While it may not seem to Bari Weiss that this has anything to do with what happened to her at the New York Times, in fact Roe v. Wade was arguably the tipping point — a fulcrum of history — that has led to a world in which our basic First Amendment liberties are imperiled. Once our political elite discovered they could use the power of government to force people to accept a lie (which is what Roe was ultimately about), they began using that power more frequently and more confidently, prohibiting debate and punishing dissenters.
Bari Weiss was not the first victim of “cancel culture,” and certainly she will not be the last, but her exit from the opinion pages of the New York Times has finally focused national attention on the steadily increasing toll of intellectual intolerance among the soi-disant progressive elite. Ms. Weiss’s public resignation letter, which described “constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” with her superiors at the newspaper evidently condoning this harassment, exposed a cult-like climate of ideological conformity at the Times. Because she is rather young — she was born in 1984, the year Ronald Reagan was reelected — Ms. Weiss is not old enough to remember when liberals posed as champions of free speech and open debate. Some of us are old enough to remember, however, and have a duty to teach young people how it was that liberalism slowly succumbed to totalitarianism.
A good place to start would be the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, a judicial landmark of flagrant dishonesty. The court’s 7-2 majority, in an opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, claimed to locate a “right” to abortion in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Of course, that amendment says nothing at all about abortion or pregnancy, and the two dissenting justices were caustic in denouncing the court majority’s fictitious claim.
“I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment,” Justice Byron White wrote in his dissent. “The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant women and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.” Justice William Rehnquist expressed astonishment at how the majority had managed “to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment”:
As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature. By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion. While many States have amended or updated their laws, 21 of the laws on the books in 1868 remain in effect today. Indeed, the Texas statute struck down today was, as the majority notes, first enacted in 1857 and “has remained substantially unchanged to the present time.” There apparently was no question concerning the validity of this provision or of any of the other state statutes when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted.
The only conclusion possible from this history is that the drafters did not intend to have the Fourteenth Amendment withdraw from the States the power to legislate with respect to this matter.
To put it bluntly, the entire legal basis of Roe v. Wade was a lie. The court had not merely usurped the authority of Congress to make federal law, or to amend the Constitution, to achieve the goal of legalizing abortion; in fact, the court had obliterated the authority of state legislatures to regulate medical practice, an area wherein the federal government had never hitherto claimed any role. No honest person could believe that this was what had been intended by those who drafted the 14th Amendment, or by the state legislatures that ratified that amendment. And yet, despite the self-evident bogusness of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Roe became the law of the land.
While it may not seem to Bari Weiss that this has anything to do with what happened to her at the New York Times, in fact Roe v. Wade was arguably the tipping point — a fulcrum of history — that has led to a world in which our basic First Amendment liberties are imperiled. Once our political elite discovered they could use the power of government to force people to accept a lie (which is what Roe was ultimately about), they began using that power more frequently and more confidently, prohibiting debate and punishing dissenters. Ms. Weiss ought to consider, in that regard, what happened at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey was credited with rebuilding his state’s Democratic Party “from the ashes,” in the words of Clinton strategist Paul Begala. Yet because he was a devout Catholic and a staunch opponent of abortion, Casey was silenced at the party’s 1992 national convention:
I was denied the opportunity to address the delegates in New York because I oppose abortion. To add insult to injury, a pro-abortion Republican woman from my home state was showcased as a featured speaker. She appeared on the platform with Kate Michelman of NARAL and Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown as I watched from the upper reaches of Madison Square Garden. When the national party denied me the right to be heard, it was really denying Pennsylvania the right to be heard.
The pro-abortion faction in control of the party went out of its way to humiliate Casey, and, according to his friend Nat Hentoff, when the governor returned home from the convention, he wondered aloud, “What has become of the Democratic Party I once knew?”
Bari Weiss was only 7 years old when that happened, and it may not be obvious to her how that event heralded the approach of today’s “cancel culture.” Yet step by step the totalitarian march has proceeded. Little by little, year after year, on issue after issue, the silencing of dissent has become acceptable within “progressive” circles and, so long as they believed this method would help Democrats win elections, few liberals have objected.
It may surprise Ms. Weiss to learn that scarcely two decades ago, it was still permissible — even in the pages of the New York Times — to express skepticism toward computer-modeled predictions of global disaster caused by “climate change.” At some point during the presidency of George W. Bush, however, liberals proclaimed that “the science is settled,” and began treating skeptics as heretics. They coined the term “climate denier” to imply that skeptics were like Holocaust deniers. Liberals declare there is a scientific consensus on the subject and that anyone who does not go along is self-evidently “anti-science.”
So while politicians like Joe Biden are declaring war on the oil industry, the coal industry, and the internal combustion engine, no one is permitted to question the necessity of these draconian measures. No viewer of CNN or MSNBC, and no reader of the New York Times or the Washington Post, will ever encounter a word of dissent from the climate-change “consensus.” No one in the mainstream media is allowed to point out, for example, that Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph is a fraud. As with the fabricated “right” to abortion, the Big Lie of climate change cannot succeed without employing coercion to silence dissent.