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Politics Disintegrating into Gotcha Moments

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Before the politically correct crowd started criticizing free speech constantly, you rarely heard about gaffes by politicos. Now the news is full of them. The left figured out that by labeling more and more speech as “hate” and “intolerant,” they could take down figures out the right without ever actually debating them on the merits of issues. Remarks that no one blinked an eye at 25 years ago have become taboo. News sites are full of articles reporting on someone’s offensive tweet, Facebook post or comments they made years ago. It gets tiresome.


Anyone even slightly in the public eye can be a target. If you’re just a low-level journalist on the right with merely a thousand followers on Twitter, and you groggily wake up in the middle of the night, not thinking through a tweet very carefully, you can expect to have that tweet follow you around the rest of your career. Someone will create a Wikipedia page for you and that tweet will be featured prominently along with everything you’ve worked hard for your entire life. Articles written about you in the future will bring up that tweet. Google your name and articles about that tweet will show up at the top of search results indefinitely. The thousands of clever tweets you have written don’t matter, no one paid any attention to you until the one tweet the left deemed insensitive.

Since these types of incidents make great clickbait, they are pushing out reporting on real news. Because Trump isn’t politically correct, and likes to tweet snarky things, he’s regularly targeted in the news. Instead of analyzing the merits of what he’s saying, the media focuses on the way he said it. A tweet about former FBI Director James Comey is picked apart for its “insensitivity,” instead of analyzing the validity of the accusations. It’s part of the reason Trump has coined the phrase “fake news” to refer to the biased news media. They’re creating news where there shouldn’t be any. Referring to Comey as a “slime ball” is something you would hear in a regular conversation. There isn’t anything controversial about it. But if a politico says it and the media finds out, it becomes a deep offense. 


This is a dangerous double standard. A low-level journalist is held to a far higher standard than the general public. Considering the low wages of journalists, it’s not really fair. Especially considering one gaffe can be career ending. Journalism is synonymous with free speech. It is self-defeating to box them into an increasingly narrow realm of free speech. 

What’s considered unacceptable keeps changing. It is impossible to stay abreast of morally relative standards. The left has made certain types of remarks about every political topic taboo. Abortion? Can’t say anything about punishing the mother. The Democrats’ favorite GOP Senator John McCain? Can’t discuss him dying. LGBT? Better not say anything at all! 

However unfair, it’s a clever strategy. The left is slowly boxing the right into a very narrow area of acceptable free speech. The right won’t even be able to defend its positions because they are being included in the list of offensive statements. For example, the right generally does not believe that man causes global warming. But anyone who speaks up with this position is ridiculed as a “climate change denier.” It is difficult for scientists who take this position to find jobs with NASA and other science related agencies. They’re being pushed out. 

There’s no end in sight. Conservatives need to push back and defend free speech. While it may be refreshing to catch the left in gaffes, the major news sites aren’t covering them and they don’t end up in Wikipedia entries. There are also fewer incidents, because the left has created the rules in this game and specifically targeted conservative viewpoints. Conservatives can’t win playing by the left’s rules. Fight back by pointing out how mean the left is tearing people down for free speech and destroying their lives and careers. Every time a conservative is attacked over something they said (unless it’s clearly offensive, such as a racist remark), there should be a concerted effort to denounce the attack. Just because you wouldn’t have said it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be defended. We have to stop the slippery slope now, before even more opinions are labeled offensive.  



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