Bob Ehrlich: Yesterday's Liberals Would Have Screamed Bloody Murder at Today's Censorship Regime


What do the following storylines have in common?

  • Fifty-one former federal intelligence officials claim the Hunter Biden laptop story has all the “classic earmarks” of a Russian disinformation campaign.
  • The FBI warns Twitter executives that reporting on the laptop story would “violate [Twitter’s] terms of service.”
  • Twitter suspends the New York Post’s Twitter account because the outlet had reported the laptop story.
  • The Biden administration proposes a “Disinformation Governance Board” to combat disinformation in the public square.
  • Senior leaders at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilize social media platforms to silence alternative opinions regarding the origin and treatment regimens for COVID-19.
  • [Insert name of college/university] cancels [insert name of conservative speaker] due to “increased security costs” allegedly associated with the event.
  • The FBI investigates angry parents in the aftermath of Loudon County, Virginia, school board protests in the fall of 2021.
  • Stanford University proposes an “index of forbidden words” aimed at the elimination of “harmful language” in campus documents. (The initiative is presently on hold after an avalanche of negative media coverage following its public dissemination.)
  • Administrators at Clovis Community College in Fresno, California, ban certain anti-communist posters from campus on the grounds that such messages made “several people … very uncomfortable.” (A federal judge subsequently barred the college from enforcing its campus poster policy.)
  • The Department of Homeland Security issues a “threat advisory” regarding “fake or misleading narratives” that feed the rising tide of right-wing “domestic terrorism.”

The obvious answer is, of course, speech suppression (much of it government-originated), a notion that not so long ago would have had our friends on the left and in the media (sorry for the redundancy) screaming bloody murder.

But times have changed — dramatically so.

Today, the speech-control tentacles of the nanny state are widely recognized as legitimate. To boot, few care to ask what used to be an obvious question: Who gets to define “misinformation” and what penalties should so-called offenders suffer?

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For most of my life, such a conversation would have been inconceivable. Indeed, the momentous protest movements of the ’60s and ’70s (civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war) were all about the right to dissent and resist government’s attempts to quell civil liberties.

We baby boomers — the generation that actually read “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Animal Farm” in high school — could never have envisioned a time when so many Americans (especially young people) would so willingly give up those rights at the insistence of Big Brother.

It’s all a head-scratcher for sure, but state sponsorship — or big business sponsorship, or big media sponsorship, or big academia sponsorship — of speech suppression has no upside.

Is freedom of speech in peril?

A liberty-based country would assuredly recognize this, but today’s campus-inspired progressive influences have significantly shifted the cultural goalposts when it comes to individual rights.

I do not say all of this in order to depress you, but more importantly to issue a challenge. Ask yourself: What could be more important than educating your children on the Bill of Rights, especially that extraordinary first one the framers (and, until recently, bona fide liberals) felt so strongly about?

Maybe, just maybe, the gathering storm better known as parent power will get the job done.

The bottom line: It is time to speak out… and take back our civil liberties.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.