[BOOKS] The SilencersPosted: September 4, 2016
The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech, by Kimberly Strassel (Twelve Press, 396 pp., $30)
Fred Siegel writes:
…Strassel’s chapters on the politicization of the IRS in Obama’s hands make for a striking summary of Chicago skullduggery. In 2012, an election year, the IRS, led by liberal operative Lois Lerner, systematically sidelined conservative (often Tea Party) organizations. The broadest and deepest scandal in IRS history is more than three years old, but there is little chance that Obama’s Chicago-ized Justice Department will hold anyone accountable. Strassel also discusses the attempts led by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois to criminalize criticism of the standard-issue UN position on climate change. The senators insist that manmade climate change is a matter of “settled science.” But climate is always changing, and science is never settled.
In late 2008, after Democrats took control of all three branches of government, the Left realized, writes Strassel, that it could use the federal bureaucracy to deploy campaign finance laws selectively against its opponents. The Left could also call upon “the extraordinary new power of the Internet and social media” to convince “a credulous public” that its assaults on opposition political activity “were aimed at ‘cleaner’ and ‘more open’ elections.” This dynamic constitutes what Strassel calls “the modern intimidation game” that “now defines American politics.”
[Read the full review here, at City Journal]
In Wisconsin, Democrats enraged by Governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees played the intimidation game even while out of power. The state’s Progressive-era laws, designed to ensure fair elections, and its unique Government Accountability Board were turned against conservative activists who supported Walker. Democratic Party county prosecutors pressed an array of lawsuits and used armed sheriffs’ deputies to stage early-morning raids, guns drawn, on the homes of conservative activists suspected of having marginally violated state campaign finance laws—in this case, the heinous crime of having outside committees coordinate campaign expenditures with Governor Walker’s electoral efforts. Further, the accused were forbidden by state law of telling anyone, except their lawyers, about the raids. Most of this, as Strassel accurately notes, was “simple harassment.”
As for real wrongdoing, the Obama administration, as Strassel explains, has slow-walked documents required for the investigation into the IRS scandals and the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious fiasco, in which the federal government inadvertently armed Mexican drug cartels. Moreover, the House committee examining the Benghazi debacle still doesn’t have tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. But the investigation did inadvertently expose the former secretary of state’s home-brewed email server.
Perhaps Strassel’s most powerful points concern campaign-finance disclosure laws, which were supposed to lead to cleaner, more accountable politics. Instead, she notes that “the laws that were designed to keep the political class in check are being used to keep the American people in check,” and that the “entire concept of disclosure designed to shed light on special interests buying political favors had been flipped on its head.” Indeed, instead of the electorate gaining greater insight into the workings of government through increased disclosure, “disclosure is trained on the electorate,” with the government gathering extensive information on citizens’ political activities. In practice, this means that donors to conservative organizations whose names are made public are subject to intimidation by “social-justice warriors.” Strassel’s Intimidation is a bleak but essential tour of contemporary liberals’ affinity for repressing free speech…(read more)
Source: City Journal
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