The snowflakes are at it again with their attacks on free speech and rampant thought policing – actual policing, in this case. An activist from the women’s protest group Code Pink has been arrested, charged and convicted, for laughing at the Attorney General.
Yes, you read that right. Desiree Fairooz was convicted along with two of her Code Pink colleagues for disrupting the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January. Fairooz’s specific crime is her reaction to a statement from one Senator that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented”. She laughed. And now she faces jail time. In fact, all three women could be jailed now they have been found guilty of “disorderly conduct” and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds”.
This is the side of the free speech debate that never gets mentioned when over-zealous college students are disinviting controversial speakers from campuses and boycotting celebrities for their provocative comments. No-platforming has serious risks (universities are, after all, meant to be places of discourse and debate), but banned speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Katie Hopkins do not face arrest and imprisonment when a college decides they do not want them to speak there. They are free to air their views on TV, on the radio, online or in print, without fearing the police – thought or otherwise – will turn up at their door. They have the freedom to speak, just not always the right to a receptive audience to listen.
In contrast, Desiree Fairooz was exercising her right to express her discontent with Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General, on behalf of Code Pink. She and her colleagues attended the hearing to protest silently but visibly, wearing bright pink and holding signs saying things like “End Racism, Stop Sessions”. That is an entirely legitimate political act, regardless of whether or not you agree with it. A Senator made a statement she found ridiculous, and she laughed. Fairooz said her laugh was little more than a giggle, while prosecutors claim it was loud and disruptive, but either way, no one has suggested she was being threatening, aggressive or inflammatory. In fact, as protests go, it was rather tame – especially compared to crowds of Trump supporters during his campaign rallies chanting (about Hillary Clinton) “Lock her up” and “Hang that bitch”. To my knowledge, none of them face charges.
If you care about free speech – really care about it, rather than using it as an excuse to scold hyper-active students – then the conviction of Fairooz and the other two women is chilling. There can be no question that an activist committing a similar “crime” during the confirmation hearing of one of President Obama’s nominees would never face such charges. Whether you agree with Fairooz or not, nobody should face prison for expressing how they feel. There is a difference between being demonised in the court of public opinion (as many controversial speakers claim they have been after airing unpopular views) and being convicted by an actual court for having an opinion.
This is what the free speech debate has come to in Trump’s America. We should all be terrified.