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'It Would Be Difficult to Select a More Anti-Free Speech Figure': Biden Team Leader Wants to Curb First Amendment


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Richard Stengel, a former member of the Obama administration who believes that freedom of speech in the US should be restricted, has been picked as Joe Biden's transition team leader for the US Agency for Global Media, according to multiple sources.  

The US Agency for Global Media controls the government's media companies, which include the Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 

Stengel, 65, wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post last year, "All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I'm all for protecting 'thought that we hate,' but not speech that incites hate."

George Washington University legal scholar Prof. Jonathan Turley noted Biden's pick, and warned, "For a president-elect who just called for everyone to 'hear each other,' he picked a top aide who wants to silence many. Since it would be difficult to select a more anti-free speech figure to address government media policy, one has to assume that Biden will continue the onslaught against this core freedom as president."

"This is not the first Biden aide to indicate a crackdown on free speech in the new Administration and Biden himself has called for greater censorship on the Internet," Turley said. Last January, Biden called for more speech controls on the Internet and even criticized Twitter for allowing people to speak freely online, he wrote. 

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Stengel, a former managing editor of Time Magazine, cited two examples of what he considers hate speech in his op-ed: Quran burning and the false information distributed by Russia during the 2016 election. But Stengel also contends that the First Amendment has a "design flaw."

"Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?" Stengel wrote but offered no defense of free speech to the diplomats. 

"It's a fair question. Yes, the First Amendment protects the 'thought that we hate,' but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another. In an age when everyone has a megaphone, that seems like a design flaw," he explained. 

"Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there's no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation," he wrote.

Turley noted, "It is the European view that has destroyed free speech on that continent. It is a trend that seems now to find support in the media, which celebrated the speech of French President Emmanuel Macron before Congress where he called on the United States to follow the model of Europe on hate speech."

Stengel believes that since other nations supposedly "fixed" their design flaws, the US should do the same thing. 

Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, recently wrote in an article for PJ Media that, "In Richard Stengel's ideal world, non-Muslims are cowed into silence by Muslims who threaten to kill them if they get out of line, and by non-Muslim officials who react to the threats by giving the Muslims what they want."

"Note also that Leftist and Islamic groups in the U.S. have for years insisted, with no pushback from any mainstream politician or media figure, that essentially any and all criticism of Islam, including analysis of how Islamic jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims, is 'hate speech' and 'speech that incites hate'," he continued. "Thus Richard Stengel will silence that as well, and the global jihad will be able to advance unopposed and unimpeded."

Stengel served as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2014 to 2016 in the final two years of the Obama administration. He recently was a paid contributor to the leftist media outlet MSNBC, according to the New York Post

Turley also pointed out that Biden and Stengel are not alone in their quest to squelch free speech. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and others have called for labeling and even removing content from social media sites that they consider to be falsehoods. 

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of