Lott Case Shows Free Speech At A Crossroads In U.S.

The difficulty in which Senator Trent Lott finds himself is not really about him. It is about the ability of racial minorities to censor the thoughts and words—including throwaway lines such as Senator Lott used in his birthday tribute to Senator Thurmond—of white people even to the point of destroying their careers.

If a U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader can be controlled in this way, then all of us are subject to censorship and removal as well, including Senator Don Nickles and others who see an opportunity to take Senator Lott's powerful position as Majority Leader. Democrats, who are enjoying the post-election windfall of Republican self-destruction, will also be subject to removal anytime their words can be construed to give offense to a "preferred minority."

The Bush White House, too, will find that far more white votes will be lost from this imbroglio than black votes gained, not because whites are segregationists, but because whites understand that what is really transpiring is censorship of their thoughts and words, and they will despise President Bush and the Republican Party for cowardice and opportunism.

White people are watching with trepidation the dissolution of their First Amendment rights to free speech and the onset of thought control. There is the recent case of Janice Barton in Michigan, who said in private conversation to her mother that "I wish these damned spics would learn to speak English." Her words were overheard by an off duty Hispanic deputy sheriff, who followed her to her car and took down her license number.

Janice Barton was arrested and spent time in jail for a hate crime.

Another recent case comes from Idaho, where a white woman was physically assaulted by a black male. The woman's screams brought her white husband to the scene. He was naturally upset, and, in the heat of the moment, he called the black man a "nigger."

The black man was not arrested for assault, but the white man was arrested for a hate crime.

There have been two cases—a government employee in Washington, D.C., and a schoolteacher—where white people used the word "niggardly" and found themselves fired or in hot water simply because uneducated blacks mistook the fine old word for a racial slur.

These were "warm-up" cases involving ordinary people without powerful positions or a base of public support. Senator Lott, however, has a strong base in his home state, and he is well enough regarded by other U.S. Senators to be Senate Majority Leader. If he can be knocked off because blacks choose to be offended by their interpretation of an offhand remark, an enormous power to censure and rebuke will have been placed in racial hands.

This power will be used, not only to curb hateful speech but also to censor uncomfortable truths. The result will be to establish deference by the majority to the minority, just as under an aristocratic system. Neither the Fourth Estate nor Academia will escape these strictures.

The Supreme Court will be intimidated as well.

The Court has before it a case on the constitutionality of racial quotas, that is, unequal treatment of people on the basis of race. Racial quotas are used by university administrators to admit "preferred minorities" who cannot meet the standards demanded of white applicants. It has become commonplace for better qualified whites to be turned away to create spaces for blacks.

The same quota phenomenon characterizes employment, promotion, and access to training programs. Government contracts often go to the high bidder if the high bidder is a "preferred minority."

"Preferred minority" has become an official government term. Nothing could be clearer than that the U.S. Constitution allows for no such person or persons. Yet, for 37 years we have watched the creation of a class of preferred people, a new aristocracy. And now they are going to be given the power to shut the rest of us up.

If President Bush, the Republican Party, and the gaggle of white pundits deliver this enormous power to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, how in the world can the Supreme Court take away existing preferences for blacks in university admissions?

The legal inequality of the races has been established by 37 years of federal government policy. Blacks have more than met the requirements of squatters' rights to their privileges.

If Senator Lott is removed for "giving offense," the Court cannot possibly come out for equality in law without being denounced as "racist and segregationist."

Indeed, the Court knows that if it rules against racial quotas, the vast majority of university presidents and media pundits will damn the Court for "resegregating higher education."

A variety of white opportunists see in Senator Lott's departure opportunities to gain their own ends. Some see a chance to move up in leadership position. Libertarians don't like Lott's Big Government spending. Neoconservatives see an opportunity to replace him with someone more friendly to their military-police state. All of these shortsighted interests will work to push Lott into resigning.

A remaining question is: If the power brokers should come to their senses and understand what is really at stake, is Senator Lott now too compromised with promises of more racial set-asides and "compassionate spending" to serve the common good?

The likely answer is, Yes. Still, do we want to have our tongues cut out in order to be rid of him?

Paul Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

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