Ministry of Truth, Obama-style

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
 - George Orwell
President Obama has been agitating for the authority to criminalize political opponents since he took office.  First there was the raft of DHS reports profiling conservatives as terrorists. Then came the push for a new fairness doctrine, subsequently refined to be achieved in diversity regulations to be imposed on local radio stations. Following these attacks on free speech was the much debated hate crimes legislation, considered by many to be a back-door path to silencing critics of the administration. But, while dangerous to free speech, none of these draconian policies could do as much damage as new regulatory czar Cass Sunstein's shocking proposal to ban "falsehoods" -- a term left up to the Obama administration to define.  If Sunstein succeeds, free speech will be truly dead in America. 

These revelations are found in Sunstein's new book, On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done, in which he attacks the plague of "rumors" besetting the Obama administration.  Rumors must be regulated, according to Sunstein. Suspiciously, Sunstein's definition of "rumors" never seems to favor conservatives.  To combat "rumors," Sunstein proposes fines, and even obligatory retractions, in the case of Internet publications.[1] 

In his new book, harsh penalties would be meted out for those that "spread rumors about an appointee of a Democratic president," an occurrence likely to increase if Sunstein continues to assault the very foundations upon which America is built.[2]  Sunstein will have to accuse millions of Americans of "spreading rumors."  Perhaps Sunstein even dreams of an eventual final solution for rumor perpetrators. 

The flaw in Sunstein's logic should be obvious to even the mildly literate: libel and slander laws already exist to address Sunstein's alleged concerns.   What Sunstein is after is not merely a redress of disinformation, or even the ability to dismiss critics as liars, but rather the actual power to threaten critics with the penalty of law.  No due process need be given to those Sunstein accuses of lying.  All that will be required is a "notice to take down," in the case of the Internet.  As Sunstein writes, "Those who run websites would be obliged to take down falsehoods upon notice."  But who determines falsehoods?  Not a court of law, if Sunstein's proposal is enacted. 

Sunstein, arguably the most powerful bureaucrat in America at present, will decide who is lying and who is telling the truth.  At present, if someone lies, there is a sure remedy already in existence: Sunstein, President Obama, or any other official about which a deceptive statement is made, can provide information to contradict the claims of the "liars."  The only problem for Sunstein and Obama is the frequency with which accusers are telling the truth, and no contradictory information exists. 

As it happens, the ability to contradict opponents is not a strong suit of the Obama administration.  The President is consistently caught in a web of falsehoods on issues like healthcare, with no credible defense to offer. If only Sunstein could simply issue a "notice to take down" decree to all those pesky web journalists who don't get leg tingles when President Obama speaks, Obama's "truth" could proceed in a vacuum.  But, for now at least, facts are still available for those who care to seek them.

In Sunstein's ideal new republic, though, any plan of the Obama administration would be unchallengeable.  Inconvenient facts would be unreportable.  Not even the infamous Sedition Acts approached the degree of disdain for the Constitution inherent in Sunstein's philosophy.  Sunstein would scrap the First Amendment if it saved him political embarrassment.  And Sunstein provides plenty to be embarrassed about, such as writing to endorse the use of cap and trade, to conceal redistributive justice, or saying that animals should have the same rights as human beings.

Bottom-line, freedom of the press is protected not only when it is helpful to the President.  It is protected in all cases at all times.  Apart from inciting violence or yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, no precedent exists for the regulation of free speech.  Our revered charter of liberty does not say that government can regulate free speech when it is politically expedient or deemed necessary by an animal-worshipping socialist posing as an environmentalist.  The First Amendment to the US Constitution says that, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."    This staunch prohibition may be inconvenient in the extreme to the Obama administration, but anyone who plots to counteract this constitutional protection of liberty is, quite simply, a traitor and should be removed from public service.

The essence of America is freedom for all who seek it.  This includes freedom of the press, freedom to speak the truth, freedom to criticize our leaders.  If America becomes a land of "freedom for some," it will cease to be America.  There is no possible justification for the desecration of liberty, and if an ideology requires the desecration of liberty to succeed, it has no place in America.  Freedom of speech, that precious gift men have died to protect, is rubbish to Sunstein, who considers the Constitution to be nothing more than a set of outmoded guidelines:

A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government... Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom's name.

Sunstein adds that his proposal is "almost certainly unconstitutional."  It is curious that an effort to restrict the freedom of individual Americans to express ideas is "democratic" in Sunstein's lexicon.

Ideas are not criminal offenses in America.  Beliefs are not censorable.  Sunstein seeks to create an America where deviation from an arbitrarily ordained political orthodoxy becomes a punishable act.  And this is not something to which Americans should ever consent.  Sunstein should be removed from his position at once. 

[1] Cass Sunstein, On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 78-79.

[2] Ibid., 13.