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shut up, they explained
Jenkins interrupted: “Excuse me, you’re not allowed to admonish members of this court…You are not allowed to attack members of this court.” And then police removed Stein from the room — physically, grabbing his arms and leading him out.
Now, related: With thanks to Sage Hana for pointing this out, Emerald Robinson has just described a series of specific FBI investigations, post-NSBA letter, of parents (and politicians) who complained about local school boards or school policies. School officials submitted federal law enforcement complaints about parents who engaged in possible domestic terrorism — by, for example, saying publicly that they disagree with vaccine mandates.
I’ve written previously about school boards with a no personal criticism policy for public comment, and about school board leaders who order people to stop speaking if they don’t like their comments:
Meanwhile, as I’ve written, the California legislature is likely to pass SB 1100, a bill that aims to make it easier to silence and eject people offering public comment before local legislative bodies — though it looks like language in the original version of the bill allowing local government to clear the room of the entire “disruptive” public, and hold an open session without a public presence, has been permanently removed. The authors of the bill have argued that a measure to ease the ejection of the public from local government meetings will allow those governments to prevent the “bullying” of elected officials. Remember, if you criticize elected officials too vigorously, that’s being mean, and being mean isn’t allowed:
So the pattern is abundantly clear: Government officials, even at the most local levels of government, regard the public as a nuisance, and believe — in increasingly open ways — that citizens can’t criticize them. School board members, and members of city councils, and members of county governing boards, now routinely assert as principle the premise that, as Alex Stein heard from the Dallas County Commissioners Court, “you’re not allowed to admonish members of this court.”
This is high school civics, or at least pre-woke high school civics: Yes, you can criticize government officials. This is an unremarkable claim. The Supreme Court concluded, in 1964, that we share “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”1
That’s it. That’s what we believe — that’s mainstream American political thought, a baseline value. Government officials who believe you can’t criticize them, and who regard public criticism of government officials as “disruption” or “bullying,” are extremists. They’re outside the mainstream. They’re also idiots, but whatever.
The fact that there are so many of them, now, believing with complete confidence that their places on suburban school boards and the like make them royalty who are above criticism by the peasantry below, is very odd, but it doesn’t change the point.
You can criticize government officials. They have no right to stop you. The police have no authority to enforce orders from the dais to stop citizens from criticizing the government, though we have seen that many are willing to do so.
This is a problem that requires confrontation, wherever you encounter government officials who claim the authority to halt criticism. Read this story about the outcome of one of these arrests. And speak up.
In that opinion, note what the court said about the Sedition Act of 1798:
Although the Sedition Act was never tested in this Court, the attack upon its validity has carried the day in the court of history. Fines levied in its prosecution were repaid by Act of Congress on the ground that it was unconstitutional. See, e.g., Act of July 4, 1840, c. 45, 6 Stat. 802, accompanied by H.R.Rep. No. 86, 26th Cong., 1st Sess. (1840). Calhoun, reporting to the Senate on February 4, 1836, assumed that its invalidity was a matter "which no one now doubts." …Jefferson, as President, pardoned those who had been convicted and sentenced under the Act and remitted their fines, stating:
"I discharged every person under punishment or prosecution under the sedition law because I considered, and now consider, that law to be a nullity, as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image."
…These views reflect a broad consensus that the Act, because of the restraint it imposed upon criticism of government and public officials, was inconsistent with the First Amendment.