My Creators Syndicate column for this week has kicked up some controversy. In it I compile a list of ways in which liberals and Barack Obama supporters seem ready to suppress speech they don't like. A standard meme of mainstream media last week was that John McCain crowds were seething with hate—based on the responses of one or two people in the crowd. That's in line with mainstream media journalists' stereotype of right wingers: They're all haters. But you can find at least as much seething, and I suspect more, on the left. Obama supporters have planned to lob molotov cocktails at McCain events, for example. Or consider the instances in Michelle Malkin's roundup or Patterico's description of an ugly Obama rally. Or read this entry on Andrew Malcolm's Los Angeles Times blog.
Or consider these choice comments from a Daily Kos commenter:
I support Obama, but I disagree on some major issues. One is that we need to use major authoritarian measures against wingnuts and theocrats to save this country. That in particular includes deprogramming institutions and a Gitmo like camp to deal with the worst wingnuts. These people should be removed from general society and need to be shut up.
I have believed this for years, but the behavior of the wingnuts at the McCain and Palin rallies further underscores the need to take harsh action against these people. Lincoln and FDR had to bend the Constitution at times, and I hope Obama has the guts to do so too to deal with these third rate creatures.
How's that for hate and speech suppression? The Guantánamo prisoners for the most part were enemy combatants captured on the field of battle. This Daily Kos commenter thinks that McCain supporters stand the same in the moral balance. Other Obama supporters simply can't stand to see McCain-Palin signs, as this Washington Post story on Prince George's County shows.
Where does this urge to suppress unwanted speech come from? My answer: from the most unfree institutions in our country, our colleges and universities. Their speech codes and re-education classes for conservatives who offend someone or other seem to have produced in many liberals the default assumption that if you don't like certain speech, you have a right or even a duty to suppress it. This is, of course, contrary to a long tradition of respect for free speech in American liberalism. But it is the face of American liberalism I see today—and I find it more disquieting than the shouts of a couple of people at McCain rallies.