"Not a Meeting That Belongs to the Public"
We’re living through a bizarre epidemic of shaming and silencing, a crisis in which governments now routinely assert as a given that dissent is illegitimate and criticism of elected officials is akin to domestic terrorism. Standing at the culmination of 300 years of natural rights ideology and a Lockean pluralism that has functioned for centuries as a cultural presumption, we get this:
The framing in the tweet buries the lede, which is that an elected official in the United States of America believes that a public session of a government board “is not a meeting that belongs to the public.”
And, I mean, how many examples do you have time for? Here’s a school board in Pennsylvania shouting, “You’re done!” at citizens who disagree with or criticize the board:
Here’s the president of a school board in California muttering “fuck you” into a hot mic after a critical comment from a parent:
Here’s a parent in Virginia being tackled and arrested by sheriff’s deputies after trying to address his local school board about the sexual assault of his own daughter in a school bathroom:
Here’s another parent being silenced by a different school board in Virginia after reading aloud from books available in school libraries:
Here’s a citizen being forcibly removed from a school board meeting in Florida for doing the same — reading passages from a book available in school libraries:
I’ll stop there, even though the examples go on, because you get the point. Government officials now routinely assert that disagreement and criticism are illegitimate, and they now routinely assert the power to prevent the expression of disagreement. The most colorful examples are from school boards because schools are closer to families than Congress or a governor1, but the reality — which can be seen with growing clarity — is that Americans somehow have governments that matter-of-factly reject the idea that dissent is allowed.
The repeated and not-terribly-subtle assertion of a right to silence the public calls for a very particular response with important historical roots, the details of which lead us quickly into areas of moral and tactical danger. I’ll start from this point tomorrow.
And school board members tend to be self-righteous finger-waggers, but whatever.