Opinion: Will the U.S. Democratic Party Ban Itself?

2020 may be the first year that truly needed a 24/7 news cycle for people to keep up with the onslaught of daily news. 2020 has also seen perhaps the greatest number of cultural iconography changes to statues, flags, named institutions, and even military bases. If we continue on present trends, the Democratic Party itself could be at risk of boycott or outright ban due to past misdeeds.

Sometimes this organization around removing negative influences can be a positive, though some will disagree. For example, in Lexington, KY, two confederate statues were standing tall over a former slave auction block near the middle of downtown that is today a popular gathering spot for live music and farmers’ markets. These statues were democratically removed after public debate and sent to a section of a local cemetery where Confederate soldiers from the U.S. Civil War were buried. I supported this at the time, and still do, because I felt that, if I were black, the combination of slave-promoting soldiers located in a former slave auction block that was supposed to be a modern gathering place could make me feel uncomfortable in my own city.

However, this week, after many agitators attacked and in some cases toppled statues from former Native-American slaughtering Democrat founder Andrew Jackson to abolitionist Republican founder Abraham Lincoln, and so many more (even British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill), it appears all history is under attack, with no room for human failures or redemption.

Despite the failure of “three strikes and you’re out” criminal justice policies, the left today seemingly believes in “one strike and you’re out”. This is beginning to affect their own institutions and historical Democratic leaders. Princeton University just voted to remove the name of Democrat President Woodrow Wilson from its prestigious International Relations school because of his “racist views”, despite the fact that his policies as U.S. President led to the eventual establishment of human rights globally that improved the lives of billions of people of all backgrounds. Former dean of the school and future Hillary Clinton appointee Anne-Marie Slaughter thought removing his name in 2015 was a “crazy decision”. The argument against removal is largely that, as leader of the university, he built Princeton into a serious research institution and did have a number of positive changes he brought to the world as President of the United States despite his many flaws by modern standards.

This removal ignores context, and if left unchecked, would conceivably end up targeting minority figures, such as W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP who through his sympathy with Marxists was even indicted in 1951 with being an unregistered agent of a foreign power; Martin Luther King, Jr. due to his alleged womanizing; as well as Malcolm X, who became a black supremacist and was racist against whites prior to his Hajj (religious trip) to Mecca.

Malcolm X (a.k.a. Malcolm Little, a.k.a. el-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz) in particular is a case study in analysis for this topic, as he was a bright young student, then a burglar and drug dealer, then prison faith leader, national black power advocate, and finally before his death, a true Muslim who rejected his prior racism. Should we ban his autobiography, a widely-regarded work that shows the power (and peril) of human redemption due to his early life human failures even after he repented these sins in later life? I would argue Malcolm’s autobiography, one that Time once called one of the most important non-fiction works of all time, has a powerful, transformative capability for readers, and could persuade the racist (or merely the judgmental) of the error of their ways, and could also be uplifting for those who believe their lives are lost; that even the lives of low-lifes, like Malcolm was in his youth, have value, and shows the capability of all to redeem their lives and positively impact the world. It also shows the dangerous, destructive power of racism. Should we ban individuals like Malcolm whom once held unpopular or even hateful opinions from the public sphere? Imagine what the world, and certainly black America, would have lost if Malcolm had been shunned early on for his prior failures and opinions.

Alternatively, should we do to Malcolm’s legacy what HBO Max has done with Gone with the Wind, removing the content and then later posting a discussion of context along with the film? This action to Gone with the Wind was somewhat akin to the video streaming equivalent of Roger Maris’ asterisk in Major League Baseball, acknowledging the achievements, but placing what is essentially a warning label about how to think about this work. What if the context is later seen to be out of date? Should we put context by the past context? Continually monitor and edit the labeled context for that day’s understood feelings on an issue? This is a bit much.

Perhaps the most reviled figure in human history is Adolf Hitler. His published works are still available to the public, and haven’t been banned. Why, particularly just after the Second World War when the memory of his atrocities was fresh in the minds of leaders and populaces globally, were his books not globally banned and perhaps even burned? Certainly, the argument for all speech to be heard and considered, no matter how vile, is often described best by a contemporary of Voltaire, Evelyn Hall, who described the famous Frenchman’s views on speech thus: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The American Bar Association views the First Amendment to the Constitution in this way: “The offensiveness of speech is not a factor—or, at least, shouldn’t be a factor—when deciding whether the First Amendment protects expression.”

Perhaps the best analogy during a global pandemic is this: banning speech because they introduce horrible ideas to our minds is somewhat akin to banning vaccines because they introduce horrible germs to the human body. Vaccines work by allowing the human body to develop defenses against that type of disease if introduced in the future. Similarly, allowing us to consider malevolent paradigms of the past can inoculate us from similar viewpoints of the future, and discussing such “negative” content can allow us to develop arguments that can defeat future “negative” ideas. This really is no different than a debate team studying the merits and flaws of the opposing argument in order to sharpen their own arguments.

Unchecked, this whitewashing of history will require human perfection of all of us, as judged by unknown future generations who may decide that our views, while possibly considered ethical or the majority viewpoints in our time, do not live up to future standards, and everyone, or nearly everyone today may be considered “racist, sexist, or some other unnamed “ist” and subjected to the scorn of people that we will never know, and without our more positive attributes or achievements balanced in.

This is clearly the beginning of a culture of censorship, which, as Arendt states in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951 – widely regarded as another of the 20th centuries best works), is the norm in monolithic political cultures, which have embraced genocide as a means of homogenization, such as Russia, China, and North Korea, as well as historical governments such as the Soviet Union, imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany, along with many other smaller regimes. As Arendt notes, Communist regimes have many of the same flaws as their fascist counterparts, a facet of totalitarianism that seems to have so far eluded the revolutionaries of the modern American left, many of whom couch the rationale for their actions against the imaginary fascist foe that they seem to wish the right was.

Democratic governments, alternatively, such as the United States and the United Kingdom that have caused genocide in past generations, have through the party system, and balance of power, allowed the diversity of thought necessary to confront the decisions of past generations, and decided collectively that these were not appropriate decisions, and either legislatively, judicially, or through executive order refused to continue to operate in the same way; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS being one particularly poignant example of redemptive government policy. Typically, we have allowed historians to portray the individuals making these decisions in their full light, balancing their blemishes against their more progressive (in the early 20th century sense) decisions.

The danger is not only to white culture, or American, or even Western culture. Recent calls to remove a statue of Indian independence leader Gandhi have accelerated in Britain, and a statue in Ghana was removed. Racism was a very pronounced flaw globally in the 20th century, from Japan whose people were racist against all non-ethnically Japanese people, to the U.S. where there were anti-white, anti-Chinese, anti-Italian, anti-Irish, anti-black, etc, to the Soviet Union which cast itself as anti-racist (which was itself racism of the “white man’s burden” variety) but was racist (and still is) against non-ethnic Russians, Brazil which embraced its miscegenation, but then blocked Asian and African migrants, and many other nations were ethnonationalist and ethnocentric at the time.

Recently, American corporations are being pressured to push social media companies and even news organizations, to censor speech, or content on their platform, to comport to a certain viewpoint. While Twitter has begun placing notifications of perceived abusive language on the president’s tweets, Facebook resisted the calls for censorship, which led advertisement companies to refuse ads on the platform due to their position. Facebook has since bowed to revenue and political pressure, changed its stance, and will now censor content. Unilever, a conglomerate corporation known for its corporate social responsibility, has decided to boycott ads on both Facebook and Twitter due to alleged tolerance of hate.

Similarly, The New York Times was forced to fire its opinion editor simply because he allowed a political viewpoint of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, who espoused a viewpoint that was considered wrong by many on the left, and “fascist” according to one New York Times op-ed that also stated “…there’s generally no way to defend the [Trump] administration without being either bigoted or dishonest.” Despite a largely well-reasoned article that demonstrates the liberal end of the current national political discourse, the quote within is the type of generalized, stereotyping, monolithic viewpoint that, by its nature, is arguably more fascist than the article she decries. Both parties use this broad brush more than they should. Fascism, socialism, and other totalitarian regimes commonly use censorship to eliminate the opposition. The New York Times is a prestigious institution, and its writers are highly educated, talented people who must know that censoring viewpoints, even those we don’t like, has a corrosive effect on democracy. The viewpoint that the other side is so bad it can’t be heard is elitist and condescending. Surely the readers of The New York Times are sophisticated enough to decide for themselves the merits of an argument.

By the ideals of many on the left today, The New York Times, various academic journals, Silicon Valley companies, individuals, and universities could be boycotted, banned, shunned, vandalized, or otherwise destroyed due to their past publication or propagation of controversial viewpoints. Let’s take it a step further: should the entire Democratic Party be outlawed for its past advocacy for, and participation in the genocide of Native Americans, their membership and support for the Ku Klux Klan, and their opposition to the suffrage rights of women? Famous women’s suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony could also be subject to their statues being torn down due to their racist refusal to allow black women to join their movement as their organizations were afraid allowing blacks would alienate women’s suffrage supporters in the southern states. Surely, the left would not agree to these outcomes. Moderate Democrats, news organizations, and others who stay silent during this censorship or support this “cancel culture” for temporary political expediency or lack of courage, you have been warned.

About Barry Saturday

The editor is based in Lexington, Kentucky and has spent a over a decade each in the fields of both finance and education. In addition to his financial and education licenses, Barry‘s education consists of a B.A. in Foreign Languages and International Economics, an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in Global Commerce, and a M.A. in Education, with certification in High School Social Studies. In 2012, he taught a two-month stint student teaching Economics to AP students in Xi'an, China, and has experience running for office, and ran for City Council in Lexington, KY. Barry feels that the vast majority of today's news outlets profit most from incendiary, surface-level appeals to emotion, which damages our political discourse nationwide. Barry created this site in order to learn more about our world and share that knowledge with others in a way that actually creates understanding of the issues in a succinct fashion. Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying in a letter that he would have kept it short if he had the time. Barry will try to do just that with his articles, giving you just what you need to learn the content, along with the important context. As with most news outlets, this site incorporates both objective news coverage, in-depth analysis, and opinion. All opinion articles will be labeled as such. Barry hopes this site, aimed at an educated audience, will provide objective information for those seeking greater clarity and understanding than is often available in the current news environment. If you like what you see, feel free to comment and share with your network.

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