We are losing freedom of speech in this country at a speed that could win an Olympic gold medal.

And that’s saying something, because the Olympics feature teams from some of the most accomplished totalitarian nations in world history.

It’s alarming that good old American know-how is being used to crush those who express an opinion that has been deemed unacceptable.

Let’s start by acknowledging that violence is unacceptable. Violence isn’t speech. But at the same time, speech isn’t violence.

So let’s call a halt to the dangerous smearing of the boundary between words and actions, before we become the kind of people who think it’s acceptable to kill other people for writing books or publishing cartoons.

We’re not there yet, but we’re on the road that goes there. And we’re in the fast lane.

For example, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, a Minnesota company that makes pillows, bedding and towels, said he has been notified by retailers Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Wayfair that they will no longer carry his company’s products. Mike Lindell said these decisions followed a pressure campaign from activists who contend that his statements questioning the results of the 2020 election contributed to the break-in and riot at the Capitol.

Is that how it’s going to be in America? Every time there’s a violent incident, we’re going to go backward and penalize everyone who discussed whatever issue was cited as the motive for the violence?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say we are going to do that. What tools are available to find out who has supported a particular viewpoint or a politician who has advocated for that viewpoint?

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All you need is a smartphone. The names of people who have donated to campaigns are instantly available at the touch of a screen. Under state and federal campaign finance laws, anyone who donates as little as $100 to a candidate or campaign committee must disclose his or her name, address, occupation and employer. The campaigns must report this information to the government. The government makes it public online. Street addresses are typically deleted, but Google and other search engines will generally find them in property records and other listings.

Thanks to good old American know-how, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to come up with a list of everyone who supported or opposed a candidate, a public official or a ballot measure.

And then it’s easy to alert the employers of these donors that they have a fill-in-the-blank supporter on their payroll. It’s easy to threaten boycotts and bad publicity. Terrified companies can be bullied into firing people who have lawfully expressed a political opinion outside of the workplace, in their private lives.

Is everybody fine with that?

It could get even worse. A high-priority bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1, would create donor disclosure requirements for nonprofit organizations. Individuals who give to issue-oriented groups that defend, for example, Second Amendment rights, could find their names included in an online doxxing effort that aims to cost them their jobs.

If you know this could happen, and then you get a fundraising letter in the mail for a cause you support, what are you going to do with it?

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This law could cause a landfill crisis.

The net effect is to give a heckler’s veto to free speech, shutting it down in advance and creating a Soviet-style environment in America where people are afraid to speak about anything but the weather. And if you do speak about the weather, be careful not to say anything that could be considered “climate incorrect.”

In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in NAACP v. Alabama held that the state could not require the civil rights organization to hand over the names of its rank-and-file members. Future federal judge Robert L. Carter, representing the NAACP, successfully argued that publicizing the list would invite harassment and economic reprisals against the group’s supporters, and would dissuade potential supporters from becoming members.

The right of association and assembly, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote, is “an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ that is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

However, in the post-Watergate era, the stated intention to protect the nation from corruption and the undue influence of big donors led to campaign finance disclosure laws that make public the names and employers of even small donors. Judge for yourself how well it has worked to limit corruption and the influence of big donors.



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