Hello this is Darrell Castle with today’s Castle Report. Today I will be talking to you about the importance of freedom of speech and how that freedom is under threat as never before in America.
Freedom of speech in the Constitution
The first amendment to the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So Congress is prohibited from denying our right to speak freely, and later amendments apply that prohibition to the states as well.
The people who founded this government, who drafted the Constitution, and ratified it, understood how important freedom of speech really is. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.”
Denial of freedom of speech today
I suppose then that we are on our way like sheep to the slaughter because the freedom to speak freely is routinely denied in America. The term “freedom of speech” has been the subject of constitutional litigation for most of my lifetime but it is simpler than some make it. One could sum it up by just saying that it is the right to publicly state what others, especially those in power, would rather not hear.
The problem today is determining whether the censorship of speech is coming from a government or private source. The wholesale denial of our right to speak has had a chilling effect on those who value freedom but unfortunately many in both the public and private worlds do not value freedom at all. It is getting harder and harder to tell the private corporations, especially those in Silicon Valley, from the government. It is unfortunately not just private companies such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Google that de-platform individuals denying them the ability to speak and thus to earn a living.
A chilling public-private partnership
It has only been a few years since people in America would have been shocked to learn that your ability to speak could depend on your politics. Today, our way of life, in America, at least the one we have always known, is under attack. Those who would deny us the right to express our opinion and to profit from our own intellectual property and labor apparently want to replace the American system with something of their own choosing, something they find acceptable. Is the issue of freedom of speech connected to the government’s abuse of power, violation of law and due process with regard to government efforts censor lawful businesses that do not fit within its desired political perspective.
I am saying they are connected so let me explain what I mean. We know now that this censorship and denial of the right to express our opinions and to earn a living is not being conducted by only private corporations. That alone would be bad, but it’s actually a lot worse. Beginning with the Obama administration around 2013 the United States Justice Department implemented a program labeled “Operation Chokepoint.” Apparently that administration could not attain its political goals through legitimate legislation passed by congress because the will of the people would not permit it, but the all knowing government decides what is best for us. I suppose they think we are like children without the maturity to understand what is in our own best interest and what is not.
In any event Operation Chokepoint targeted businesses the government found “unsavory” by cutting off their access to banks and credit cards. Some of these businesses included gun stores, ammunition shops, fireworks stores, small dollar lenders, and certain home based charities. It has also been revealed that these are the same practices behind the censorship of certain voices on social media that come to the attention of the government and their counterparts in the private world.
The media assists the government in its efforts to break the law by telling us the government’s practices are absolutely necessary for our safety and well-being. Publications such as The New York Times tell us that banks finance mass shootings by doing business with such unsavory people. So, the message seems to be; look simpletons, people buy things with credit cards. The credit card companies and their banks should be held accountable if people buy lawful goods and use them to do bad things, therefore we, the government must step in. A recent article in American Banker refused to downplay the government’s intrusion into the lives and activities of legitimate business and explains it quite well.
Operation Choke Point was real, and it exceeded legal limits. Overwhelming evidence, in the form of more than 900 pages of newly unsealed emails and depositions, proves government officials illegally targeted lawful business in an ideological crusade based on personal disdain. If there were other reasons at play, these regulators would not have needed to resort to backroom pressure tactics, including threatening the jobs of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation officials and bank executives with criminal prosecution unless they cut off banking relationships with small-dollar lenders and other lawful businesses.
Highest levels of the Justice Department
This article in American Banker was published near the end of November 2018. The publication went on to accuse officials at the highest levels of the Justice Department, FDIC, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of the illegal targeting of bank customers based on their personal bias.
Highest levels of the Justice department, hmmm, I wonder who that could be. At the same time all this targeting and intimidation was going on, these officials publicly denied that it was happening. FDIC Atlanta Regional Director Thomas Dujenski wrote in an email according to new documents now revealed, “I literally cannot stand pay day lending”, and every bank under his supervision ultimately terminated their relationship with small dollar lenders. Those involved in Operation Chokepoint demonstrated a complete lack of regard for the rule of law and due process as well as the U.S. Regulatory system. The statements of prominent individuals in the regulatory agencies make their aim obvious—to make sure these companies were denied the ability to have access to banks which was the only way they could do business.
This is not a story about small dollar lending and whether it is good or bad. Instead this is a story about government officials abusing their power for ideological reasons. The personal prejudice of government officials became the basis for government regulation. They set out to end banking relationships between lawful companies and when discovered they attempted to cover it up.
Prosecution is in order
Rationalization cannot excuse what those at the highest levels have done and they should be prosecuted. Permitting what you don’t like, what you don’t want to hear, but is nevertheless lawful is the American system of freedom. It would be tempting, I suppose, if you were one of the guilty, to launch a groundless investigation with a corrupt Justice Department and corrupt FBI, into collusion with Russia to deflect attention from this and many other crimes even if you knew there was not a shred of evidence to support it.
In his book The Best Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz explains why the system must be forced to account and to follow the law even in cases the government assumes to be undesirable. He is talking about defense of criminal defendants but the lessons stated so well apply down the line. The government, with all its resources, such as police, FBI, Justice Department, thousands of regulatory agencies, all of which, along with many others, have the power to investigate you and send you to prison whether you are guilty or not. If you do not actually go to prison your life could be ruined, your family destroyed, your finances destroyed, your job lost, and your reputation ruined whether you are guilty of anything or not. Wouldn’t it be better for one to just keep his mouth shut rather than speak out and be targeted?
The safe way?
That’s certainly the safe thing to do and that is the chilling impact all this has on the right to speak freely. The Whistleblower Act helps some of course. There are usually people who will spill the beans for money and that can prize the lid off an investigation but sometimes those Whistleblowers end up not as protected as they thought. For many on-line businesses and on-line bloggers the type of thing Operation Chokepoint did is an everyday reality. They call it de-platforming whereby your on-line presence vanishes and also de-monetizing whereby you cannot profit on-line from your work, and your voice, important to many, cannot be heard.
It appears that there are hard times ahead and perhaps things will get worse before they get better. Cybercrime is growing internationally at such a rate that the internet may not be safe to use much longer. Perhaps that will solve part of the problem if we are forced to a non connected system. Finally, for those who hold what used to be called normal moral convictions there is good reason to wonder whether you will be allowed to voice your opinion much longer.
At least that’s the way I see it.
Until next time folks,
This is Darrell Castle.
Darrell Castle is an attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, a former USMC Combat Officer, 2008 Vice Presidential nominee, and 2016 Presidential nominee. Darrell gives his unique analysis of current national and international events from a historical and constitutional perspective. You can subscribe to Darrell's weekly podcast at castlereport.us
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