Restoring the First Amendment
Widespread concerns about impending restrictions of our civil liberties
include those guaranteed under the First Amendment. But freedom
of speech and of the press have already lost considerable ground
during recent decades. The awakening of America is an opportunity
to restore those crown jewels to their rightful place.
The national conversation we have begun about the need to defend
America will require expression of the broadest possible scope of
views. Nothing must stand in the way of the free, open, unobstructed
exchange necessary for us to be the one nation affirmed in the Pledge
The following is a public appeal to the Academy and the Press -
two constituents of our society that depend on these rights even
more than the rest of us - to consider profound changes in their
political creed in order to serve the nation in these critical moments.
Exceptions to the rule notwithstanding, colleges and universities
have prescribed what words may and may not be used, imposed a single
political perspective from which to regard highly complex issues
of society, and eliminated dissent. Speakers who represent different
views are rarely invited during the academic year and their message
is routinely drowned out by mob action. They are practically never
selected for commencement exercises. Administrative pressures and
consignment to "sensitivity training" persuade students
of the wisdom to keep silent.
We need not assign a label to this political creed. Suffice it
to say that it cannot and will not coexist with any other. Among
its many distinguishing marks is the (entirely proper) outrage and
condemnation should a faculty member display a portrait of Adolf
Hitler in his office, yet finding nothing wrong with a likeness
of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (to whom we owe the term "political
correctness") attesting to a professor's admiration.
The appeal to trustees, presidents, provosts, deans, and department
chairs is not only to permit but to organize active participation
in campus debates by those who derive their political philosophy
from Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams. Those anchored
in America's founding principles tend to see Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Goebbels as branches of the same tree.
As we contemplate the means by which to reestablish not only our
tangible defenses, but our once-abundant capacity for self-defense,
we will have to reopen many questions the Academy had considered
closed some time ago. Among these are immigration policy, energy
policy, appropriate roles for women in the military, and a return
to efficient use of our resources. The last of these would require
appointment of the most suitable person for every job, regardless
of socio-political considerations.
The walls of Fortress Academy are impenetrable, hence the appeal
for lowering the drawbridges. Americans on the outside are powerless,
as are the few dissenters who had been allowed inside. Even the
Nazis used to keep a few token Jews around in case they needed an
alibi down the line.
The newsrooms and editorial offices of most so-called major media
are committed to the identical political creed. Naturally: they
are staffed by graduates from our schools of journalism. A handful
of token columnists notwithstanding, the reporting of news from
a singular political perspective has become as predictable as have
editorial opinions. Institutions of immense power such as The New
York Times or The Washington Post see nothing wrong in preconditioning
their readers, any more than network anchors and nationally prominent
commentators. They do so, among other things, by describing persons
of their own political creed by name and profession, while those
of a different view are introduced as "conservative,""right-wing,"
Of course, anyone who continues to disagree is a racist, a sexist,
a homophobe, a bigot - words of reprobation without content.
And so, the second appeal goes to owners, editors and publishers
of our newspapers and television networks. The rights we possess
do little good if reality prevents their practice.
As a small child, years before encountering the U.S. Constitution,
I often heard my parents speak of "a place in London called
Hyde Park, where anyone can get up on a bench and say ANYTHING he
wants." Growing up in Nazi- and Soviet-occupied Hungary, it
was hard to believe such a place existed.
America's Founders created a Hyde Park that stretches from Canada
to Mexico and from sea to shining sea, where not only Englishmen
but all the people of the world can get up on a bench, a barrel,
a soap box.
We appeal to the Academy and the Press to relocate to our Hyde
Balint Vazsonyi, concert pianist and director of the Center for
the American Founding, writes every Wednesday. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org