The Authoritarian Trend: Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett and the Growing Threat to Free Speech

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) displayed a type of thinking that has become quite common on the authoritarian left when she defended censorship, citing Supreme Court limitations to argue that certain views should not have First Amendment protections. During a congressional hearing, She criticized Democratic Party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s views as hateful and not protected by the First Amendment.

Her arguments reflected those made by many others on the left, who contend that certain types of “misinformation” should not be allowed. Of course, their ever-expansive definition of “misinformation” would mean that nobody would be able to say anything progressives disagree with, which seems to be the point.

Plaskett’s comments come as several developments have illustrated the growing threat to freedom of expression:

Plaskett, the ranking member of the minority on the House Weaponization Subcommittee, attacked the alleged views of one of the witnesses, Democratic Party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, calling them hateful.

“This is not the free speech that I know of,” she said. She recalled a recent controversy over remarks Kennedy made about the coronavirus affecting some population groups more than others, among other past comments.

Plaskett continued: “Free speech is not an absolute. The Supreme Court has stated that.” (The Court has not restricted the content of speech, but a “time, place, and manner” exceptions for the way speech is expressed.)

The ranking member went on to claim that Republicans had not invited Kennedy to testify because he had been censored on social media, but rather to associate themselves with his controversial views. She also claimed that past witnesses interviewed by the committee, such as would-be “disinformation czar” Nina Jancowicz, had been subjected to death threats, and implied that committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) supported those threats.

As my colleague Nick Arama reported, the delegate continually tried to interrupt Kennedy to prevent him from speaking, which is perfectly in accordance with how authoritarian leftists deal with people they disagree with. Plaskett’s remarks defending censorship and advocating for limiting certain types of speech are deeply problematic, as they echo the sentiments of many progressives who are willing to wield the power of the state to enforce their beliefs. This attitude poses a significant threat to the First Amendment and the right to freedom of expression.

Recent developments, such as Michigan potentially passing a law making it a felony to misgender someone and a survey indicating that almost half of Millennials favor criminalizing misgendering show growing support for such measures, highlight an emerging authoritarian trend within the left.

Plaskett’s stance on free speech aligns with a worrying pattern among some progressives who believe that only certain viewpoints should be permitted and that dissenting opinions should be silenced. Such an approach fundamentally undermines the essence of free speech, which should protect the rights of all individuals to express their ideas, even those that are unpopular or controversial.

The rising support for criminalizing misgendering is a clear example of how the authoritarian left is becoming increasingly willing to suppress speech that they deem offensive or harmful. Of course, their stated intention is always to protect marginalized communities. But if you believe that, I have some prime oceanfront property in Idaho to sell you on the cheap. In reality, the implementation of such laws is intended to stifle legitimate debate and open the door to abuse of power by punishing individuals for accidental or unintentional speech infractions.

Just as some individuals argue for the abolition of gun rights, there appears to be a growing movement among some progressives to undermine the right to freedom of expression. This parallels the danger of infringing upon any constitutional right, as it compromises the foundation of a democratic society that values individual freedoms.

It would not be surprising if more on the hard left outright called for abolishing the First Amendment – or something close to it.

The implications of such an approach are terrifying – especially if these people get their way. If certain factions of the left continue down this path, we might witness a genuine threat to the cherished principles that have long defined American society. Free speech serves as a vital mechanism for societal progress, allowing ideas to be debated openly and fostering an environment of tolerance and understanding.

Plaskett’s treatment of Kennedy is only a microcosm of what authoritarians on the left want to do to the rest of us. Unfortunately, if they are able to continue indoctrinating children and winning more influence over American society, they might just get their wish.


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