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Fighting Free Speech at the New York Times

As the leaders of Western Europe continue to surrender their countries to Islam – and to punish those who resist by trying to shut them up – one fact of which we've all been reminded is that Americans are very lucky indeed to have a First Amendment. Across Western Europe, citizens who are worried about Islamization express envy for America's free-speech protections. Meanwhile, American leftists who, unable to answer their opponents' arguments effectively, would prefer to be able to shut them down, tend increasingly to view the First Amendment as a thorn in their side.

Even many members of the Fourth Estate, whom you might expect to be vigorous First Amendment champions, are now taking on what they deride as an excessive attachment to free-speech rights. At the vanguard of this unholy crusade is the New York Times. On June 5, the Times ran an op-ed by Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who on several previous occasions has taken to its pages to defend sharia law. This time, Feldman argued against applying the First Amendment to social media on the grounds that it would “make it harder or even impossible for the platforms to limit fake news, online harassment and hate speech.”

The one good argument Feldman has on his side is that Facebook and Twitter are private companies with the right to ban whomever they wish. On the other hand, both of these platforms have become huge parts of the public square, not only in the U.S. but around the world. As for Feldman's reference to “hate speech,” it's a concept that has no proper place in American law and that is, by definition, in the eye of the beholder. On this score, Feldman failed to acknowledge that both firms are notorious for having banned (for example) users posting objective facts about Islam even as they allow terrorist groups to continue to employ their services.

But enough about Feldman. More problematic than his op-ed was an article by Adam Liptak – which ran, note well, as a news story, not an opinion piece – that the increasingly senile Gray Lady published on July 1. The headline, “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment” (on the front page of the Times's website, it read “How Free Speech Is Being Used as a Weapon by Conservatives”; in the print edition, it was “How Free Speech Was Weaponized By Conservatives”), drew on a June 25 comment by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. When the Court, on First Amendment grounds, struck down a California law forcing pro-life “crisis pregnancy centers” to post information on their premises about where to get an abortion, Kagan complained in her dissent that conservatives were “weaponizing the First Amendment.”

Interesting turn of phrase. What it comes down to is the age-old sentiment that my speech should be protected but yours shouldn't. When I say something you don't like, I'm safeguarded by the First Amendment; if you say something I don't like, you're “weaponizing” that amendment. Coming from the likes of Elena Kagan, of course, the use of the word “weaponize” is especially priceless. Kagan is, after all, a perfect example of the kind of judge who, when she is out to justify practices she likes, is gifted at “discovering” in the Constitution rights that the Founders never put there and that nobody ever noticed before. In other words, she's an extremely loose constructionist. But when she sees her ideological opponents actually making use of their very clearly spelled-out First Amendment rights to say things she deplores, Kagan is eager to find some way to pretend that the First Amendment doesn't say what it quite explicitly says.