Port: It’s freedom of speech, not freedom from speech

MINOT -- Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump tried to hold a rally in Chicago recently but it had to be canceled after it was mobbed by angry left-wing protesters.Maybe you heard about it.According to reports, the Trump supporters c...


MINOT - Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump tried to hold a rally in Chicago recently but it had to be canceled after it was mobbed by angry left-wing protesters.
Maybe you heard about it.
According to reports, the Trump supporters called the protesters “communists” probably because a lot of them are supporters of self-identified socialist Bernie Sanders.
The protesters, for their part, called the Trump supporters “fascists.”
We more reasonable observers wondered why they couldn’t both be right.
I can’t imagine two groups of people who deserve each other more than Trump’s angry populists and Bernie’s pampered college-aged whiners. They’re more alike than they realize, especially when it comes to free speech issues.
Some were quick to defend Trump in the aftermath of the canceled Chicago rally. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer wrote in a guest post for that the candidate shouldn’t be blamed for the thuggish actions of his critics.
“Political rally disrupters are not the creation of Donald Trump, and his Republican rivals for President should stop saying they are,” Cramer wrote. “For the three elected Republicans to blame Trump for violence committed by liberal Chicago thugs is like Barack Obama blaming U.S. exceptionalism for radical Islamic terrorism.”
In a vacuum, Cramer has a point, but we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in the real world where Trump has frequently encouraged similar thuggish behavior from his supporters toward hecklers at his events. Trump has said he’s considering paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker punched a protester.
Hardly the actions of a man qualified to claim the moral high ground against the Chicago protesters.
Not that they should get the moral high ground either.
The reaction to Trump from Sanders supporters - it was prominent Sanders supporter Ja’Mal Green who organized the Chicago protests - has become rote for the left when confronted with words of ideas they don’t like.
We need look no further than America’s campuses to see the truth of this.
When gay conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos visited the University of Pittsburgh recently he left offended students in tears. They organized therapy sessions for aggrieved dissenters after the event, and even accused Yiannopoulos of committing “real violence” with his words.
Just to be clear, all the guy did was give a speech.
Something similar happened in Grand Forks recently. City councilman Bret Weber, who is also a faculty member at the University of North Dakota, told a meeting of citizens in September that they should look at ways of inhibiting a public event by anti-Islam speaker Usama Dakdok.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, one of Weber’s ideas was to use up all the parking spaces around Dakdok’s venue so that people would be discouraged from attending.
That’s indefensible. So was obstructing Trump’s rally. So is Trump condoning violence against protesters.
What lays at the root of these problems, I think, is that America has lost its sense of the free speech ideal. We aren’t debating the substance of speech any more. We’re debating whether or not the speech ought to be allowed at all.
We’ve gone from embracing our freedom to speak to touting some made-up right to be free from speech.
That, perhaps, is more troubling than any of the buffoons running for president this year.
Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator.

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