Respect For Free Speech Dwindles Under The Left’s Assault

Last week's op-ed by RNLA Vice President for Election Education David Warrington on efforts by Democrats on the FEC to regulate political speech on the Internet provoked an odd, though perhaps predictable, response on Twitter, ending with former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel tweeting that the "point of the article" was to generate death threats against her.  This week in the Daily Caller, RNLA Executive Director Michael Thielen responded:

No, former Commissioner Ravel, it is not. The purpose of the editorial was to oppose Commissioner Weintraub’s veiled attempt to retrench the free speech rights of American citizens on the Internet, regulations such as your proposal to establish a national database of the names of all Americans who post political opinions on the Internet and to regulate even free posts, and your calls—even as late as this morning—to “rethink all the exemptions for the internet.”

Mr. Thielen then described how former Commissioner Ravel's response was a classic avoidance technique used by the left to avoid engaging in a policy debate on the issues that they will lose:

But liberals like Ravel apparently prefer not to defend the substance of past votes or the effects of current proposals but instead dismiss our opinion as just another extremist threat.  It’s certainly a more convenient tact. It is much easier to dismiss a contrary opinion than to debate it on the merits.  But resorting to that old liberal meme that conservative speech can be so easily dismissed as extremism or invitation to violence does a disservice to the American people whose free speech rights are at stake.

After repudiating the use of violence, shouting down speakers, threats, and other inappropriate responses to speech that a person disagrees with, Mr. Thielen pointed out how liberals' favorite tactics to intimidate and regulate threaten free speech rights of all Americans:

Ravel and her allies on the left are trying to promote their worldview by limiting speech through intimidation (dismissing all criticism as a threat) and regulation.  Regulation—the favorite tool of liberals for every issue—suppresses speech in subtle and not so subtle ways. 

Regulations, especially vague ones, make speech cost more.  Consider the complex web of campaign finance laws that organizations wishing to speak on political issues and candidates have to navigate simply to express their views: disclaimer requirements, registration and reporting requirements, disclosure rules, and so on.  Consider how Democrats are constantly trying to raise the price of speaking through even more regulation, such as through the DISCLOSE Act reintroduced in Congress every year.  Consider how campus groups such as the Berkeley College Republicans have had to retain counsel and file lawsuits simply to invite conservative speakers to campus on the same basis as liberal speakers, due to campus speech regulations.  Fortunately, there are many civic-minded attorneys, such as RNLA Board of Governors member Harmeet Dhillon, to represent these individuals and organizations at greatly discounted or pro bono rates.

Mr. Thielen also discusses how there is a very important policy debate -- the regulation of political speech on the Internet -- underlying this, and liberals' tactics only distract from the debate and the threat to citizens' free speech rights.