Something Happened To Freedom Of Speech?

This past Friday a Trump rally was cancelled at the last minute. The venue was being held at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion. Most major cities in the US tend to serve quite a diverse population, and with the racial animus that follows the Trump campaign, law enforcement anticipated some apprehension that was instigated and building beforehand with planned protests of the event. ABC news reported 5 arrests and two police officers being injured as a result of protestors and Trump supporters clashing in and around the venue.

Trump made the last-minute decision to cancel the event reluctantly, sort of, adding “We dealt with law enforcement at every level, it was determined that if we go in, it could cause really bad, bad vibes”. Those vibes however seemed to have culminated not only from the notorious remarks made by the leading Repuplican nominee but has encouraging effect as seen by the prevailing white nationalist constituency of the republican party. To ignore the previous and continuous provocations of Trump and his campaign is willful ignorance. The racial dog whistle politics play much into the consternation of fellow Americans who would rather not revert back to the overt indignation and prejudice that apparently “made America great back then”.

In an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Trump expounded on the unsubstantiated fears, concerns and rights of his supporters by arguing “Whatever happened to freedom of speech?”, Whatever happened to the right to get together?” There is no shortage of white Americans who claim that the Obama presidency ushered in a post-racial America, however it would seem that it concurrently propagated reverse racism. This is probably why Trump was quick to remark that “Our nation is totally divided. In many ways it’s divided, and one of the ways it’s divided is white-black. We have so many different sets of divisions and hopefully we’ll be able to bring it together. I’m a unifier. President Obama has not been a unifier, he’s been a divider. I’m a unifier, I’ll bring people together.”

How Trump supporters and a portion of the silent majority have convinced themselves of this implausible claim of reverse racism, and other varieties of victimization is steeped in history and white supremacy conjectures rooted in zero-sum fallacy. I see no evidence that Trump is a unifier or even trying to be a unifier. In fact he is seen as inciting much of the violence at a number of his political rallies. Vox journalist Dara Lind has exposed the irony of the “unifier” on his campaign trail.

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Incredulously no charge has been made by law enforcement for inducement on the part of the nominee. But I guess his free speech rights are an entitled and priviledged matter of occassion due to what is at stake here. The New Yorker’s David Cassidy has written a piece that sums Trumpism up quite succinctly describing the demagogue’s appeal for “The implicit one, increasingly difficult to avoid as the campaign winds closer to the nomination, is a masterstroke of racial populism: White Lives Matter.

The First Amendment, not unlike the other constitutional amendments, lacks the rigor in what exactly constitutes protected speech and this is apparently why we have a very active Supreme Court. The constitution, in relevant part prohibits the government from making laws that “abridge the freedom of speech”. Although Trump has the right to use “offensive words and phrases to convey political messages”, his freedom of speech does not include the right “to incite actions that would harm others”. So I guess this has a cancelling out effect.

So as long as this freedom of speech allows for “America to be great again”, it hasn’t gone anywhere, it is safe as long as it is sounded and backed by the privileged who wield it to their comparative advantage. It also helps if you can afford the legal fees to interpret it in your favor. This sort of speech implies that you fall in line or get the crap knocked out of you.

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