The attack on free speech is so wrong in so many ways

Where to begin?

There is so much hare-brained and just plain false about what Nancy Pelosi said this past week in support of a movement to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United — the case that restored the rights of groups of individuals to form coalitions and exercise free speech through corporations and unions.

“Our Founders had an idea,” an Investor’s Business Daily editorial today quotes Pelosi as saying. “It was called democracy. It said elections are determined by the people, the voice and the vote of the people, not by the bankrolls of the privileged few. This Supreme Court decision flies in the face of our Founders’ vision, and we want to reverse it.”

Someone should remind Ms. Pelosi that the Founders’ vision also did not include elections determined by the bankrolls of political parties. Most thought political parties anathema to a republic, which would put the will of the people ahead of political factions and special interests.

Thomas Jefferson said in 1789, before becoming the titular head of the Republican Party, which led to his election to the presidency in 1800, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

I assume Pelosi holds no such animosity toward the privileged few bankrolling her political party.

IBD pointedly notes that Pelosi was one of those who stood and applauded when the president scolded a captive audience of Supreme Court justices on national television during a State of the Union address for “having reversed a century of law.” Justice Samuel Alito mouthed, “Not true,” perhaps referring to two centuries of First Amendment principles regarding abridgement of speech.

It is downright ironic that America’s first black president appealed for support and enforcement of a century-old law.

Justice Samuel Alito, at left, mouths, "Not so," in response to Obama critique.

Someone should remind Obama that the century-old law was sponsored by Democratic Sen. “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina — the leader of a lynch mob known as the “Red Shirts,” the man who declared, “The Negro must remain subordinated or be exterminated” in order to “keep the white race at the top of the heap.”

Tillman pressed the ban on corporate free speech because he feared the rise of blacks employed by Northern companies. It was a way to squelch speech he feared and was intended to keep power from the “Negroes.”

Justice Clarence Thomas — whom Harry Reid called an “embarrassment” and said his opinions were “poorly written” — pointed this out in remarks delivered during a speech at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., shortly after Obama’s State of the Union speech, which Thomas refused to attend — on principle, not politics.

A student asked Justice Thomas about Obama’s public chiding of the court by saying: “With all due deference to the separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests.” The foreign corporations part was utterly false.

Thomas replied:

“First of all, remember most of the regulation of corporations started with the Tillman Act. Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation to regulate corporations. … Tillman was from South Carolina, and, as I hear the story, he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks.

“And he felt that there was a need to regulate them. So we don’t raise this to the plane of some sort of beatific action.

“But that aside, I’ve taken the position that the court adopted with respect to how we associate. If 10 of you got together and decided to speak just as a group, you say you have a First Amendment right to speak and a First Amendment right of association …

“I find it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company, who were exempted by statute. So then it becomes a statutory right, not a constitutional right.”

At a whim, Congress can revoke a statutory right. Are the Times and Post willing to depend on the whim of a fickle Congress for their free press rights instead of the Constitution?

Pelosi, Obama, the Times and the Post would like to pick and choose which groups of people get to coalesce and spend their money to advance their ideas and principles. It doesn’t work that way. Free speech belongs to all and to all groups — political parties, corporations, unions, clubs, factions, sects, bridge clubs, newspapers and quilting bees.

It is the first recourse of scoundrels who fear their loss of power to attempt to gag others.

Someone should remind Harry Reid, too.


37 comments on “The attack on free speech is so wrong in so many ways

  1. Steve says:

    This from the female that said:



  2. nyp10025 says:

    Is there any actual evidence that the Tillman Act – which was enacted at the urging of Theodore Roosevelt – was passed by Congress for the purpose of repressing African-Americans?

  3. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Davis-Bacon Act. That had nothing to do with repressing African-Americans either. Right?


  4. nyp10025 says:

    I have indeed heard of the Davis-Bacon Act. However, my question pertained to the Tillman Act. Is there any actual evidence that Congress passed and Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Tillman Act for the purpose of repressing African-Americans?

  5. That was Tillman’s motive and the motive of the Democrats who passed Davis-Bacon. That was their motive for many acts from the Civil War up to and through the civil rights movement.


  6. nyp10025 says:

    First, it is disgraceful of you to post a doctored photograph of Senator Robert Byrd in a fake KKK uniform.

    Second, my understanding is that both Senator Davis and Representative Bacon were Republicans. So was the Congress that passed their legislation. So was President Hoover, who signed the legislation into law. So I don’t understand your reference to the “Democrats who passed Davis-Bacon.”

    Third, can you provide any evidence at all that repression of African-Americans was the motivation of Senator Tillman in proposing the Tillman Act and of the legislators (Republican or Democratic) who voted for it? Surely there must be a quote or a citation to the historical record? Is there any evidence at all?

  7. The Tillman Act was sponsored by South Carolina Senator Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, probably the most vicious racist to ever serve in Congress. Tillman was a Democratic segregationist who was chiefly responsible for the imposition of Jim Crow in South Carolina after the end of Reconstruction when he was governor. This federal law, that so-called “progressives” like the President are constantly praising, was intended by Tillman to hurt the Republican Party – the party of abolition and Abraham Lincoln – because many corporations contributed to the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party. These corporations did not like segregation in the South – it cost them money and made it more expensive to sell their goods and services.


  8. nyp10025 says:

    Ah, the echo chamber at work. One conservative blog quotes another conservative blog to support a challenged factual assertion. But still, no evidence. No quote. No historical citation. No evidence at all.

    I am sure that the next time someone repeats what to me appears to be this obviously false historical assertion they will cite Mr. Mitchell’s blog in support.

    Perhaps someone can help Mr. Mitchell. Can anyone out there provide actual evidence that the Tillman Act – which was enacted at the urging of Theodore Roosevelt – was passed by Congress for the purpose of repressing African-Americans? Or is this all simply a conservative urban legend that goes around and around and around and around and ….

  9. nyp10025 says:

    I’m please to see Mr. Mitchell relying on a distinguished University of Wisconsin historian, particularly one who believes that “despite Tillman’s reputation as an insurgent, he was fundamentally a conservative.” But nothing in the website to which Mr. Mitchell refers supports his assertion that the Tillman Act – which was enacted at the urging of Theodore Roosevelt – was passed by Congress for the purpose of repressing African-Americans.
    The fact that the sponsor of the Tillman Act happened to be a racist (like many members of Congress at the time) doesn’t support Mr. Mitchell’s assertion.

  10. Steve says:

    Nyp, that is simply one of those unprovable coincidental things that leave a bad taste behind. Of course there is no recorded proof. If it were the intent of Tillman to block northern companies influencing southern elections in favor of one group over another, this legislation would appear to have come along at a very opportune moment in history. It leaves a bad taste behind when people read more about it, perception is only human and unprovable. But perception remains 9/10th reality until totally disproved. Even once totally disproved shreds will remain, see the Flat Earth Society.

    Hell its happening today with welfare. Keep generations on welfare and blame Republicans for trying to end it. This way Democrats grow their base. Again perception and unprovable but 9/10th reality just the same. That bad taste comes alive at the ballot box.

    Nancy Pelosi on the other hand remains a complete embarrassment, from one fork in her tongue the founders are good, from the other fork she ridicules their main document. Nancy Pelosi speaks with forked tongue, this is recorded in audio and video requiring no perception at all. That bad taste is easily recognized and its source well known.

  11. nyp10025 says:

    I think the somewhat shorter version of “Steve’s” post is “no, there isn’t any historical evidence at all to substantiate Mr. Mitchell’s assertion.”

    On that we can all agree.

  12. Steve says:

    An even shorter conclusion is Nancy supports the bad taste. Silence gives consent.

  13. No, there is evidence. Proof positive? We’d have to dig up everyone in Congress and reanimate them.


  14. Steve says:

    Enough evidense to support the perception of the intent to prevent northern companies influencing southern elections, absolutely. To hurt African Americans specifically? No.

  15. nyp10025 says:

    This is preposterous. If there was a shred of evidence to support your assertion, Mr. Mitchell, you would be able to provide a quote from Mr. Tillman explaining his reasons for sponsoring the legislation. Or from the hundreds of congressmen and Senators who voted for it. Or from Theodore Roosevelt, who urged its passage and proudly signed it into law. Roosevelt was a Republican representative of northern mercantile interests. Why was he pushing for a law allegedly designed to block the political power of northern companies?

    This makes absolutely no sense.

  16. Steve says:

    No sir! that would definitely not be possible with the allegation being made here. Those personal reasons would never have been made public. Your question is unanswerable. As are the allegations unprovable. The only evidence that could be considered after the fact is the true effect of the legislation. That is a matter of recorded history. I am looking for it how about you do so too sir! If this is that important to you…

  17. nyp10025 says:

    Right – because legislators sponsoring important laws never make statements describing the reasons for the actions they are taking.

  18. Steve says:

    So, the only problem with Tom’s article today is the allegation Tillman pushed that act as a way to hold African Americans down.

    Good, the rest of the points are correct and proper then.

    Tillman remains a southern racist who really disliked the African race. I can really see him doing things behind closed doors to further his not so private cause.

  19. Vernon Clayson says:

    nyp10025, what the members of the Congress say on the floor and in conference are seldom quoted verbatim in the Congressional Record, the think-tongued rascals get to edit their words before entry in the record. Actual words are lost to history, an example is the Democrat genius that was concerned adding Marines to Guam might tip the island over, his wordsmiths changed that to his concern being the balance of nature on the island. How do we know the record of statements and opinions of long departed legislators is what they actually said, I’m not saying they were as dumb as the Democrat fearful of Guam tipping over, of course. I imagine you were being facetious when you wrote “legislators sponsoring important laws never make statements describing the reasons for the actions they are taking”, but If you weren’t being facetious, you should know laws don’t come off the top of their head directly to bills, they are discussed and considered by their aides, lawyers, financial backers and other legislators, is the phrase “backroom deals” unfamiliar to you? Notice I didn’t mention constituents and citizens in their considerations, we matter very little.

  20. Athos says:

    Nice article, Tom. And an informative back and forth with our little progressive/socialist/communist/Alinskyite, whiz kid, wall street Newyorker.

    My question is, why petey? You take the same tack with Zerø’s birth certificate? Or Ø’s motives?

    On further consideration, we may have to give our erstwhile President a new nickname. Seems he’s already passed Jorge for the biggest debt-adding President, only needing 3 years,2+months to rack up $4.939 Trillion!

  21. nyp10025 says:

    I agree with “athos”: if you are the sort of person who believes President Obama forged his birth certificate, Mr. Mitchell’s assertions would make perfect sense to you.

  22. Steve says:

    “Mr. Mitchell’s assertions would make perfect sense to you.”

    Nyp, you only have a problem with one of those assertions! On the rest of the points, your silence as an admission against interest.

  23. Not when the motive is ulterior.

  24. Steve says:

    Nyp sticks to one, and only one, point, the only point that does leave room for argument. To me this means he is in full agreement with the rest of the article.

  25. nyp10025 says:

    As a matter of fact I disagree with almost everything else in Mr. Mitchell’s post.

  26. Steve says:

    Thanks for clearing that up nyp. You simply cannot dream up a legit argument against any of the other points in the article. You just go for the only hole you could find.

  27. nyp10025 says:

    Yes, It is quite a big hole,and I am, of course, entitled to comment on whatever aspects of Mr. Mitchell’s commentary I choose.

    What bothers me even more than the now-obvious inaccuracy of his assertion about the roots of federal restrictions on corporate political contributions is Mr. Mitchell’s lack of interest in the matter. Surely he still retains enough of his journalist’s chops to wish to ensure that his factual statements are 100% accurate. Journalists issue corrections of their factual errors every day of the week. Perhaps Mr. Mitchell now feels too distanced from the business to feel the need to do so her. Kind of sad.

  28. I stand by the contention that Tillman had ulterior motives.


  29. Steve says:

    This IS an opinion blog, is it not?

    Be happy Tom invites all opinions.

  30. nyp10025 says:

    Steve believes that Mr. Mitchell is entitled not only to his own opinions, but also to his own facts.

    I happen to disagree.

  31. I thought you liberals liked to connect the dots, Petey.


  32. Steve says:

    Funny way of saying this is an opinion blog nyp

    I never made that statement, but you just tried to make it for me.

    I would thank you to stop making statements in my name sir! The spin is beneath you.

  33. nyp10025 says:

    Mr. Mitchell, repeating memes from the conservative echo chamber, claimed that the original restrictions on corporate financing of political campaigns – restrictions championed by northern Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt – were nothing more than “a way to squelch speech … and was intended to keep power from the “Negroes.”

    The evidence in support of this assertion? Nothing, other than the fact that the Senate manager of the legislation was, like most legislators at the time, a racist.

    Those of us in the reality-based community believe that there is a distinction between factual assertions and opinions, that the latter are especially subject to challenge, and that someone who makes a factual assertion that cannot withstand challenge should do the honorable thing and withdraw the assertion. That applies with particular force to journalists, and even to ex-journalists.

  34. Anything I could offer as “proof” would be dismissed as being from the conservative echo chamber, so why chase my tail.

  35. nyp10025 says:

    No it wouldn’t. Facts are facts. Provide some proof that the Teddy Roosevelt-driven original restrictions on corporate financing of political campaigns were “intended to keep power from the “Negroes,”” and we will consider it.

    But this post-modern approach to factual accuracy is very disturbing.

  36. […] very first such congressional action mentioned is the Tillman Act of 1907 that prohibited corporations from making contributions in connection with federal […]

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