Common Cause has always presented itself as a centrist sensible liberal organization, advocating evolution not revolution. Its leaders cross party lines and advocate democratic principles, which have traditionally included the open marketplace of ideas. It proudly proclaims its commitment to "empowering voices to be heard."
The organization distinguishes itself from the radical left, which has a history of advocating free speech for me but not for thee — free speech for the left but censorship for the right. Not so, Common Cause. Until now, it has advocated free speech for all as an important part of democratic governance.
The culture of free speech — "empowering voices to be heard" — transcends the First Amendment, which is applicable only to state action: that is action taken by governmental entities.
The culture of free speech, however, extends to private institutions as well, such as non-public universities, large corporations and the increasingly influential social media.
Now, Common Cause has broken with its past defense of free speech culture and has demanded that Facebook and presumably other platforms, censor Donald Trump and possibly his followers, supporters and enablers. Here is what they have said:
"Trump Cannot be allowed back on Facebook. Donald Trump abused his wide reach on social media for months to spread baseless – and as we saw on January 6th, dangerous – lies about our election.
"He repeatedly violated Facebook’s civic integrity rules and jeopardized our entire democracy. But as of now, Facebook has only ‘indefinitely suspended’ Trump’s account – and they may be on the cusp of letting him back onto the platform.
"We can’t let Facebook give Trump another opportunity to mislead voters and stroke chaos on its website. Sign the Petition: Tell Face book to permanently ban Donald Trump.
"Now, Facebook has created a new Oversight Board that will review its decision to ban Trump – and the most impactful thing that this board can do it decide to make that ban permanent. The team at Facebook urgently needs to hear from consumers like you and me. I hope you’ll speak out today. Thanks for all you do.
"Common Cause Team."
Common Cause, of course, is entitled to its views under the First Amendment. So too, is the social media. They can pick and choose whomsoever they want to post, censor, edit or warn about. That is their legal right. But critics of private censorship have the right to condemn them for choosing the way of they censor the marketplace of ideas.
I am one such critic. I defend the legal right of Common Cause to demand censorship by the social media and I defend the right of the social media to engage in selective censorship, but I reserve my own moral and political right to condemn both Common Cause and social media for depriving citizens of the right to hear even outrageous and wrong-headed views.
I trust our citizens to use their own common sense in deciding what to believe or disbelieve, while fully understanding the dangers of circulating false information.
The Big Lie sometimes gets believed. But what is worse than the Big Lie being believed is the censor denying us the right to decide what to believe or disbelieve.
I am shocked that Common Cause, which is devoted to the pursuit of democratic principles, is so frightened of the open marketplace of ideas that it feels the need to demand that some ideas not be made available on social media.
Nor is Common Cause alone among liberals in calling for selective censorship against Trump and his supporters. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times has called on advertisers to boycott Fox and other media that support Trump and his "fellow travelers" (remember that term from McCarthyism?) "at Fox, OANN and Newsmax."
He has also called on cable companies to drop Fox News from basic cable TV packages.
This is right out of the Joe McCarthy play book with its "red channels" and "Hollywood blacklist."
And this from a liberal who claims to be opposed to "cancel culture"; and "liberal intolerance."
His own liberal tolerance seems to end with Fox and Newsmax, which he distinguishes from CNN and Rachel Maddow, which he says merely "make mistakes," but don’t deliberately spin "nonsense into ratings gold!"
Why not let the market place decide what is nonsense?
We don’t need private or public censors, liberals or conservatives, telling us what to believe.
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Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "Guilt by Accusation" and "The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump." Read Alan Dershowitz's Reports — More Here.
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