Gadflies have value “more in their sting than their buzz”

h/t Brent Stephens in today’s WSJ:

We live in an era where people like the idea of rights, so long as there is no price to their practice. We want to speak truth to power—so long as “truth” is some shopworn cliché and “power” comes in the form of an institution that will never harm you. Perhaps it was always so. But from time to time we need people to remind us that free speech is not some shibboleth to be piously invoked, but a right that needs to be exercised if it is to survive as a right.

Pam Geller may not be the most erudite scholar of the Middle East, or the most couth defender of the First Amendment. Then again, she’s defending it, at considerable personal risk. Can Chris Matthews make the same claim?

…and here’s VDH in The First – and a Half – Amendment:

The First Amendment to the Constitution instead was designed to protect the obnoxious, the provocative, the uncouth, and the creepy — on the principle that if the foulmouths can say or express what they wish and the public can put up with it, then everyone else is assured of free speech.

Every time the West has forgotten that fact — from putting on trial cranky Socrates or incendiary Jesus to routinely burning books in the Third Reich — we have come to regret what followed. Censorship, of course, is never branded as extreme and dangerous, but rather as a moderate and helpful means to curb the hate speech of a bald, barefooted crank philosopher who pollutes young minds and introduces wacky and dangerous cults, or a hatemonger who whips innocent people in front of a temple in between his faked and hokey miracles, or traitorous Jews who scribble and call their first-grade art the equivalent of Rembrandt or their perverted sexual fantasies the stuff of Hegel. Banning free expression is never presented as provocative, but always the final act of an aggrieved and understandably provoked society…

The IRS under career bureaucrats like Lois Lerner targeted non-profit groups on the basis of their perceived political expression. The best strategy now for stifling free speech is to arbitrarily substitute the word “hate” for “free” — and then suddenly we all must unite to curb “hate speech.” The effort is insidious and growing, from silly “trigger warnings” in university classes about time-honored classics that trendy and mostly poorly educated race/class/gender activists now think contain hurtful language and ideas, to the common tactic of shouting down campus speakers or declaring them to be dangerous “extremists” who traffic in “hate speech” if their politics are deemed insufficiently progressive…

Apparently there is no longer a First Amendment as our Founders wrote it, but instead something like an Orwellian Amendment 1.5, which reads: “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 — except if someone finds some speech hurtful, controversial, or not helpful.” …

How odd that we of the 21st century lack the vision and courage of our 18th-century Founders, who warned us of exactly what we are now becoming.

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