Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Clinton & A The Long History Of Intolerance

Mark Tapscott looks at Clinton's efforts to silence Obama's critics by claiming their complaints to be demonization (boy is that projection) and that they are inviting domestic terrorism. Tapscott notes that Clinton is doing little more than those in power have been trying to do for millennia. It is a superb article. This from Mr. Tapscott at the Washington Examiner:

. . . Take England's King Edward I, aka "the Longshanks" of "Braveheart" cinematic fame. It wasn't just William Wallace and the Scots who made Longshanks uncomfortable; he also took very unkindly to criticism from his own subjects. So much so, in fact, that he manipulated what in 1275 passed for the English Parliament to approve Westminster I, a re-codification of basic English law.

Westminster I made it a crime to sow “tales whereby discord or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the king and his people or the great men of the realm.” That law put a stop to criticism of Longshanks and his best buddies among the nobles.

Other English monarchs made the argument, too. Henry VIII had his six wives, but he also had a law regulating the then-new printing-press industry. Henry's law left no doubt about it in 1542: “Nothing shall be taught or maintained contrary to the King’s instructions.”

Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I, not only made the same argument Clinton is tutoring us with today, she upgraded its administration with the Star Chamber, a secret tribunal used to prosecute anybody writing or distributing books that were critical of the Queen or nobles.

Today, we call such government entities "administrative law panels." These are used to enforce bureaucratic regulations like the "Fairness Doctrine" of the FCC.

Henry and Elizabeth had to make the "criticism-of-government-causes-violence-against-government argument often because the English Puritans were such a strong force at the time.

Being Protestant Reformation zealots, they not only insisted that every man had the right to read the Bible in his native tongue and to decide for himself the meaning of Holy Scripture, they also preached that every man had the right to speak and publish his opinions about government.

That is why for decades prior to the English Civil War, a succession of English monarchs beheaded, drew and quartered, burned at the stake, and otherwise executed a long succession of Puritan "heretics" who were indeed "demonizing" government.

Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans didn't do such a good job of it once they had sent the head of Charles I bouncing down the steps of Parliament, however, and soon enough the Royalists were back in power.

At the insistence of Charles II, the Royalist-dominated Parliament passed a new law providing that “evil disposed persons” would no longer be allowed to write or sell “heretical, schismatical, blasphemous, seditious and treasonable books, pamphlets and papers” that endanger “the peace of these kingdoms and raising a disaffection to his Most Excellent Majesty and his government.”

It was largely against this historical backdrop of people in government prosecuting people outside of government for saying unkind things about them that led to the American Founders including in the First Amendment a guarantee of a free press, the right to assemble and petition for redress, and freedom of religion.

But within a decade of the Constitution's adoption, John Adams, one of our most esteemed Founders and our second president, was so worried about his critics - led by Thomas Jefferson - demonizing him and his friends that he got Congress to pass the Alien & Sedition Acts.

One of those laws made it illegal to “write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them.”

Then in the Civil War, there was Abe Lincoln saving the Union by suspending Habeus Corpus and jailing hundreds of political opponents and journalists for the duration of the war. Lincoln also put U.S. troops in newsrooms, took over daily newspapers, and destroyed printing presses. Obviously, demonizing government can't be tolerated during a war, right? Check out Harry J. Maihafer's "War of Words: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War press" for the full story here.

Nothing much had changed by the time Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. Wilson and A. Mitchell Palmer, his attorney general, backed the Sedition Act of 1917 that made it a crime to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution..." Wilson and Palmer put hundreds of people, many of them anti-war Socialists, in jail for violating the Sedition Act, which was repealed in 1920.

In the 1960s, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson didn't need specific laws to suppress critics, they simply used the the Fairness Doctrine to silence critics who they deemed to be demonizing government and public officials. You can read about that in "The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment" by former CBS News president Fred Friendly.

President Reagan did away with the Fairness Doctrine, which led to the explosion of Talk Radio and the flowering of hundreds of independent opinion-makers. But more recently, liberals like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Diane Feinstein are talking about reviving it or some form of it.

So Clinton's argument that criticism of government by peaceful citizens participating in Tea Party demonstrations leads to domestic terrorism like the Oklahoma City bombing really is nothing new. Monarchs and others in government have been using that line to silence their critics for hundreds of years. . . .


OBloodyHell said...

Note how the long history of that, almost all the Americans (save Lincoln) were Democrats (and that Adams' Federalists were mainly like postmodern Dems in character -- favoring "big government" over the "smaller" kind)

Ex-Dissident said...

I just read an interesting story about the Waco. Apparently the gas was used with the aim to harm infants and children in that compound, so that mothers would flee into the arms of those gassing their children. So Bill Clinton should really think twice about bringing up that part of his sordid history.