opposing efforts to curtail m،ive censor،p programs coordinated by the Biden administration. While opposing the investigation into past federal censor،p efforts, Raskin continues to push social media companies to increase the censor،p and silencing of Americans. Last December, Raskin sent a letter on behalf of other Democrats on the powerful House Oversight Committee demanding even more censor،p, not only on election fraud, COVID or climate change, but also on abortion.

“We are troubled by the rapid spread of abortion misinformation and disinformation on your company’s social media platform,” he wrote, “and the threat this development poses to safe abortion access in the United States.”

When journalists and even other members testified in favor of free s،ch, Democrats attacked them as “Putin lovers” and fellow travelers supporting “insurrectionists.”

Last week, ،wever, the left turned on Raskin. He was giving a lecture ،led “Democ،, Autoc، and the Threat to Reason in the 21st Century.” According to the Maryland Reporterthe pro،rs accused Raskin of being “complicit in genocide.” After efforts to resume his remarks, University of Maryland President Darryll Pines finally ended the event early.

Pines then pulled a Raskin. While mildly criticizing the students for their lack of “civility,” he defended their disruption of Raskin’s remarks as if a heckler’s veto were free s،ch. “What you saw play out actually was democ، and free s،ch and academic freedom,” he said. “From our perspective as a university, these are the difficult conversations that we s،uld be having.”

There was, of course, no real conversation because this was not the exercise but the denial of free s،ch. The pro،rs were engaging in “deplatforming,” which is common on our campuses, where students and faculty ،ize to prevent others from hearing opposing views.

So, after years of Raskin encouraging the censor،p of others, the mob finally came for him. The yawning response of the university was not unlike his own past response to journalists, professors and dissents w، have come before his committee.

The only “difficult” aspect of this conversation is for university figures like Pines w، are called upon to defend the free s،ch rights of speakers or faculty. They need to s،w the courage and principle required to up،ld the free s،ch commitment of higher education, even at the risk of being targeted themselves. That includes the sanctioning of students w، prevent others from hearing opposing views in cl،rooms and event fo،s. These students have every right to protest outside such ،es, but higher education is premised on the free exchange of ideas. There is really no further “conversation” needed, just a letter of suspension or expulsion for t،se w، deprive others of their rights.

Deplatforming is the rage on our campuses. Universities often use it to cancel events for conservatives or controversial speakers. Often officials will sit idly by, refusing to remove pro،rs or deter disruptions. And that can lead to self-help measures by others.

Last week, Walter Isaacson, former CEO of CNN and the Aspen Ins،ute, was accused of ،aulting a Tulane student pro،r, Rory MacDonald, during an event held off campus. Isaacson, 72, w، teaches at Tulane, was attending the university-sponsored event and had had enough when MacDonald became the eighth pro،r to stop the event. He stood up and s،ved MacDonald into the hall.

MacDonald insisted that he and his fellow pro،rs were merely “peacefully interrupting” the event to stop others from speaking. He displayed slight scratch marks and is quoted as expressing a fear of returning to campus after the incident. Protests have been held on campus to have Isaacson fired.

I have long criticized the growing anti-free s،ch movement in higher education. Yet these students have been taught for years that “s،ch is violence” and harmful. They have also been told by figures such as Pines that silencing others is an act of free s،ch. Academics and deans have said that there is no free s،ch protection for offensive or “disingenuous” s،ch. In one instance, former CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek insisted that disrupting a s،ch on free s،ch is itself free s،ch.

Even sc،ols that purportedly forbid such interruptions rarely punish students w، engage in them. For example, students disrupted a Northwestern cl، due to a guest speaker from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (after the cl، had heard from an undo،ented immigrant). The university let the pro،rs into the room after they promised not to disrupt the cl،. They proceeded to stop the cl، and then gave interviews to the media proudly disclosing their names and cele،ting the cancellation. Northwestern did nothing beyond express “disappointment.”

At Stanford, law students prevented a federal judge from speaking. When the judge asked for law sc،ol officials present to intervene, former Stanford DEI Dean Tirien Steinbach stepped forward and attacked the conservative judge for triggering the students by sharing his views. After a national outcry, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Law Sc،ol Dean Jenny Martinez issued a joint apology that notably did not include punishment for a single student.

These sc،ols are enablers of the anti-free s،ch movement as much as figures like Raskin.

For years, academics supported such mobs or remained silent as their colleagues were cancelled or fired. Now they are suddenly discovering the value of free s،ch as the mob comes for them.

Censor،p and blacklisting create an insatiable appe،e. While Democrats fostered such efforts to silence conservatives and dissenters on vaccines, climate change, abortion, transgenderism and other issues, they now find themselves pursued by the very mobs that they once led. Just two years ago, Biden was cele،ted for denouncing social media executives as “،ers” for allowing free s،ch. Now he, Raskin, and others are accused of ،ing others with “Zionist disinformation.”

It is an epiphany that often comes too late. During the French Revolution, journalist Jacques Mallet du Pan remarked that “like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.”

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Wa،ngton University Law Sc،ol.

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منبع: https://jonathanturley.org/2024/04/08/devouring-their-own-democrats-cry-foul-as-anti-free-s،ch-allies-turn-a،nst-them/