May 18th, 2024


How to shut up disliked opinions

Jay Ambrose

By Jay Ambrose

Published August 4, 2015

How to shut up disliked opinions

Listen to what they say, look at what they do, and you will soon enough find public officials in this land whose ideology is progressive, whose regard for free speech is scant and whose willingness to indulge in tyrannies is plentiful.

Transgress their policy preferences, and it's time for activities generally associated with police states. If you say, oh, no, it can't happen here, zero in for a moment on Wisconsin and a law-enforcement escapade in which armed cops barged recklessly into homes, subpoenas were issued for scads of frequently personal documents, and numerous lives of utterly decent, law-abiding citizens were menacingly, scarily disrupted.

David French, an attorney, disclosed horrific details in a National Review article, and many thanks to him as well as to stalwart Wall Street Journal editorials and to Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who recently ruled against the three-year investigative rampage. Referring to a " 'perfect storm' of wrongs," one wrote that unjust prosecutory enthusiasms were based on confused legal theories aimed at effacing nothing less than the "fundamental right" of political speech.

Here is some background.

The state's Republican governor, Scott Walker, now a presidential candidate, worked with the state legislature to reduce the power of public employee unions to wreck government budgets at the expense of the citizenry at large. Special interests were infuriated, the left was infuriated and pandemonium broke loose all over, not least in the office of Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat.

He had sicced the dogs on Walker when the governor was still a county executive, and now his office did it again. The excuse was that Walker campaign staffers just may have coordinated activities with conservative groups in violation of campaign finance restrictions. There was a problem here. That excuse works only if it's an issue of the groups telling people to vote for or against a candidate. The groups in question simply advocated on the issues. If you start going after them, you are going after the simple act of Americans voicing their minds.

Chisholm also managed to operate under the state's "John Doe law" that lets investigations proceed secretly while the abused are instructed to zip their lips and stay away from lawyers. Reports say and some underline that he did not act alone — he relied on a special prosecutor, was joined by other DAs and was helped in his cause by a judge reportedly saying OK to suspect maneuvers. But he was still the kingpin of this disgrace.

In another state, namely Texas, another court recently dismissed a felony count against former Republican Gov. Rick Perry, also a presidential candidate, because its furtherance was a clear denial of his free speech.

Some Travis County Democrats have wanted to put Perry in prison because he vetoed a line item providing state money for the district attorney's so-called Public Integrity Unit that has focused a great deal on alleged misdeeds by Republicans. For funding's sake, Perry had insisted the woman who runs it resign after she was convicted of drunken driving, and she did not.

As if inebriated himself, a special prosecutor absurdly insisted Perry was practicing the equivalent of extortion. The prosecutor is not wholly defeated yet because another absurd count is still hanging on, and, meanwhile, he is not without authoritarian clones.

In Houston, you have a mayor who at one point wanted to subpoena the sermons of five pastors opposing a measure allowing people to decide as a matter of subjective gender sense whether to go into a male or female public restroom. Whatever the merits of the ordinance, the intimidation was an outrage.

It was also an outrage in Washington, D.C., when Democratic senators and representatives sought to investigate the funding of scientists who disagreed with them on climate change. You want to be left alone? Then shut up.

That's hardly the end of it, but it could be the end of America at her wide open and robust best if such autocratic bullies should get their way.

Jay Ambrose

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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.