Free Speech Is Not a Partisan Issue
A lot has been said about the various threats that have been lobbed at Chick-fil-a because of the owner’s views regarding gay marriage. Just to recap:
- Boston’s Democrat Mayor, Thomas Menino, said “Chick-fil-a doesn’t belong in Boston” and vowed to block it from opening a chain in the city.
- Chicago’s Democrat Mayor, Rahm Emanual, said “Chick-fil-a values are not Chicago values” and supported the efforts of Alderman Joe Moreno to block for precisely that reason the opening of a Chick-fil-a.
- San Francisco’s Democrat Mayor, Edwin Lee, tweeted his strong recommendation that Chick-fil-a not come any closer to his city than the current closest location 40 miles away.
I think each of them has since backed off their threats, which brings me to the subject of this post. The degree to which the liberal intellectual class has responded in defense of free speech has been heart-warming (though the defense of the threats by a not insignificant number of rank-and-file liberals on Twitter and Facebook, and in blog comment sections, has been simultaneously disheartening).
It’s become a cliché in Washington to say that such-and-such is not a partisan issue (often follow by declaring it an “American issue”). This is meant to shame the other side into agreeing with the speaker, though I can’t imagine anyone finds it convincing. But the thing about free speech is that it actually is not a partisan issue, in the sense that once speech is not equally protected depending on the partisan content of that speech, then there is no such thing as free speech anymore. And that’s precisely the issue we were facing with the attacks by government thugs on Chick-fil-a.
This is not to say that there aren’t partisans that don’t believe in free speech (see Fairness Doctrine, campaign finance reform, etc.), but that free speech can’t be partisan in its application if it is to survive. Liberals commentators and outlets like Glenn Greenwald, Mother Jones, Andrew Sullivan, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, and Time Magazine, and a host of others, have weighed in against the threats targeting Chick-fil-a and in defense of the First Amendment. I’ll let the words of another liberal, Kevin Drum, provide my thoughts on the matter:
[T]here’s really no excuse for Emanuel’s and Menino’s actions. If you don’t want to eat at Chick-fil-A, don’t eat there. If you want to picket them, go ahead. If they violate the law, go after them. But you don’t hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.