A case study in context

A CASE STUDY IN CONTEXT…. It seems like an entirely reasonable sentiment: “I take it as a given that we live in a society marred by racial and gender inequality, that certain forms of speech perpetuate and promote this inequality, and that the uncoerced disappearance of such speech would be cause for great elation.”

The quote, published by Elena Kagan 17 years ago in an article for the University of Chicago Law Review, hardly seems controversial. It suggests there are forms of speech that allow inequalities to continue, and if that speech were to eventually fade away, that’d be a good thing.

It seems like the kind of observation that sensible people would agree with. Except, as Steve M. notes today, some on the right are seizing on the quote to push a very different message.

The sentence is quoted in a World Net Daily article that offers a different interpretation in its title: “Kagan: Some Speech Can Be ‘Disappeared.'”

And that WND article is quoted at Fox Nation right now.

And the quote (and other quotes from the WND article) show up in the petition page of Vision to America, under the heading: “Petition to Stop Kagan & Protect Free Speech Now!” […]

A version of this is also showing up in the Ron Paul/Alex Jones-o-sphere — at the Daily Paul, at Prison Planet, at InfoWars (“Kagan: ‘Disappear’ Free Speech If The Government Deems It Offensive”).

Now, most of these outlets a part of a pretty radical — and relatively obscure — fringe, but Fox Nation is pushing it, and Fox Nation is a project of Fox News.

Remember, the quote is entirely mundane. We can look forward to speech that perpetuates inequality disappearing, without coercion, someday. This is what right-wing activists are worked up about?

If I had to guess, I’d say this might even be too nutty for congressional Republicans, and you’ll be more likely to hear about it in a chain email from your crazy uncle than from Congress. But the fact that right-wing activists are actually pursuing this as a line of attack reflects quite a bit of desperation, and reinforces the notion that the administration’s detractors are struggling to come up with coherent Kagan criticism.