‘Absolute nonsense’: 1st Amendment expert blasts Obama’s ‘free speech’ claim

Barack Obama (DNC video screenshot)

Barack Obama took America far into the shady territories of the left when he was president, taking over the nation’s health care system, lashing out at Christians as those who “cling” to their Bibles, and stating for the world American no longer was a Christian nation.

He’s also promoted himself as supporting free speech, calling himself a near-absolutist on the First Amendment.

“Absolute nonsense,” charges Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who has testified many times before Congress on constitutional issues.

He’s even represented members of Congress in court fights.

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“While claiming to be a First Amendment [near] absolutist, Obama has supported massive censorship on social media and called for the media to frame news to better educate citizens and shape public opinion,” Turley explained in a column. “For those of us in the free speech community, those positions make Obama’s recurring claim nothing short of absolute nonsense.”

He explained, “In an interview with The Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel, former President Barack Obama once again claimed that he is virtually a ‘First Amendment absolutist’ despite supporting censorship for years, including United Nations efforts to criminalize criticism of religion on a global scale. There are aspects of the Obama terms that I have praised, but his record on free speech is not one of them.”

Obama, in fact, supported a movement at the U.N. that would have criminalized – worldwide – anything that Muslims would consider a derogatory statement about Muhammad.

At the time, multiple proposals were made to make a criminal out of a Christian should that person say that Muhammad is not a prophet of Allah, or something similar.

The general movement failed, although those prosecutions still take place today in Muslim-majority nations.

Obama claimed he doesn’t believe even offensive speech should be regulated by the government.

“That is virtually identical to prior statements that ‘I’m pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist’ as he was arguing for social media censorship. Notably, Obama avoids calling himself a ‘near free speech absolutist.’ The distinction is key for Obama and others in supporting massive censorship while virtue signaling that they are tolerant of opposing views,” Turley said.

“The First Amendment is not synonymous with free speech. It is only a restriction on government action. As emphasized by groups like the ACLU, censorship by private companies is also an attack on free speech. As I discuss in my new book, The Indispensable Right, the greatest threat today to free speech is the alliance of government, academic, and business interests in censoring speech.”

He charged that Obama is fully aware of the nuances.

Obama, in fact, has said, “The First Amendment is a check on the power of the state. It doesn’t apply to private companies like Facebook or Twitter, any more than it applies to editorial decisions made by the New York Times or Fox News. Never has. Social media companies already make choices about what is or is not allowed on their platforms and how that content appears. Both explicitly through content moderation and implicitly through algorithms.”

But actually, Turley warned, Obama “has been no friend to the free speech community.”

“The effort to evade or obfuscate on the issue is common in the current anti-free speech period. However, as I testified before Congress, the level of government involvement and support for these corporate censorship programs could well violate even the First Amendment by creating a ‘censorship by surrogate’ approach,” he said. “Later, that is precisely what a federal court found in issuing an injunction against the administration. Chief U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty found that the evidence overwhelmingly shows systematic violation of the First Amendment by the Biden administration.”

He noted Doughty’s conclusion that government assumed “a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.'”

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