The Threats to Free Speech are From Right Wingers, Not From Trans* Advocacy

Trans* advocates do not advocate any new type of restriction on speech. They do sometimes argue that restrictions that already exist on speech when that speech targets specific types of groups should also apply when such speech targets trans* folks. This is not in any way stretching what limitation on the rights of free expression the constitutions of Canada or the US (or any other country) will tolerate. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious threats to free expression in the US and Canada today.

I’ve written previously about how changing “loser pays” presumptions in defamation lawsuits can impact the related freedoms of the press and personal expression (though focussing primarily on the impacts on press freedoms). But compromises around such details as when the plaintiff has to pay a press outlet’s legal costs aren’t the only constitutionally permissible actions that the governments of the US or Canada might take that would have an impact on free speech, and there are even other, likely impermissible actions that the government might still try to take.

One big one that’s being pressed right now is a new attempt to create separation between Title X-funded family planning services and any entity that provides abortion services. The new proposal would make it illegal to use Title X funds at any location where abortion services are also provided. There are different variations on this being discussed, but the more extreme version would ban most discussions of abortion services at clinics partly or wholly funded by Title X money. This is frequently discussed as a “domestic gag rule” that parallels the “global gag rule”.

But the threat that caught my attention today was from NRA-affiliated gun rights advocate Colion Noir in a video made for and released by NRATV. Noir’s statement, text from RawStory, includes this:

“It’s time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings because it’s killing our kids,” Noir said in the NRATV video. “It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on #MSM’s ability to report on these school shootings.”

While there’s little reason to think that any such effort (to ban certain types or amounts of media coverage related to mass shootings) would succeed, it’s telling that the right wing freaks out when the same limitations on expression that protect them might protect trans* folks, but then one of the most well-funded and political organizations in the entire right-wing pundit-sphere produces such a direct assault on free expression that would create, if enacted, entirely new categories of permissible limitations.

This NRATV thing was just picked up, but I’m eager to learn whether the right wing’s darlings (:cough: Jordan Peterson :cough:) will find the outrage to speak against it. I promise to follow up when we know more about who does and does not defend the NRA and whether or not the NRA retracts and/or apologizes for Noir’s statements.

Edited to add:
Aaron Blake, a writer for the Washington Post, tweeted out this observation which I think is relevant and insightful:


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