Rick Stengel, who once penned a Washington Post op-ed suggesting that the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech was a “design flaw” and calling for government policing of speech, has been named to the transition team for U.S. Agency for Global Media.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media is charged with protecting “unbiased news and information in countries where the press is restricted.”
Stengel is a former top editor of Time magazine and served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Obama administration. He was an MSNBC analyst until this new appointment was made by the Biden administration.
Here is a snippet from Stengel’s famous op-ed:
When I was a journalist, I loved Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s assertion that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
But as a government official traveling around the world championing the virtues of free speech, I came to see how our First Amendment standard is an outlier. Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?
It’s a fair question. Yes, the First Amendment protects the “thought that we hate,” but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another. In an age when everyone has a megaphone, that seems like a design flaw.
. . .
All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate. It undermines the very values of a fair marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment is designed to protect.
What can I saw? Stengel’s view is too clear to need further explication.
Law professor and commentator Jonathan Turley has addressed the implications of the Stengel appointment on his website:
For those of us who have been critical of the growing anti-free speech movement in the Democratic Party, the Biden transition team just took an ominous turn. The New York Post reports that Biden tapped Richard Stengel to take the “team lead” position on the US Agency for Global Media, including Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. As I previously addressed in a column, Stengel has been one of the most controversial figures calling for censorship and speech controls. For a president-elect who just called for everyone to “hear each other,” he picked a top aide who wants to silence many. Since it would be difficult to select a more anti-free speech figure to address government media policy, one has to assume that Biden will continue the onslaught against this core freedom as president. This is not the first Biden aide to indicate a crackdown on free speech in the new Administration and Biden himself has called for greater censorship on the Internet.
We should not be surprised at the Stengel appointment. Turley continues:
In January, Biden called for greater speech controls on the Internet and denounced Twitter for allowing others to speak freely. In insisted that tolerating such views in the name of free speech is same as “propagating falsehoods they know to be false.” Biden called for companies to bar Trump views on such things as mail-in voting as an invitation for fraud. He is not alone. Congressional leaders like House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff have called for labeling and removal of material with some members directly threatening a legislative crackdown. This week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for resisting speech monitoring and censorship as a matter of free speech. Pelosi lashed out that those who want to preserve a free speech zone are “all about making money,” ignoring free speech advocates who have no financial interest in these companies. Pelosi said that opposing such monitoring means that social media companies simply want “to make money at the expense of the truth and the facts” and are trying to “hide under the freedom of speech.”
The appointment comes on the heels of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s voicing his concerns about dangers to our First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty at a Federalist Society gathering.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media Agency appears to be a swampy outfit already. I know nothing about it. The point under consideration is the new administration’s elevation of someone who has stated that free speech should be curtailed to a prime position in the government broadcasting bureaucracy.