March 03, 2021

Lang: ‘Sticks and stones’

By Mike Lang, guest columnist

When I was a child, we had a little saying we used when being verbally bullied by others. We would say, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” The idea was to sort of return the taunt, and to bolster our own courage.

As long as our oppressor refrained from physical violence it was quite effective. When I was in the 8th grade in Cedar Rapids, studying “Civics,” I learned that I should defend the right of others to say things I disagreed with. Even outrageous things.

A tragic example of this would be the topic of abortion. I defend the right of people to vocally support this odious practice – even though I personally find abortions to be barbaric and nothing less than murder.

I have mentioned before that I was raised as a Christian. It was shocking to me when as a child, I learned of a historical event called “The Spanish Inquisition.” According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the inquisition in Spain was used to persecute both religious “heretics” and “political enemies” of the government. Usually in secret, the agents of the inquisition would question, try, condemn and punish its targets. Frequently, the only penalty would be the confiscation of property and other forms of wealth. Often those found guilty would suffer torture or even death. As you can imagine, this quickly became a way for the inquisitors to become personally wealthy and for the government to politically control the citizens of Spain and the Spanish Empire. The inquisition was used against non-Christians, such as Jews and Muslims and political enemies of the government.

Today we see a sort of inquisition in the United States. This inquisition is not conducted by the church. Instead, we see this behavior by others, like schools and universities. Schools establish “free speech” zones where students are allowed to express opinions. Student senates often refuse to provide funding from student fees for groups and organizations that support ideas not in line with the liberal views of the institution. We see teachers denied tenure because of their private opinions about sensitive issues, such as gender and ethnicity. We see conservative student organizations invite speakers who are, sometimes violently, prevented to express their private opinions.

My granddaughter, while a student at Iowa State University a few years ago, was bullied in class by the professor because she was a Republican. When I was a student at the University of Iowa over a half-century ago, I had my grade lowered in a government class I took because I was an out-spoken conservative.

We have just witnessed a sort of inquisition by the U.S. House of Representatives. The House removed the committee assignments of Iowa Congressman, Steve King, on account of remarks quoted by a 2019 New York Times article on immigration. Just last week, newly elected congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was removed from her committee assignments despite her disavowal of things she had said prior to her election in Georgia.

We see another sort of inquisition directed against people who express science-based opinions about the current trend to expand gender identification as they are subjected to penalties and public scorn.

We are witnessing a sort of inquisition by social media services, such as big-tech, Facebook, Twitter and others. These are private non-governmental companies, originally set up to promote free speech and, like newspapers, are not prohibited by the constitution from controlling speech they publish. We see many individual posts removed by these organizations because they supposedly violate the organizations code of conduct. This severe restriction on free speech seems to mostly affect conservative ideas and opinions and are the ones found objectionable by these free market organizations.

All of these activities could be called the “Modern Inquisition.” Like the “Spanish Inquisition,” it is designed to impose control of our actions, our speech and even our thoughts.

A little over a 100 years ago, a Republican President — Teddy Roosevelt — led the struggle to break up the industrial monopolies that were economically strangling the American people. It is time for another struggle: One to break up the large institutions and businesses of today that are strangling the thoughts and free speech of the American people.

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Mike Lang is the chairman of the Union County Republican Central Committee.