Those who scoff at conservatives who publicly acknowledge that tyrannical government is at least capable of infringing on American civil liberties need to look no further than what’s happening across the pond. Sadly, Great Britain’s political leaders have reportedly lost their spines, agreeing to stringent “new press regulations” without so much as a fight. These rules and guidelines will effectively end freedom of the press in the United Kingdom as we know it. Charles C.W. Cooke reports:
[L]ondon, once the undisputed center of the free world, has fallen to the dull charms of cheap censorship. For the first time since 1711, it seems that the state will regulate the media. Those famous words that open the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law,” written by men whose commitment to British liberty was so unshakable that they broke with the crown in order to preserve it explicitly in the republic that they had made, are the last vestige of a classical-liberal order that once looked impregnable. The Commonwealth is in a sorry state: In Canada, the Supreme Court is so happy for the government to silence the people that it has ruled that the truth constitutes no defense; Australia’s government is following the ugly trail of the Leveson inquiry, Britain’s investigation of the press; and in New Zealand the march toward outlawing all “hate speech” continues. And what of England my England? My country now imprisons people for being offensive on Twitter and arrests students who call police horses “gay,” stifles politically incorrect expression, and has found a majority of the political class willing to regulate the press. Only America retains ironclad prohibitions that remain unbroken by the vandals.
It certainly seems that way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the gun grabbers, the civility police, and government bureaucrats won’t try to delegitimize our so-called “living” Constitution. If anything, what unites the libertarian and conservative movements (and there is much that does) is that both schools of thought recognize that the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are timeless. Indeed, they apply to all mankind in all times -- including our own. The language of the Bill of Rights is explicit; there is no room for “compromising” or “negotiating.” And frankly, to lose any of our God-given rights -- as conservative author Eric Metaxas recently phrased it when speaking about religious liberty in particular -- is to lose America.
As we’re seeing in Great Britain, the road to tyranny and authoritarianism in our own country will not come in one fell swoop. It will not come quickly. It will be a slow, protracted process. But over time, as more and more Americans watch with blank indifference as their rights are slowly but surely stripped away, liberty will be lost. This is what one might call the so-called “death by a thousand cuts” paradigm.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite speeches. The late Christopher Hitchens was a committed atheist who loathed organized religion, of course, but he nevertheless spoke eloquently and persuasively about the importance of free expression. I only wish he were still here defending it; let us hope others will carry the torch:
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