Perhaps the most egregious example of the media bending over backwards this past weekend was Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd, who behaved as though he had been anointed Moral Grand Master, excoriating the Anti-Fa for challenging Nazi’s ‘right to free speech’.
Free speech is codified in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all nations are expected to adhere:
Article 4. Liberty means being permitted to do anything that doesn’t harm others. The exercise of man’s human rights is limited solely by those that guarantee to all other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights, and can only be determined by laws.
Article 5. The law is only authorized to forbid actions that are harmful to society. Anything that is not proscribed by law cannot be prevented, and no one can be forced to do what the law does not command.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
So far, all well and good, however Article 29 states that:
1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
Regarding the question of freedom of speech:
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
It’s clear that while the rights of the Alt Right and Anti-Fa to free speech (and peaceful assembly!) are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the same document, both are prevented from using force to affirm these rights or deprive others of them, as this would upset the public order and general welfare of society. As for “the general principles and purposes of the United Nations”, these are not specifically enunciated on its official website other than in this sentence describing the Secretary General:
The Secretary-General of the United Nations is a symbol of the Organization's ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable.
As every school child knows, the primary purpose of the United Nations is to prevent war, which punishes mainly the poor and the vulnerable, by facilitating the resolution of international problems through negotiation, building a corpus of international law. The problem is that the US does not recognize the primacy of international law. In the case of free speech, American pundits tend to invoke the first amendment to the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.
The same interpretation is at work currently as that of the Second Amendment, whose antique wording has, in modern times, been twisted beyond recognition, shielding people who think differences should be settled with a gun. In fact, the wording was chosen to justify the creation and maintenance of militias (whose primary task at the time was to catch runaway slaves).
Similarly, the first amendment plainly refers to the right of ‘the people’ to assemble in order to petition the government for the redress of grievances. It was not intended to protect the right of one group to gather in order to threaten another group. But as with guns, modern wordsmiths have given ancient words new meaning, resulting in Congress being barred from legislating against free speech.
Guarding this edifice is a site called The Newseum Institute whose task is to “promote, explain and defend free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.” A look at the Board of Directors reveals a preponderance of right-wing journalists and lawyers, of which the most prominent is the head of Gannet, whose USA Today, whose local editions cover the entire country with local news and trivia.
In 2012, Gannet disciplined 25 employees in Wisconsin who had signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker, stating that this open public participation in a political process was a violation of the company's code of journalistic ethics and that their primary responsibility as journalists was to “maintain credibility and public trust in themselves and the organization.”
This statement alludes to the nineteen-thirties, when American newspaper publishers first forbid journalists to allow their personal opinions to color news stories, ‘opinion’ being confined to editorials. Today’s opponents of this doctrine, represented mainly by the alternative press, believe that strict objectivity is impossible, because the individual journalist’s life experiences inevitably color his reporting and interpretation of events. Iin fact, “credibility” and “trust in the organization” have made the general public fall victim to the mass media.
Commenting on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, Newseum’s Chief Operating Officer, Gene Policinski, whose previous job was managing editor of the Sports division (sic) of USA Today, wrote:
“History tells us of the rise at various times in our nation of groups preaching hate and bigotry and violence, using their rights of speech, press and assembly to inflame rather than inform, incite rather than inspire, and indoctrinate rather than educate. Nativists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and others at various times have used fear, prejudice and ignorance to flourish and gain public accommodation or support — sometimes for decades — before crawling back under the social rocks from whence they came.
“We need to understand them for what they are: betrayers of what President Lincoln called “our better angels,” of the principles of equality, justice and the rule of law — painfully worked out over time and sometimes imperfectly at the outset, through the self-correcting processes of speaking and writing freely, of assembling and petitioning peaceably for change.
“We don’t want to hand our government, at any level, the authority to restrain free expression on the mere supposition (!) that it may provoke violence — or worse because many or even most in a locale oppose it. Over time, we have developed and been well-served by legal doctrines narrowly defining when officials can act to suppress speeches, rallies or marches; doctrines rooted in specific evidence of real, immediate threats to public safety. From schools to sidewalks, those laws focus on applying restrictions on conduct rather than suppressing the ideas behind those actions.”
Policinski’s last sentence plainly contradicts his implicit condemnation of “groups preaching hate and bigotry and violence, using their rights of speech, press and assembly to inflame rather than inform, incite rather than inspire, and indoctrinate rather than educate.”
This play on words is typical of the right’s sleight of hand in matters of freedom, and illustrates the fundamental ‘clash of civilizations’ between socialists and liberals. Socialism, which inspires the Anti-Fa’s positions, is the polar opposite of fascism, and when fascists — or ‘white supremacists’ — parade through public spaces shouting ‘You shall not replace us!’ and ‘Jews shall not replace us!’, anti-fascists protest, a stance that is legitimate under the Human Rights Declaration’s protection of ‘peaceful’ assembly. This cornerstone document specifies, as stated above:
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
While Newseum’s editorial claims that “we have been well served by legal doctrines narrowly defining when officials can act to suppress speeches, rallies or marches; doctrines rooted in specific evidence of real, immediate threats to public safety,” he is in fact confirming that hate groups have operated freely in the southern United States.
Unlike the laws in most European countries, which hew to the International Declaration, types of speech that are not protected in the United States include obscenity, fighting words, fraudulent misrepresenta-tion, advocacy of imminent lawless behavior, defamation, and threats or intimidation. Yet there is nothing moral about calling for the destruction of Jews, as does the Alt-Right in its publications and in its public manifesta-tions. Anti-fa’s reaction to these calls also threaten public order and the general welfare, theoretically putting both outside the law. However, the msm is at fault for not acknowledging the distinction made by International Human Rights Law: fascists are free to believe anything they want, including that Jews are evil and should be done away with, but they are not entitled to proclaim that belief because this imperils public order and the general welfare, as illustrated by the Anti-fa’s refusal to countenance it.
Journalists like Chuck Todd adopt the tone of a moral high-ground, first condemning Anti-Fa, and only afterwards admitting that fascist slogans such as “Blood and Soil”, that inspired Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum” are “regrettable”..
Does anyone imagine that a socialist -- or communist! -- rally would encounter the same indulgence?