Controlling the Narrative: The systematic death of free speech in America

By Taylor MacHenry

While India may today celebrate its so-called “democracy,” according to its own definition of modern India’s “democratic” government, it sags heavily with socialist tyranny. Such as controlling the press, ensuring that the narrative supports the government’s agenda, and that controlled narrative is the only perspective of India’s government that the people see and hear.

Not a lot different than the controls on media enforced by communist states such as the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or as the Russian Federation continues currently with authorized media vehicles like Russia Today. India’s controlled political narrative is as communist China and North Korea likewise do today.

(See referenced article, Columbia Journalism Review, February 5, 2021, The Media Today, India Cracks Down on Journalism, Again, by Jon Allsop)

After all, the first victim of tyranny is free speech. This includes a free press and the people’s freedom to peacefully assemble and express dissent against their governments.

Today, in America, we see an increased and often casually overt effort by the ruling powers of government to likewise control, if not popularize the narrative by stifling voices of dissent. This repression of dissent finds blind and willing collusion among the so-called American free press that today appears to voluntarily help control the narrative, spinning a version of truth that supports the ruling political power’s agenda.

To voice words of criticism of policy or political ideals of the ruling power, to disagree with any perspective, or to express dissent against the system today, that person who fails to see the world as the narrative says we should see it finds himself or herself branded despicable, deplorable, labeled with insults such as bully, Nazi, bigot, racist, domestic terrorist and worse. All for simply uttering dissent against those in power who now control the public agenda and narrative.

For example, the Biden Administration ordered an investigation of Major Andrew Calvert, an Army chaplain with the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, after he made a dissenting comment critical of a change in Defense Department policy on the Army Times’ Facebook page. The chaplain suggested that someone who is transgender is mentally unfit for military service, responding to an Army Times article about President Joe Biden’s executive order to drop the ban against allowing transgender people to openly serve in the military.

Major Calvert wrote, “How is rejecting reality not evidence that a person is mentally unfit, and thus making that person unqualified to serve? There is little difference in this than over those who believe and argue for a ‘flat earth,’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The motivation is different, but the argument is the same. This person is a Med-Board for Mental Wellness waiting to happen. What a waste of military resources and funding!”

Bear in mind that Chaplain Calvert did not direct his word at any person, but at a policy change directed by President Biden.

Major Jefferson Grimes, Public Affairs Officer for the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade issued the following statement after Chaplain Calvert’s post on the Army Times Facebook page stirred attention from on high: “Major Calvert’s social media post on the Army Times Facebook page is currently under investigation. We support the Commander in Chief, Secretary of Defense and all DoD policies and directives.”

Grimes added, “We are soldiers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that means always treating others with dignity and respect. This includes online communication. We direct our soldiers to Think, Type, Post when engaging in conversations on social media platforms and to follow DoD policies and regulations. When our online conduct does not follow these rules and regulations, we investigate and hold individuals accountable if they are found to be in violation.”

What is damning about the official government statement made by Major Grimes is that everything that a soldier says on social media must follow the government’s rules and regulations, and “when our online conduct does not follow these rules and regulations, we investigate and hold individuals accountable if they are found to be in violation.”

While all people in military service fall under rules of good order and discipline, those rules do not void a person in military service from retaining his or her rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. Military people must follow Lawful Orders, however, prohibiting Free Speech and Expression of Dissent when speaking as a private person, not speaking for an agency of the government, violates the First Amendment. No different than the government prohibiting that person from his or her free exercises of religious freedom, such as personal expressions of religious faith and exercises of prayer and worship.

This is not to confuse free speech and expressions of dissent with vulgarness, rudeness, insubordination or insults, nor of acts of violence or mutiny. Just as the Constitution provides for Free Speech, it likewise requires that freedom to gather and dissent to be peaceful and orderly. The right to free speech is not a right to riot or stand on the public square and shout profanity and obscenity.

Consider that all branches of the United States military services have privately operated foundations and affiliated organizations not part of the government or military command that publish journals and magazines aimed at audiences that include both leadership and rank and file service members. Active duty, reserve and retired officers and enlisted men and women, along with many civilians who have military interests, regularly author essays, articles and even commentary that is critical of military policy as well as critical of strategy and tactics and leadership. The Marines have Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck magazines, published by the Marine Corps Association and Historical Foundation. They encourage dissent and criticism of policy, strategy and tactics. Because quite often from criticism comes improvement.

In fact, Marines are noted for their freely expressed honest words that criticize or bring ideas to debate and greater critical examination.

In the past, numerous articles that were not only critical of policy but controversial in position were published and read by the highest among leaders as well as the broad base of Marines. Topics such as women serving in combat or in combat arms occupations addressed all sides of criticism as well as advocacy. A sharp contrast with today’s investigation of a Fort Hood chaplain who criticized a popular progressive left agenda carried out by executive order. He dared to express a dissenting opinion of a policy that could well disrupt the good order and discipline among the front-line combat organizations and affect the outcome of missions.

Another example of the government controlling the narrative and violating constitutional free speech appeared in the Denver Post on January 8, 2021, when University of Colorado at Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano chastised constitutional scholar, Professor John Eastman, for “spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud,” but, at that time, held short of firing the former Chapman University law professor.

Eastman teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus as a visiting scholar from Colorado’s Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization.

Professor John Eastman is not merely a constitutional scholar but a constitutional nerd who has spent his adult life as a scholar studying the Constitution and its legal and social impacts on the history of the United States. He is an outspoken conservative among a sea of avowed progressive liberals at the University of Colorado, Boulder. And he has a history of expressing his conservative perspective publicly and addressing it to large audiences that include appearing on national media.

(See referenced article: The Denver Post, January 8, 2021, CU Boulder won’t fire conservative scholar who spread “repugnant” conspiracy theories at D.C. rally)

However, following months of emotionally charged complaints, campus protests and boycotts of Professor Eastman among the largely progressive-left student body and faculty, then exacerbated by a controversial constitutional essay published in Newsweek magazine in August and further inflamed by Eastman’s pro-Trump words and appearance at the Trump rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC on January 6, the University of Colorado leadership finally banned Professor Eastman after cancelling all of his classes on January 13, 2021.

University leaders cited that no one on campus had enrolled in any of Eastman’s classes, therefore, they cancelled them. However, a week later, Chancellor DiStefano announced that the University of Colorado, Boulder had banned John Eastman from performing any outreach (public speaking) or speaking anywhere at the University for the duration of his association with the institution. Only recently, prior to his virtual firing, Professor Chapman officially resigned his tenured faculty position as a law professor at Chapman University, which would allow him to officially join the University of Colorado faculty.

On January 21 Andrew Sorensen, a University of Colorado, Boulder spokesman, issued this statement: “The University of Colorado Boulder relieved John Eastman of duties related to outreach and speaking as a representative of the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization. University officials determined Eastman’s continued pursuit of these duties would likely be disruptive and damage the interests of the campus and the Benson Center.”

(See referenced article: Forbes, January 23, 2021, University of Colorado Takes Action Against John Eastman)

While technically retaining Eastman on faculty at the Benson Center, the university leadership has formally silenced Professor Eastman. His narrative sharply disagrees with the university’s own narrative and agenda. So much for free speech and freedom of diverse thought at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Since the university, as a state-owned public institution, is a branch of the State of Colorado government, it represents a government action that silences a voice that often criticizes politically left ideals, because his dissent and critical commentary disagrees with the progressive left agenda. The government shut up Professor John Eastman to control the left-dominant university narrative, citing his words as damaging and “disruptive.”

It does not matter if the majority of students at the University of Colorado disagree with Eastman’s politics or ideals of Constitutional Law, the professor still has the right, protected by the First Amendment, to freely express his opinion in the public forum, such as he expressed in Newsweek magazine or at a Republican rally in Colorado or the one on January 6 at the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Eastman’s very presence on the Boulder campus immediately raised progressive left hackles. He is a person who voices strong conservative views, citing the United States Constitution as the superior law of the nation, and as Justice Antonin Scalia had held, Eastman agrees that “It says what it says, and does not say what it does not say.” However, the University of Colorado, Boulder is not a welcoming place for anyone who does not subscribe to the progressive left world view. Thus, in a sea of gasoline, he represented a thimble full of nitroglycerine and a match.

Igniting the first firestorm of campus controversy, Professor Eastman wrote an essay published on August 12, 2020 in Newsweek magazine. The constitutional scholar questioned whether vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was eligible to serve as Vice President because her parents were not born in the United States. In the essay, Eastman based his argument on the fact that while Harris was born in the United States, her parents resided in the United States on visas. Eastman questioned whether Harris’ parents were lawful permanent residents at the time of her birth, or were they merely temporary visitors?

(See referenced opinion article: Newsweek, August 12, 2020, Opinion: Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility, by John C. Eastman, Professor of Law, Chapman University and Senior Fellow, Claremont Institute)

The constitutional argument addressed at Harris stems from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that states, “…all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.”

The question raised by Eastman and other constitutional scholars and lawyers alike, asks if this 14th Amendment clause includes visitors who are not residents of the United States and others who live in the United States illegally? The United States Supreme Court has not addressed this question, nor has it issued any clarifying opinions. Thus, the debate continues.

After a wave of highly vocal outcries against the opinion essay written by Eastman, on August 14, Newsweek editors, trying to divest themselves from the article published two days prior, apologized for publishing Eastman’s opinion, and said:

“This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize. The essay, by John Eastman, was intended to explore a minority legal argument about the definition of who is a “natural-born citizen” in the United States. But to many readers, the essay inevitably conveyed the ugly message that Senator Kamala Harris, a woman of color and the child of immigrants, was somehow not truly American.”

Newsweek editors did not say that Professor Eastman had expressed any racist or xenophobic views but had addressed the question of citizenship of a child born in the United States of parents who are not citizens but reside in the United States as visitors or as illegal immigrants. However, the inflammatory words, Racist and Xenophobe had now surfaced. Thus, Professor Eastman automatically received the racist and xenophobe brand too.

This despite the fact that Professor Eastman’s opposing editorial opinion had addressed the question of citizenship based on matters of legal argument. A debate that continues today and will likely finally find argument before the United States Supreme Court for resolution. However, to suggest that perhaps vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a woman of color and daughter of immigrant parents, might not qualify as Vice President, to the progressive left represented racist bigotry and xenophobia. How dare he even raise the question?

On August 24, 2020, an article published in The Denver Post described the upheaval stirred on the Boulder campus resulting from the published article that brought outcries against Professor Eastman. They accused him of floating a conspiracy theory akin to the so-called, “Birther” accusations leveled against President Barak Obama by then presidential candidate Donald Trump and many other strong-right leaning conservatives.

Chancellor DiStefano wrote in a faculty memorandum distributed by email that Monday (August 17) following the Newsweek publication of Eastman’s essay, “Even if he did not intend it, Professor Eastman’s op-ed has marginalized members of our CU Boulder community and sown doubts in our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equality and inclusion.”

In fact, Newsweek even said that Eastman did not express racist or xenophobic views, but that his op-ed essay was being used as a tool by some to perpetuate racism and xenophobia.

Interestingly, the Newsweek opinion essay credits did not cite Professor Eastman’s association with the University of Colorado, Boulder nor with Colorado’s Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, but cited his credentials as “Professor of Law, Chapman University and Senior Fellow, Claremont Institute.”

One must wonder how the publication of Eastman’s essay in Newsweek sullied the reputation of the University of Colorado when it nor the Benson Center do not have mention in the article or in Eastman’s credentials or professional citations. Thus, one must conclude that the University of Colorado used the admonition to try and gag Eastman from publicly expressing his opinions which do not support the university’s political tilt. A preemptive step to silence his dissent.

Citing Professor Eastman’s right to free speech, Chancellor DiStefano wrote: “Without minimizing those harms, and recognizing that we must repair that trust, I must speak to those who have asked whether I will rescind Professor Eastman’s appointment or silence him. I will not, for doing so would falsely feed a narrative that our university suppresses speech it does not like and would undermine the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom that make it possible for us to fulfill our mission.”

However, the actions against Professor Eastman stand in stark contradiction to Chancellor DiStefano’s statement. Judging from the matters of fact and historical record, it appears that the University of Colorado, Boulder does suppress speech that it does not like, thus undermining (utterly quashing) the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom. The Chancellor’s words clearly do not align with the university’s actions against Professor Eastman, which stand testament to the University of Colorado’s suppression of free speech and academic freedom.

As to Professor Eastman’s response after reading Chancellor DiStefano’s email, in which the Chancellor had said that Eastman’s argument for Ms. Harris’ potential ineligibility did not align with the Constitution, Eastman said that it seemed to him that perhaps Chancellor DiStefano has never read the original debates about the Constitution’s citizenship clause.

Professor Eastman commented to The Denver Post, when interviewed about the controversy, spurring the CU Buffalo even harder, “That seems to me to be an admission that he (DiStefano) has not read the original materials himself, nor the significant amount of scholarship that has come to the same conclusion (that) I have. Pity. He might have learned that there is a serious constitutional dispute here, one that remains unresolved by the Supreme Court.”

Then on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day that thousands of conservative protesters gathered on The National Mall in Washington, DC, the same day that some of the people in the protest moved on the United States Capitol, broke across barriers and violently laid siege to the Capitol Building and Halls of Congress, Professor Eastman spoke at a rally in support of President Donald Trump on the National Mall. In Eastman’s remarks, he alleged that there was widespread voter fraud in the November 3, 2020 election and in the January 5, 2021 runoff election in Georgia. Millions of people who voted for President Trump share this viewpoint.

Following the protests and riot in Washington, DC, Chancellor DiStefano again criticized Professor Eastman for his public statements but stopped short of firing Eastman for his remarks: Expressions that the majority of students and faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder regarded as advocating conspiracy theories. They demanded that the Chancellor fire Eastman for his inflammatory public statements.

Even though not firing Eastman at that time but later virtually firing him by silencing his voice on or off campus, Chancellor DiStefano spoke harshly against the conservative Constitutional scholar and said, “His (Eastman’s) continued advocacy of conspiracy theories is repugnant, and he will bear the shame of his role in undermining confidence in the rule of law.”

These two instances serve as examples of the government Controlling the Narrative to support the ideals of the ruling agenda. If anyone raises a voice or publishes words against them, they punish and ridicule those voices of dissent.

In India, police shot and killed a protester who spoke in dissent of the government while on the same day the government celebrated its “democracy.” The Indian media published the official statement that the protester, twenty-five-year-old farmer, Navreet Singh, had died during the protest because of a so-called, “tractor accident.”

Tyrants and dictators control the narrative and quash dissent, either with a bullet shot from a policeman’s gun or by gagging the outspoken voice while he or she suffers through powerful ridicule and shame hurled by the minions of that tyrant who sit in positions of power and control the public narrative with it, serving the national agenda.

For tyrants, the press is the handmaiden of government. Free speech represents the narrative supporting the agenda that they control.

 ©Copyright 2021 Charles W. Henderson