A well-known legal scholar and expert on the First Amendment has strongly criticized former President Barack Obama’s recent statements regarding “free speech.”
Obama has faced widespread criticism for attempting to position himself as a champion of free speech.
The former president described himself as nearly absolutist on the First Amendment during a recent interview.
“I’m close to a First Amendment absolutist in the sense that I generally don’t believe that even offensive speech, mean speech, etcetera, it should be certainly not regulated by the government.”
“Absolute nonsense,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley fired back.
Turley, a constitutional scholar, has provided testimony on numerous occasions before Congress on matters concerning the U.S. Constitution.
He has also served as legal representation for members of Congress in various court cases.
“While claiming to be a First Amendment [near] absolutist, Obama has supported massive censorship on social media and called for the media to frame news to better educate citizens and shape public opinion,” Turley explained in a column.
“For those of us in the free speech community, those positions make Obama’s recurring claim nothing short of absolute nonsense.”
“In an interview with The Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel, former President Barack Obama once again claimed that he is virtually a ‘First Amendment absolutist’ despite supporting censorship for years, including United Nations efforts to criminalize criticism of religion on a global scale,” Turley explained.
“There are aspects of the Obama terms that I have praised, but his record on free speech is not one of them.”
Obama endorsed a United Nations initiative aimed at globally criminalizing any speech perceived by Muslims as derogatory towards Muhammad.
During that period, there were several proposals to criminalize Christians for stating that Muhammad is not a prophet of Allah or expressing similar sentiments.
Although the overall initiative did not succeed, such prosecutions continue in present-day Muslim-majority nations.
Despite his involvement, Obama asserts that he does not support government regulation of even offensive speech.
“That is virtually identical to prior statements that ‘I’m pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist’ as he was arguing for social media censorship.
“Notably, Obama avoids calling himself a ‘near free speech absolutist.’
“The distinction is key for Obama and others in supporting massive censorship while virtue signaling that they are tolerant of opposing views.”
“The First Amendment is not synonymous with free speech,” the law professor notes.
“It is only a restriction on government action.
“As emphasized by groups like the ACLU, censorship by private companies is also an attack on free speech.
“As I discuss in my new book, The Indispensable Right, the greatest threat today to free speech is the alliance of government, academic, and business interests in censoring speech.”