I read with interest this morning, a report on the AOL news page stating that the NFL has announced that players won’t be barred from taking a knee during the national anthem. When I say, “with interest,” I am referring not to the NFL’s decision with respect to kneeling, which I didn’t find particularly surprising given the way the NFL has been managed. No, what interested me were the blurbs of rhetoric that came from the interviews with Commissioner Roger Goodell and some of the players following the league’s autumn meeting.
“The NFL won’t stop its players from kneeling during the national anthem,” said Goodell. “Instead, he said, the league wants to help them in their political activism….”
“We spent today talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to. About issues in our communities to make our communities better,” Goodell told reporters.
Pay attention to the sleight of hand taking place here, because the cooption of individual speech rights often takes place as if it’s part of a magic trick. Notice how the distinction between players who took a knee in protest during the game and all of the rest of the players has been quietly erased. Suddenly the protest belongs to all of the players in the NFL, regardless of whether they agree or not.
I for one find it fascinating – and by “fascinating” I mean deeply disturbing – that what many (incorrectly) hailed as an issue of free speech for the kneeling players is now morphing into the cooption of free speech rights of all of the players. All of the players are social justice warriors now, whether they like it or not. But as I’ve argued before (see “Losing the Power of ME”), this is what liberals do, and it’s how they’ve become so powerful, so it behooves us to pay careful attention to the experts in action.
One has to wonder if, when NFL players joined the players’ association, it was with the understanding that the spokespersons for the association would presume to speak for them on issues such as “social justice.” Do the players who stood during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts agree that we’re a racist country where black people are systematically oppressed? Hmmmm. Regardless of whether they agree or not, this is what’s implied when the players’ association presumes to speak with one voice on this issue. No one wants to be the one to raise his hand and say, “I disagree” or “I don’t want to adjudicate this on the football field.” So the squeaky wheels win once again.
But please don’t let the trees distract you from seeing the forest. This post is NOT about the NFL. It’s NOT about the protests. It’s about the right of every individual to preserve the power to speak for oneself. It’s about defending the sacred right not to have our unique, individual voices coopted by those that we either have some real or imagined association with. That, and only that, is what this post is about.
If free speech is power, then there is great power in being able to claim that you speak for others. This fact has not been lost on many of those who want to drive an agenda. As I relayed in “Losing the Power of ME,” this is a tactic in which the Left excels. Liberals are notorious for infiltrating groups and associations organized ostensibly for one purpose and taking control of both the agenda and power of that organization’s voice (and by default, the voice of its membership). Just think of the AARP, the NAACP, the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, and just about every labor union that exists. The leaders of these groups use their power as spokespeople to influence policy that reaches far and wide, and they do so by usurping the voices of the conservatives silenced within. And though it’s a favorite tool of the Left, some on the Right are guilty as well.
Power is a zero sum game. When your voice is coopted by others, that is power stolen from you, and your own voice is easily lost in the crowd.
This is a particularly timely subject in light of the onslaught of pundits these days who are presuming to speak for “the voters,” as if we are all of one like mind in a politically tumultuous time when we clearly are not, as evidenced by Garnet92’s enlightening post from earlier today: “Here Are The Five Types Of Trump Voters.” The post details a survey of 8,000 voters which found that “there is no such thing as one type of Trump voter.” In spite of this reality, I turn on the news shows each day to see a familiar pattern wherein one pundit or another is declaring that “the voters” want this or “the voters” want that, in what I see as attempts to create the impression of support for their own versions of an agenda that’s still being tweaked. If a pundit has evidence that he or she does indeed speak for the will of the voters, then by all means they should make their case; but the powers that be have a duty, in my humble opinion, to verify the truth of their claims, and not to assume that my inability to be heard over the pundits is a sign of my agreement. Life is hard enough without my having to combat the claims of every shill who claims to speak for me.
The prospect of our stolen voices underscores the importance of by-laws and constitutions, and of the need for strict enforcement of them. Such documents typically spell out the limits of the power of those in charge such that they don’t have the flexibility to be unduly influenced by those wishing to illegitimately harness the power of its members, as is occurring in the NFL and elsewhere. Uphold the Constitution. Isn’t this what it always comes down to in the end?
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