by Michael Shellenberger
In 1989, the year I graduated from high school, the Supreme Court did something that made me and other liberal Democrats proud: it voted 5-4 to protect the right to burn the American flag. Eleven years earlier, the ACLU had defended the right of neo-Nazis to march through Skogie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived. Sixteen years before that, Berkeley students launched the New Left by challenging campus regulations on freedom of speech.
Given that history, I could never have guessed that, 34 years later, I would find myself defending the First Amendment from progressive Democrats who are, at this moment, trying to establish a national censorship system through our universities, liberal philanthropies, and social media companies.
Democrats on Thursday didn’t come out directly for censorship. Mostly they slandered Matt Taibbi and me by claiming that we were only reporting on the Twitter Files for cash and clout while undermining our credibility by testifying before Congress.
But it’s censorship they are after, and it’s our fear of losing our freedom for which we are fighting.
It was finally revealed what Democrats were after when one asked Matt if he agreed with Twitter owner Elon Musk’s decision to take down a tweet of a swastika interwoven with the Star of David, which the bipolar rapper formerly known as Kanye West had posted.
Taibbi said, rightly, that it was a hard question, and argued eloquently that the freedom of speech includes the freedom to be wrong.
It is shocking that anybody in America, much less the party of the ACLU, needs to be reminded that freedom of speech protects all speech, not just speech approved by the Elect. And yet that’s very much where we are.
The Left today has thus arrived in a place precisely 180 degrees opposite of where it was in the 1980s, 1970s, and 1960s. The rebels have become the persecutors.
What motivates their will-to-censor? Caring so much, Democrats say. As such, what they have weaponized isn’t just the federal government but also our compassion. Decades of coddling have bred Democrats simultaneously so fragile, angry, and power-mad that many of them appear to truly believe that the speech they dislike is violence.
At one point, the ranking member of the committee claimed that Matt and I represented a “direct threat to people who oppose them.” It was a perfect psychological projection, as anyone who watches the Democrats’ interrogation of us can see. And it’s a frightening one, given that “preventing harm” is how progressives today justify everything, from shutting down nuclear plants to defunding the police.
The Democrats acted as though Matt and I had done something wrong by reporting on the Twitter Files, and of course we had: we exposed their plot to turn the U.S. government’s psychological warfare inward, against the American people.
To be sure, Democratic censors don’t need total control. They just need to be able to convince people not to believe their lying eyes about things like Hunter Biden’s laptop and instead believe C.I.A. conspiracy theories.
But there’s a problem for Democrats: people in general, and Americans in particular, like freedom.