USA Today, the most widely circulated newspaper in the country, published an op-ed by Patrick Maines on Thursday excoriating TruthRevolt and Media Matters for indecency and the stifling of free expression.
Under the headline “The Revolting Truth About Free Speech” – modified simply to “Truth Revolt vs. Media Matters: Column” in the online edition – the piece outlines with derision TruthRevolt’s mandate of “making advertisers and funders aware of the leftist propaganda they sponsor.”
The problem is not that such campaigns violate the First Amendment. Indeed, when groups such as Truth Revolt or Media Matters conjure up campaigns against their ideological enemies, and even when they attempt to silence individuals or media companies by attacking their commercial supporters, they are engaging in fully protected constitutional speech. But that doesn't mean it's consistent with any decent regard for freedom of speech.
In fairness, Mr. Maines, who serves as president of the Media Institute, “a nonprofit organization that promotes freedom of speech, sound communications policies and journalistic excellence,” isn’t new to this argument.
Writing in the Washington Examiner in 2012, Maines offered a piece called “The Left’s Attack on Freedom of Speech.”
Though it's been little noted, the growing illiberalism of the country's "progressives" threatens dark days ahead for freedom of speech, as most of us have come to know it.
From speech-stifling political correctness to the menacingly evolving concept of "hate speech," freedom of expression is today under relentless assault.
In that column, Maines singled out Media Matters by name.
Media Matters exists, solely and openly, for the purpose of silencing conservative voices…
Of course, Mr. Maines is correct that all of this is distasteful, but it is also effective. When only one side of a conflict is willing to engage in effective tactics, the other side – no matter how noble their intentions – is bound for defeat.
The surest way to stop these distasteful tactics is to make sure that both sides pay equally for their use. The little-told truth of Mutually Assured Destruction is that it works, and that it has kept the peace between major powers for sixty years.
If America had simply allowed the Soviet Union to engage in limited nuclear strikes against our assets, never responding for fear of dirtying our hands, we would have long ago been reduced to ruin.
For too long conservatives have ceded our cities and beachheads to the distasteful tactics of the left, never responding in kind. The fact that major national brands advertise on shows like PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, but avoid Fox News programs with their vastly higher ratings evidences one of the greatest threats to the continuation of our ideas.
That Mr. Maines cannot speak out against TruthRevolt without also speaking out against Media Matters is a great victory in the pursuit of greater freedom of speech, not a defeat. Only when the threat from an energized right is equal to the threat of the energized left will there be any hope of both sides drawing their missiles back into their silos and letting their ideas compete in a truly free marketplace.