Barone: The thugocracy cometh

Michael Barone warns that a victory by Barack Obama will endorse his tactics in silencing critics, which should concern all non-leg-tingling media in this country.  In fact, Barone points out that it will merely be the next step to the Left’s “progressive” march into killing free political speech — or at least that speech with which they disagree:

“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors,” Barack Obama told a crowd in Elko, Nev. “I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.” Actually, Obama supporters are doing a lot more than getting into people’s faces. They seem determined to shut people up. …

Obama fans jammed WGN’s phone lines and sent in hundreds of protest emails. The message was clear to anyone who would follow Rosenberg’s example. We will make trouble for you if you let anyone make the case against The One.

Other Obama supporters have threatened critics with criminal prosecution. In September, St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce warned citizens that they would bring criminal libel prosecutions against anyone who made statements against Obama that were “false.” I had been under the impression that the Alien and Sedition Acts had gone out of existence in 1801-02. Not so, apparently, in metropolitan St. Louis. Similarly, the Obama campaign called for a criminal investigation of the American Issues Project when it ran ads highlighting Obama’s ties to Ayers.

These attempts to shut down political speech have become routine for liberals. Congressional Democrats sought to reimpose the “fairness doctrine” on broadcasters, which until it was repealed in the 1980s required equal time for different points of view. The motive was plain: to shut down the one conservative-leaning communications medium, talk radio. Liberal talk-show hosts have mostly failed to draw audiences, and many liberals can’t abide having citizens hear contrary views.

I’m not sure that Obama represents a revolution or even an evolution in this process, but merely the next logical step.  We’ve already dumbed down the First Amendment to the point where it protects nude dancing but no longer protects political advertising in an election cycle.  The most liberal of all environments, Academia, teems with “speech codes” that create thought police in ways that Soviet political commissars would find commendable.

The national media bears some of the blame for this.  When a national campaign explicitly sets up an attack on a critic the way Team Obama did on Stanley Kurtz and David Freddoso, those who make their living under the auspices of the First Amendment might have been expected to take notice.  Instead, they seem too enraptured in their own political biases to notice that one candidate for the highest office seems to endorse the notion that mobs should be able to silence critics.  It doesn’t take a psychic to consider the future of a Department of Justice under the control of such a candidate, or its implications for a free press.

The best solution for bad speech is more speech, not speech codes, mobs shouting down critics, and legislative control of political speech in the public square.  Yet we’re inexorably moving in that direction, thanks to the so-called defenders of free speech who only can muster any passion for it when they see a political benefit for themselves and their allies.  In a real sense, the thugocracy isn’t coming, it’s arrived after a generation of advent.