The GOP Red Badge of Courage

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It’s a sad day in America where we can’t agree to disagree. It’s even sadder when failure in this regard is replaced by an effort to smear those with whom we disagree.

Last week we saw a day so much sadder, with the publication, and widespread media amplification, of a report by a far-left group attacking hundreds of Republican officials across the country by name, literally accusing them of guilt by association.

A Connecticut media headline sounded the alarm: “Report Finds 16 Connecticut Lawmakers Have Joined ‘Far-Right’ Facebook Groups. Similar titles popped up all over the country. The subject of the ‘news’ articles is a report by the Progressive Institute for Human Rights Research and Education (IREHR) which found that 900 state Republican lawmakers in all 50 states have joined at least l one of the “789 far-right Facebook groups”. ”


My first reaction was “horrors! Shiver my woods! I was so happy to have an exact scientifically determined number – 789 – listing the groups threatening my freedom, all based on real research. After all, the name IREHR includes “Research”, doesn’t it?

My immediate response was to start drafting a satirical response: ‘Congressional Democrats in Connecticut are communist sympathizers’, featuring real facts – Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Addressing a Communist Party gala American, etc The satirical account was to cite an equally unimpeachable but fictitious source, “an unavailable new report compiled by the National Institute of People With Nothing Better to Do”.

However, perhaps a serious critique and response to the IREHR report is a better approach.

First, people join Facebook groups for a myriad of reasons, only one of which is to support or endorse the idea of ​​group organization. People are curious. People want to find out what is supposedly so demonic or backward in a group. Journalists join in carrying out investigative work.

Attacking and slandering people for their associations is despicable… and unconstitutional. The Constitution protects the right of assembly. Joining an online group is the current version of assembly.

In fact, given today’s left-wing beliefs, any criticism should really focus on Facebook: if the 789 groups pose any threat, Facebook is supposed to monitor, censor or dismantle them, right? not ? Most conservatives, on the other hand, view the exercise of such control over social media as reminiscent of a cancel culture or an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

Previously, Americans agreed with the statement that “I totally disagree with what he says, but I will absolutely defend his right to say it.”

What happened to this fundamental American belief?

After all, how can democracy work without disagreement?

Now, I’m sure a wise man is thinking, if Jahncke believes so strongly in freedom of speech, why does he complain about media talk about a report he doesn’t agree with?

Why? Because the report and much of the media coverage is not about ideas or beliefs, but rather about defaming individuals who are supposed to have certain ideas.

The legal term for “defamation” is defamation. Defamation is illegal. No one has the right to defame someone. Fortunately, in this country, proving defamation is very difficult. That’s how much Americans believe in freedom of speech. Or did it once.

Yet the IREHR and its ombudsmen essentially engage in defamation. Add that to the charge of guilt by association, about which it must be said that no American judge would allow charges of guilt by association to be made in a courtroom.

Let’s just dip a toe in the waters of the IREHR to gauge how hysterical and unserious its report is. Groups advocating for keeping or reopening schools are obviously considered COVID denier groups and included among the “789 far-right groups.” PUHlease!

I would be proud to be part of the open school groups. I just didn’t take the time to sign up. I have advocated for open schools since the start of the pandemic. I consider myself extremely lucky that my youngster has attended kindergarten and first grade of public school in person almost every day for the past two school years.

I will conclude by saying that I will remain willfully ignorant of the substance and details of the IREHR report. It is a document that does not even deserve a glance. The 16 Republicans singled out by the IREHR should wear its attack as a red badge of courage.

Red Jahncke is chairman of Townsend Group, a management consultancy in Greenwich.

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