EDITOR'S NOTE: While we're well aware that the premise Long posits here — he's essentially advocating limiting political speech — is fundamentally flawed, we've allowed Kyle to have his say. (Here's a prime illustration of how SCOTUS would rule in these types of situations: Skokie V. the KKK.) As your tenth grade English teacher used to say: "Discuss." Managing Editor Ed Wenck responds in greater detail here.
I grew up during an era of vigorous public debate on the subject of censorship in music. I was just a kid when the Parents Music Resource Center was formed in the mid-1980s. The PMRC was founded by a bipartisan committee known as the "Washington wives" including Tipper Gore, wife of Al; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Sally Nevius, wife of Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius; and Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar.
By age of eight I'd become a huge fan of rap and metal music, two genres under constant fire from the PMRC. Though I was young, I paid great attention to media coverage of the group's exploits. Watching TV news broadcasts detailing the PMRC's push to control the artistic expression of my favorite musicians made me feel like the very thing I loved most in life was under attack. It taught me to hate censorship in any form.
I learned two very important lessons from observing the PMRC's crusade for music censorship.
1) Neither of the two major political parties are fully committed to protecting the First Amendment's promise of free speech.
2) Protecting freedom of speech is an all or-nothing endeavor. In order protect the expression of the artists I loved, I had to defend in equal measure the expression of ideas I found vile and morally repugnant.
A playlist of the "Filthy Fifteen," a list of the "most offensive" songs, as deemed by the PMRC
Since that time I can't recall a moment in my life where I've ever asserted, or even thought, that any individual or organization's freedom of speech should be curtailed.
But there is a clear difference between the expression of free speech and language intended to unnecessarily provoke panic, fear or violence. The most known example of this argument can be found in Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States. Holmes famously wrote that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." In 1969, the Supreme Court further clarified their position on this issue in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, ruling that speech intended to incite "imminent lawless action" does not fall within the confines of protected speech.
Which brings forward the central topic of my column this week: Indianapolis civic and political leaders must absolutely act now to ban any future public rallies organized by, or promoting the dangerously bigoted, violence-inciting politics of Donald Trump.
While the Trump campaign has no immediate plans to visit Indiana, our state's May 3 primary date is approaching fast. With looming threats of a brokered Republican National Convention this July, Trump will need to win every available delegate, which will surely find him stepping on Hoosier soil at some point. And I plan to do everything I can to make sure that doesn't include a stop in Indianapolis.
Scenes of violent physical confrontations are becoming commonplace within the Trump campaign, and the incendiary language Trump aims at protesters during his rallies violates even the most liberal interpretations of free speech. Trump's February 22 appearance in Las Vegas provides a typical example.
"I love the old days" Trump mused, imagining a period of time when protesters would be "carried out on a stretcher.” Sensing that was perhaps too subtle a statement, Trump continued to address the protester, adding "I'd like to punch him in the face."
But Trump doesn't just suggest violent retribution against protesters. He begs and pleads for it. Speaking in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on February 1, Trump asked his supporters to "knock the crap out of" a protester. "Would you?" Trump continued. "Seriously, just knock the hell out of him. I promise you I'll pay for the legal fees. I promise; I promise."
I can't imagine any other public forum where this sort of sickening behavior would be permitted, nor should it ever be.
Looking beyond a Trump rally's threat of "imminent lawless action,” Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric poses a serious threat to the longterm safety and stability of vulnerable minority populations in Marion County. Trump's reckless and inflammatory comments directed at minority communities are igniting flames of hatred that many in this country have long fought to extinguish.
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Photo by Fibonacci Blue
Black Lives Matter protestors in Minneapolis protesting the arrest of Marcus Abrams. BLM is a key organizer in the movement against Trump.
Perhaps the most worrisome concern in this unfolding situation is that Donald Trump himself remains recalcitrant and obstinate in the face of concerns demonstrating how his violent language may be provoking brutal episodes like those we saw last Friday at his aborted Chicago rally.
This is not a free speech issue. Trump has the wealth and power to force his poisonous ramblings onto the radios, computers, and television screens in every American home. His noxious commentary echoes through the American media ad nauseam. And aside from that, there's really nothing resembling political speech happening at a Trump rally, just an endless stream of decadent self-promotion. Like a cult leader, Trump has no transparent or cogent agenda. Instead he simply urges followers to place their trust and future in his hands, as he alone holds the answer for their salvation. The rest of us are just losers.
Allowing the Donald Trump circus to pitch its tent in Indianapolis constitutes a serious threat to public safety. I urge all concerned citizens of Indianapolis to demand our city's law enforcement officials, politicians, and public safety officers honor their commitment to protect and defend the welfare of the citizens of Indianapolis. We can not allow this low-grade con artist's narcissistic quest for ego gratification to throw our city into chaos.
Call your city council representative and ask them to introduce a resolution to ban Trump from speaking in Indy. Call the office of Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman André Carson and ask for their support in this effort. We must demand that the rule of law be applied equally to all, no matter how rich and powerful a perpetrator may be.
If the civic leaders of Indianapolis won't take a stand to defend the rights and safety of the vulnerable Hoosiers Trump has targeted with his inflammatory rhetoric, then I can assure you that the social justice activists and human rights advocates of Indianapolis will undoubtedly take to the streets to do it themselves should Trump attempt to stage a rally here.
And I will certainly stand with them.
Contact Mayor Joe Hogsett
Write to Hogsett's office:
2501 City-County Building
200 East Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204