Black Lives Matter Pin = Jail. Speech Threats Still Top Down

Ever since “political correctness” jumped into mainstream public discourse as first a threat against higher education, then against free speech everywhere, and – with Trump’s campaign – a threat against the very security of our nation, I’ve been making one argument: Power matters.

  • Mostly, it’s not a problem when marginalized people ask for others to use less pejorative language.
  • Mostly, it’s not a problem when people ask to be warned before confronted with traumatic or upsetting words and images.
  • When it is problematic, or even just annoying, it only becomes a speech issue when coupled with a power dynamic that enforces language edicts.
  • Such power is most likely to reside among conservative (political and cultural) forces in our society.
Example: Professor Melissa Click at Mizzou was way out of line confronting a reporter. But power resides in the conservative legislature that attacked her and got her fired.
Example: The Dixie Chicks get blacklisted for saying they are ashamed of President Bush, but conservative country folks (or rockers like Ted Nugent) seem to be doing fine, no matter how much obscenity they fling at Obama.

Attorney Andrea Burton was defending a client in court this past Friday, when JudgeRobert Milich of the Youngstown Municipal Court noticed her wearing a Black Lives Matter pin the size of a nickel. He asked her to remove the pin but she refused, resulting in Milich instructing the bailiffs to take Burton into custody for contempt.According to a news report from WKNB First News, Burton was forced to leave her client behind.

That’s what censorship looks like – the power of the state being used to limit freedom of speech.

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