Obama to Critics: Just Shut Up

Lost in the media coverage of the declining stock market is a far more threatening battle being waged, and thus far, lost, in the name of another American market fundamental to a free and democratic nation -- the marketplace of ideas. While the fight to defend a free and vibrant marketplace of ideas from attacks by a politically correct orthodoxy that would regulate civility through the silencing of disharmonious speech was once the province of college campuses, during this election, the battle has arrived at the White House steps.

Though Barack Obama has campaigned on the message of rising above partisan agonistics, his campaign has actually engaged in some very troubling tactics that raise serious questions about how he would conduct himself in office.  As demonstrated by the campaign's recent announcement to blacklist the Orlando television station whose reporter, Barbara West, dared ask Sen. Biden a hard question about Barack Obama's tax policies, Barack Obama's campaign for president has demonstrated that Obama the Candidate favors the stifling of speech and censoring of dissent. It is fair to ask whether Obama the President would be any different. After surviving the war against politically correct thinking on college campuses, and later while at Harvard Law School, I should not be shocked by the Obama campaign's pervasive use of suppression of dissent as a tactic in this election, or even the media's suicidal complicity in the accompanying destruction of a free marketplace of ideas. And yet, I am shocked.  

It is one thing for students in their formative years of intellectual growth to shout down from the stage a conservative speaker (or anyone with whom they disagree for that matter) during a university symposium or rally, but it is far more sinister when a presidential campaign consistently tries to silence its opponents, as the Obama campaign has done during this election. More sinister yet is what this tells us about how a President Obama would use the levers of government power to shut down ideas at odds with his own. If watching how Obama surrogates tried to personally tear apart ordinary citizen Joe the Plumber like a pack of hyenas on fresh meat wasn't enough of a preview of how an Obama administration would handle citizen dissent, here are just a few other examples of the Obama campaign's treatment of ideas at odds with Obama Orthodoxy:

    • On August 27, 2008, respected radio talk show host Milt Rosenberg invited National Review journalist and Ethics and Public Policy Center Senior Fellow, Stanley Kurtz, to his nightly program in Chicago. Kurtz had been conducting thorough and in depth research into Barack Obama's extensive ties to the radical left, including the fraudulent get-out-the-vote group, ACORN. Kurtz was at that point already investigating Obama's connection with Bill Ayers and their collaboration on a left-wing education "reform" organization. After Rosenberg's producer called Obama's Chicago headquarters to offer airtime to challenge Kurtz's claims, the Obama campaign declined and instead sent out an Obama Action Wire email to its supporters encouraging them to inundate Rosenberg's station with complaints and demands that the Kurtz interview be axed. A slew of enraged Obama supporters in fact bombarded the radio station's switchboard demanding that the interview not go forward. The Obama followers were instructed to report their guerrilla tactics back to the campaign through a special dedicated page on the campaign's official website.
    • A few weeks later, the Obama campaign again summoned its army of supporters through another Obama Action Wire, inciting them to once again inundate the same Chicago radio show with calls to deny airtime for an interview with author David Freddoso, author of the book The Case Against Barack Obama. The Obama campaign's justification for this attack on free speech was that providing Freddoso with airtime would lower the standards of political discourse.
    • A nonprofit called "Accountable America" that is headed by a former operative of MoveOn.com (which endorsed Obama) has been going through campaign-finance databases and targeting conservative donors with "warning" letters intended to depress Republican fundraising.
    • The Obama campaign demanded that the U.S. Justice Department stop TV stations from airing an independent ad focusing on Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers. Again, Obama's followers were summoned to inundate stations with tens of thousands of emails to kill the commercial. What's more, the Obama campaign has demanded that the Justice Department investigate and prosecute the group that produced the Bill Ayers ad (the American Issues Project) and the man who funded the group (Harold Simmons from Dallas, Texas). Most recently, the attorney for Obama for America has asked the U.S. Attorney General to investigate John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Republican Senators Voinovich and Cornyn and Representatives Bachmann, Blunt and Ryan because of the Republicans' attempts to draw attention to ACORN's fraudulent voter registration activities.
All of this provides a frightening preview of what an Obama government (combined with a Democrat-controlled House and Senate) would look like. And this doesn't even start to take into account Obama's and the Democrats' intent to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, a spread-the-wealth approach to silencing conservative talk radio wherein the government uses regulation to force successful radio talk shows (i.e. conservative shows) to give part of their airtime to unsuccessful radio talk shows (i.e. liberal shows), or Obama's support for implementing legislation that would make it more difficult for workers to hold a private ballot vote in unionization drives (leading to harassment and intimidation) and thereby denying the democratic right of workers to decide by secret ballot whether they will come under union representation or not. Both issues are further examples of silencing opposition.

What makes Obama's affinity for suppressing dissent even worse is that mainstream newspapers and television networks, the very institutions expected to act as watchdogs and to be a forum for the expression of free speech of all persuasions, have failed the American people during this election not only through biased reporting but also by their shocking failure (refusal?) to dig beyond the surface into Obama's questionable background. As a result, in this election, the American people have been stripped of the protections normally provided by a vibrant and critical press, one of the most important weapons a free nation has against its leaders (or leaders-to-be) and against the tyranny of power.

Should Obama be elected to the presidency, Americans should expect such ugly aggressive tactics to continue, and Americans who disagree with President Obama should expect to be silenced. Whether it is through Obama's use of the mainstream press as a government mouthpiece, the imposition of the Fairness Doctrine to suppress (and in many cases eliminate) radio and television programs or print media outlets critical of an Obama administration, or, the sicking of the press and surrogates on citizens who dare question those in power, Americans are about to experience on a national scale what dissenting students and faculty on American campuses have experienced for years.

At least we can't say we weren't warned.

Anat Hakim is an attorney and writer living in Florida. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and the recipient of the 1999 Wisconsin ACLU Civil Libertarian of the Year Award.
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