WASHINGTON – For years the courts and media have championed free speech, whether it was the right to burn the flag or to promote pornography. But today there's a belief those same elites have a different priority: silencing the "politically incorrect."
Frank Cannon of the American Principles Project sees it as part of the most dangerous division in America's politics and cultural life.
"The real divide in the country now is between elitists, who believe that experts should be running the country, and populists, who believe that ordinary Americans through their votes are the ones who should be running the country," Cannon told CBN News.
Judging 'Deplorables' to Be 'Morally Defective'
Cannon described it as the politically correct going after the so-called "deplorables."
In his article "The First Amendment is in far Greater Danger than the Second," he writes, "Now the 'elitists' find the 'populists' to be repugnant, backward, and bigoted."
Cannon explained that to the elitists, "Anybody who was willing to believe in the things that were in opposition to Hillary Clinton was somebody to be deplored. They were morally defective."
'Anti-This and That-Phobic'
That thinking has led to vicious attacks against Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation mainly due to his stance on protecting traditional marriage and, in his new book When Harry Became Sally, taking on transgenderism.
"I've been called everything under the sun: anti-this and that-phobic," Anderson said. His reaction? "I just don't let it get to me. Because ultimately what they're trying to do by calling you a name is simply trying to intimidate you or to shame you or to do so to the people who might follow you."
Cannon pointed out the extreme labels used against those who take politically incorrect positions, stating, "The go-to ones are 'transphobic,' 'racist.'"
Another culture warrior is author Nancy Pearcey, who pointed out that when it comes to same-sex marriage, even Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the high court's more liberal justices lashed out at gay marriage opponents with harsh accusations in the 2013 United States v Windsor ruling.
Accusing Their Opponents of Hatred
Pearcey told CBN News those justices suggested, "People who hold a view of marriage that is contrary to what the elites hold are in a sense evil people who are mean-spirited and want to hurt other people and harm them."
Pearcey added that Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer charged that these same-sex marriage opponents, "…are motivated by animus, which means hostility or hatred."
In his article, Cannon wrote modern-day Americans are, "…operating in a country now where elites demonize the populist position with such ferocity that many are afraid to voice their opinion at all, which is, of course, the entire point of their strategy."
This overall concern is that such demonizing will keep people from voicing their true feeling has Anderson worrying it weakens one of America's greatest strengths.
"The ability to talk to one another, to hear each other, to be able to agree to disagree," Anderson explained. "But you can't do any of that if you're silencing each other, if you're shaming each other, if you're shouting one another down."
Could Some Thoughts Be Made Criminal?
Cannon warned the ultimate goal isn't just silencing certain opinions. It's to make this line of thought criminal and to take down those who express it.
He said to CBN News, "The end-point of this is criminalization."
He stated the elites are already using weapons like, "…the tactics of actually trying to bankrupt people, trying to destroy their reputations," he said.
Because in the elitists' viewpoint, Cannon explained, "The opposing view is out of bounds. And they have the ability to hurt individuals who try to espouse that view. This is very true in the traditional marriage debate. They've attempted to do it in every area of religious liberty. They do it against the right to life movement."
As Pearcey put it, "There's a movement to deny the rights of people to even hold a position that's different from the 'state-sanctioned' view."
Cannon in his article wrote that the elitists "…believe the only way to defeat the people is to use elite institutional power in academia, corporate America, the administrative state, and the mainstream media to stifle debate, force-feed elite opinions masquerading as facts, and stamp out dissent."
Winning the 'Moveable Middle'
On the sunnier side, Anderson believes that if allowed, true freedom of speech would win the cultural argument.
"The vast majority of Americans aren't protestors. They're not people who shout down individuals," he argued. "We want to speak to that moveable middle to help them see things the way we see things. Because hopefully, we see things in accordance with the truth."
Today's thought police, however, oppose many biblical-based truths like those on marriage and sexuality. Cannon said that leads to a bigger target.
Going After Religious Institutions
"Religion is a bulwark against this kind of one-sided attack," Cannon explained, so for the elites, "Destroying religious institutions is a goal."
But Anderson doesn't think the elites will win.
"This is a phase that we're going through," he opined. "If you and I do our job in pushing back and being intelligent and civil and friendly, but also speaking the truth, I think this cultural fad that we're in passes."
In some respects, populists did take action after growing tired of the labels and intimidation.
Could This Be Why Trump Won?
Cannon opined, "I think that is in large part one of the reasons we've gotten President Trump. I think he's been a reaction to this idea that certain issues are held out of bounds."
The question is this: is the elitist assault on the politically incorrect going to become so rigid, finally all the populists are going to be completely shut up? Or is there a chance there's going to be such a backlash and the era of political correctness is finally going to come to an end?