By Thomas Mitchell
The leftists have yet to learn that the proper response to speech they don’t like is to counter with more speech, reasoned speech. No, their first and constant response is: Shut up!
This is what happened after President Trump criticized a maladroit comment made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and Muslim, in a speech before the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said, “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
Trump tweeted a video splicing together Omar’s tone-deaf “some people did something” with footage of the World Trade Towers collapsing. It was captioned, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”
A number of Democrats immediately demanded that the video be taken down because it might incite violence against Omar, and Omar herself said she had been subjected to numerous death threats. Never mind that CAIR has been accused of supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas or that it actually was founded in 1994.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “It is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter, “The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman — and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, another Democratic presidential candidate, joined in by tweeting, “Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won’t back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, another Democratic presidential contender, criticized Trump during a speech, saying, “This is an incitement of violence against Congresswoman Omar — against our fellow Americans who happened to be Muslim.”
The always outspoken and equally maladroit New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the video an “outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress.”
Fellow Democrat and Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted that Trump took “Ilhan’s words out of context to incite violence toward her …”
Inciting violence? We don’t seem to recall Sanders being chastised thusly after a supporter of his candidacy shot up a Republican baseball practice, seriously wounding Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Nor do we recall anguish over the many political and media attacks against Trump, despite the number of threats the Secret Service fields.
As for the legal definition of inciting violence, the Supreme Court nailed that in the 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio when it struck down an Ohio law making it illegal to advocate violence. The court held, “Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”
Of course some Democrats are hand wringing over the possibility that some crazy person might be incentivized to act out violently due to Trump’s remarks, which clearly did not advocate violence of any kind. If the crazy person standard is all it takes to silence criticism, then no speech is safe.
As for condoning violence, it was Rep. Omar who wrote a letter to a judge in 2016 asking for leniency for nine men charged with planning to join ISIS. “A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it,” Omar wrote. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people — it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them.”
The answer to solving social and political issues is open and free discussion resulting in actions to combat wrongs, not violence. Using the specter of violence to gag free speech is fundamentally against everything this country was founded on and stands for.