November 27th, 2021


Just Words. Just Rules. Just for Conservatives

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published July 21, 2016

The Closing of the American Mouth

Words — and the left's hypocritical relationship with them — have been in the news quite a bit of late.

The most recent tempest-in-a-teapot is the speech given by the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Monday night. Although 93 percent of Trump's speech was original, a couple of passages were virtually identical to those in a speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008: "you work hard for what you want in life"; "your word is your bond"; "you do what you say"; and "you treat people with respect." There was an additional sentence in Melania Trump's speech, also similar to Obama's, in which Trump reiterated the importance of passing these virtues onto the next generation.

As Ann Coulter has noted in her column this week, those phrases are about as tired, overdone and unoriginal as possible. But the order of the phrasing made the evidence of copying unmistakable. Trump's speechwriter, Meredith McIver, has admitted that the inclusion of material from Michelle Obama's 2008 remarks was McIver's fault, and was an innocent mistake. It must have been, since it is too monumentally stupid to have been done deliberately.

That said, the media's feeding frenzy was — as usual — brazen in its hypocrisy. As fate would have it, both President Obama and Vice President Biden have a history of lifting other people's remarks. In 2008, while running for president, Obama gave a speech that has come to be known as "Just words," in which he lifted big chunks of a speech given two years earlier by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Both Obama and Patrick maintained that the speech had been used with Patrick's consent. But no acknowledgment was given in the speech, and thus it appeared as though Obama was attempted to pass the remarks off as his own.

The extent of copying in Barack Obama's "Just words" speech was substantially more than that of Melania Trump's address. But you'd never know that from the media coverage.

Vice President Biden has even more experience with plagiarism. In 1987, Biden gave a speech that was copied almost completely from one given by British politician Neil Kinnock. (Interestingly, Biden's excuse at the time was that he usually gave Kinnock credit, but happened to forget on the instance in question; coincidentally, this is the explanation offered by Barack Obama in 2008). Biden was also accused of plagiarizing a paper while in law school at Syracuse University. According to a 1987 New York Times article, Biden admitted the wrongdoing, but was allowed to continue his legal education.

None of this kept the Obama/Biden ticket from taking the White House.

The rules about words that only apply to conservatives are also playing out on social media. Twitter has permanently banned the flamboyantly gay and outspoken conservative Milo Yiannopolis, as a result of his criticism of the remake of the film "Ghostbusters" with an all-female cast. Black actress Leslie Jones, who stars in the film, was on the receiving end of countless vulgar and hateful tweets - none of which came from Yiannopolis. But an article in Vox patiently explained that Yiannopolis was banned because — wait for it — those who sent the racist tweets were clearly "his followers," so he's somehow responsible for what they say. In Twitter-speak, Yiannopolis controls ("controlls"?) a "troll army."

Well, OK then.

Twitter, like Facebook, has been accused of discriminating against conservative speech. The banning of Milo Yiannopolis looks like further proof, when compared with Twitter's decisions not to take down a cartoon that showed a terrorist slitting a police officer's throat, or suspend the user's account. Nor did Twitter take any action against the many accounts of users who expressed support — in the crudest possible terms — for the killing of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas.

Criticize a movie = hate speech. Call for killing cops = free speech. Got it.

In fact, when it comes to murder, different rules apply to words as long as leftists use them. Micah Johnson, the sniper who killed five Dallas police officers, said that he "wanted to kill white people; especially white officers." Afterwards, President Obama said that it was "hard to untangle (Johnson's) motives."


And sometimes, the left just tries to pretend the words don't exist. When Omar Mateen went on his murderous rampage in a gay bar in Orlando, the Justice Department inscrutably edited out all references to "ISIS," "Allah" and "Allahu Akbar" in Mateen's taped 9-11 calls to the police.

Perhaps the most outrageous example of words that mean one thing for progressives, and something else for everyone else, is FBI Director James Comey's speech earlier this month in which he informed the country that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted for her mishandling of state secrets and other confidential information, because she didn't have the requisite "intent." Even though the words of the statute only required "gross negligence," not "intent." Even though Comey stated that Clinton was "extremely careless," which is virtually synonymous with "grossly negligent." Even though it was demonstrated that Hillary Clinton lied repeatedly about not having emails on her personal server that were marked "classified." And even though, in Comey's own words, another person "in similar circumstances" would likely "face ... consequences."

You see? The rules are different for them. But not to worry: to paraphrase President Obama (or Deval Patrick), it's just words . Or, more specifically, just rules about words.

And just for conservatives.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.