Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers has written a book about why progressives should only say what she wants, how she wants. Of course she doesn’t frame it that way…. (More)

Backtalk, Part I: The Silencing

This week Morning Feature considers the right wing’s periodic outrage over “political correctness.” Today we begin with Kirsten Powers’ new book The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech. Tomorrow we’ll review Jonathan Chait’s complaints about “identity politics.” Saturday we’ll conclude with actual attempts at censorship, and distinguish that from organized disagreement.

“This forced march toward conformity”

Kirsten Powers is Fox News’ ideal liberal. That is, she’s willing to criticize other liberals. She said President Obama left 12 Christians to drown, because he “failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith” during a press conference, despite the fact that a Vatican spokesman called the murders a “moment of fury” by people on a sinking ship and cautioned reporters “not to exaggerate the facts and turn this into religious hate.”

And of course she’s outraged that President Obama, Media Matters for America, and other progressives refuse to acknowledge Fox News as “a legitimate news organization,” despite the fact that over 59% of their pundits’ claims are “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire” lies and studies show viewers who watch only Fox News are less informed than people who watch no news at all.

But pointing out those facts is, Powers insists, part of The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech:

Powers chronicles this forced march toward conformity in an exposé of the illiberal tactics deployed to shut down debate on some of the most important issues of the day. While preaching tolerance and claiming to hold liberal values, the “illiberal left” works to delegitimize political and ideological opponents in ways that stifle freedom of expression, thought, and religious belief.

In The Silencing, Kirsten Powers, herself a proud liberal – but from a far more tolerant Jeffersonian tradition – exposes the illiberal left. In The Silencing, you’ll learn:

— Why the illiberal left has become an Orwellian “big brother,” policing what it deems acceptable speech and opinions
— How the illiberal left is obsessed with delegitimizing Fox News
— How illiberal left pundits – even self-proclaimed “feminists” (and Powers names names) – engage in outrageously misogynistic and sexist dismissals of their female opponents
— How illiberal colleges and universities limit freedom of expression to tightly regulated “free speech zones” and ban speakers (even liberals) with whom the illiberal left disagrees
— How “truth” matters little to the illiberal left, for whom ideology is everything

“Screaming for Eich’s head on a pike”

In an excerpt at The Daily Signal, Powers offers the example of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was forced to resign amidst protests and a threatened boycott after news broke that Eich gave $1000 to the anti-marriage-equality Proposition 8 campaign in California:

It’s OK to be angry about Eich’s donation. Screaming for Eich’s head on a pike for his failure to conform to Mozilla’s majority view on same-sex marriage is not.
[…]
It’s not necessary to support Eich’s donation to recognize something deeply disturbing occurred here. Pushing someone out of his job for dissenting on an issue that has nothing to do with the mission of the company and then portraying the purge as a “free” conversation that boosted humanity is creepily Orwellian.

Conservatives and libertarians defend political contributions as ‘speech,’ and apparently it’s a kind of speech we’re not allowed to criticize. Powers would allow liberals to be “angry” about Eich’s ‘speech,’ but we mustn’t file a petition, organize a boycott, or otherwise call for social consequences. Never mind that the ‘speech’ Eich’s funding helped to organize had very real consequences for LGBTs. For LGBTs and allies to organize against that is “creepily Orwellian.”

“Impinging people’s ability to debate issues”

Unlike her colleague Bill O’Reilly – who routinely tells liberals to “shut up” – Powers would let liberals participate in public debate. But only if they say what she wants:

Powers revealed that in The Silencing, she focuses on the attack on free speech from the media and on college campuses.

“It’s a systematic silencing that is going on,” Powers said. “And they use the same tactics. I also am not talking about disagreement. I’m not talking about people being civil. I’m talking about these are people who will not have a debate. They will attack you: ‘You are racist. You are misogynist.’ It’s never about what the actual issue is.”

“And it’s really impinging people’s ability to debate issues, because there is no debate. They tell you there is no debate because you’re a racist.”

Think about that first sentence: “the attack on free speech from the media.” That is, liberal speech is an “attack on free speech.” Unless, that is, liberals agree not to call racism and misogyny … racism and misogyny. Because that’s “never about what the actual issue is.”

“Critics who are not obsequiously affirming the illiberal left”

We’re also ruining the college experience, which ought to be “places where students are able to make mistakes without fear of retribution.” Well, unless those students are women, people of color, or LGBTs. They should toe the line of Powers’ liberal free speech orthodoxy and never criticize others. For example:

Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense. In December 2014, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, sent an email to the student body in the wake of the outcry over two different grand juries failing to indict police officers who killed African-American men. The subject heading read “All Lives Matter” and the email opened with, “As members of the Smith community we are struggling, and we are hurting.” She wrote, “We raise our voices in protest.” She outlined campus actions that would be taken to “heal those in pain” and to “teach, learn and share what we know” and to “work for equity and justice.”

Shortly thereafter, McCartney sent another email. This one was to apologize for the first. What had she done? She explained she had been informed by students “the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people.” She quoted two students, one of whom said, “The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.” The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that a Smith sophomore complained that by writing “All Lives Matter,” “It felt like [McCartney] was invalidating the experience of black lives.” Another Smith sophomore told the Gazette, “A lot of my news feed was negative remarks about her as a person.” In her apology email McCartney closed by affirming her commitment to “working as a white ally.”

So, McCartney wrote an email that shelved the organizing phrase #BlackLivesMatter in favor of “the pretentious colorblindness of #AllLivesMatter.” Students complained, and explained their reasons. Having read their complaints and considered their reasons, McCartney agreed and apologized. But rather than treat this as exactly the kind of public dialogue we need, Powers ridicules those students for creating “a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense.” In other words, liberals, if someone offends you … keep it to yourself.

“The absolute worst example”

Powers is especially defensive of Christians’ right to free speech, which as everyone knows is under constant attack:

There were an endless number of examples, to the point that I had to cut a couple chapters. If I had to, I’d say the absolute worst [example] is one in which a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara physically attacked pro-life demonstrators who were doing a peaceful demonstration. It’s a prototype of these cases, not in the fact that it was violent, because that’s unusual, but her argument is typical: Disagreement is treated as an attack and even violent in and of itself. The act of expressing a point of view they disagree with is an act of violence. This came up over and over in the police reports when the professor was arrested. She was the victim, even though she was the persecutor. She had been harmed, they [the protestors] made her unsafe, and she has a right to go to work and feel safe and they made her feel unsafe.

Of course she doesn’t mention that the professor later pleaded no contest and was sentenced to community service, anger management counseling, and restitution. That fact wouldn’t fit Powers’ narrative of “liberal mob rule” …

… and that story focused on alleged censorship by Kickstarter. That happened as an exchange of private emails – until the filmmakers published them – so I guess Kickstarter is part of the “liberal mob.” So are you if you’ve ever publicly criticized Ron Fournier, or if you don’t count Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin as “feminists.”

So really, if you’re a liberal, you should just email Powers and ask her for guidelines before you say anything. Because if she doesn’t like what you say, or how you say it … you’re part of The Silencing….

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Happy Thursday!