“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” -- Benjamin Franklin
During a recent interview of Sen. Rand Paul by George Stephanopoulos, the American people became privy to a public “struggle session." During the interview, the Kentucky senator voiced concerns about irregularities during the 2020 election of which he offered specific examples.
Stephanopoulos, not satisfied with Paul having voted to certify the election, continuously badgered him to “admit” the election was fair. After Paul reminded George that three quarters of Republicans believed the same issues as Paul spoke, Stephanopoulos fired back: "Well, 75% of Republicans agree with you because they were fed a big lie by President Trump and his supporters to say that the election was stolen."
Paul responded: "George, where you make the mistake is that people coming from the liberal side like you, you immediately say everything's a lie. ... Historically what would happen is if I said that I thought there was fraud, you would interview someone who said there wasn't, but now you insert yourself in the middle and say that the absolute fact is that everything I'm saying is a lie without examining the facts."
Though media bias is not new, the demands to accept and parrot the media’s “truth” has taken a dangerous turn. Let me explain.
First, about the history of struggle sessions. Jeff Sanders of the American Policy Roundtable described struggle sessions in China during the Cultural Revolution this way: “They (Red Guard) came up with these charges because someone heard you complain that the government made mistakes. ... Or maybe you just ticked off the wrong person. No matter, the charge was laid and you were automatically guilty. The solution? Confess. Confess to all accusations. Make sure you cry a lot. Make sure you curse yourself and beg and plead for forgiveness from the “proletariat” and the infallible communist party. Make sure you swear that you will never ever entertain a thought that is counter to the prevailing thoughts. You have gotten your mind right.”
The justification of the struggle session was not actions but evidence of a person’s thoughts. That’s where the similarities arise with the new struggle sessions.
In the new struggle sessions, which go well beyond the exchange between Stephanopoulos and Paul to many such “interviews,” incorrect thought continues as the target. During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards initially humiliated those holding to the “four old’s” (belief in pre-Communist Chinese ideals). They would parade “reactionaries” around and force them to recant. This quickly led to a killing spree, in which even those who “confessed” were thrown in gulags to die, or sent off to starve to death in the countryside. Tens of millions died during this period.
With the new left, the consequences of “wrong” thinking about the election are still humiliation, as Rand Paul discovered (after the interview in which he was pilloried in the media). However, many are discovering it goes beyond humiliation. People become “de-platformed”, fired or “canceled” by those associated.
The Daily Signal published the following about the level of control maintained by the left in leverage to force “confessions” of wrong belief: “The left controls universities. There is little or no dissent allowed at universities. The left controls nearly every 'news' medium. There is little or no dissent in the mainstream media — not in the 'news' sections and not in the opinion sections. The left controls Hollywood. No dissent is allowed in Hollywood ...”
The leverage over people’s lives in America goes beyond the big influencers into the ability to earn a living. “The National Association of Realtors has just announced that if you express dissenting views (on race, especially) in private, you may be fined and lose your membership in the organization which effectively ends your career as a Realtor.”
Going back to the 1960s, in dynamics like the Berkeley Free Speech movement, liberals staunchly held to Voltaire’s famous quote: “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Unfortunately, the modern left has taken the socialist views on free speech.
To Karl Marx and later socialist/communist leaders, free speech was always to be subordinated to the good of “the people." The Soviet Union had its own version of the Cultural Revolution “struggle sessions” to root out “counter-revolutionaries." This dynamic can be seen in virtually all socialist regimes. The modern left has become heavily influenced by the socialist understanding of speech as a subordinated “right."
America is at a crossroads in which there is no coming back. From the founding of the nation, free speech has been the cornerstone of all freedoms, as our founders made clear in the First Amendment. We can either continue as free people or take the dark turn toward the control of speech and even “wrong” thoughts.
As Joshua said in Judges: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” and I will add that I and my house will also defend freedom.
Bill Connor, an Army Infantry colonel, author and Orangeburg attorney, has deployed multiple times to the Middle East. Connor was the senior U.S. military adviser to Afghan forces in Helmand Province, where he received the Bronze Star. A Citadel graduate with a JD from USC, he is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College, earning his master of strategic studies. He is the author of the book "Articles from War.”