A young reporter in Will Rogers’ hometown gives us all a priceless First Amendment lesson

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A young reporter in Will Rogers’ hometown gives us all a priceless First Amendment lesson

After half a century fighting for the First Amendment values that are our nation’s heart and soul, I’ve sometimes worried if the new generation of journalists would continue the good fight.

            Today I saw an example of just how well they will that is so good that I am giving my column space to the author, who recently celebrated her first anniversary at a commercial newspaper in Claremore, the hometown of Will Rogers.

            Her editor describes her as a “fast learner” with “great instincts,” and having followed her work closely I heartily agree. Her editorial page column follows, and I think you’ll see why.

A choice to make: Antifa or the free press

By Kayleigh Theskevitz


©2019, Claremore Daily Progress

Two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon, Antifa protestors beat a journalist until he was sent to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.

The justification used by Antifa and sympathizers was that Quillette reporter Andy Ngo is expressly conservative and inherently ideological in his reporting. They say he went out of his way to antagonize the left, so he had it coming. While most violent protests make national headlines, this event was under-reported, covered only by CNN, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, local Oregon news and partisan websites using it to make one point or another.

Maybe national news organizations have more important news to cover and not a lot of time to get tangled up in the politics of protest.

But they should, if for no other reason than to defend free press. This act of violence is unacceptable regardless of the politics of the people who conducted the beating and the person who was beaten. It is even more unacceptable when you take into account that the person was beaten for exercising his Constitutional freedoms.

Historically, the American left has vehemently defended the freedoms of speech and press and assembly.

They have championed civil disobedience, which has inarguably made our country a more equitable place to live.

And they have protested bravely against a resurgent wave of racially motivated populism and aggressive government authoritarianism.

But they have failed to make and enforce a compelling moral distinction between what should and what should not be allowed to happen in the heat of protest.

Namely, two succinct truths:

 1. Everyone is entitled to speak, publish and publicly gather to express their opinions, regardless of how abhorrent those opinions are.

2. Your right to swing your fist ends at my face.

Fascism is terrible and there is no room for it in our democratic republic.

But in order to win that battle, we must be on the moral high ground.

Repeatedly punching and kicking reporters because they wrote something you found offensive is not the moral high ground. In fact, it is just another face on the same authoritarianism you are rallying against.

The left either stands for civil liberties or it doesn’t.

In this moment of politics, where we collectively forgot that our parents told us to use our words, not our fists, a choice needs to be made by the American left.

Embrace the same old intolerant violence with a pretty new face, or embrace freedom.

While some details of the event remain in dispute, and there was a little additional coverage in mainstream media between the time Kayleigh wrote her commentary and its publication, none of it changes her key points.

[Editor’s note: John Wylie and his column have been absent since May 22 when lightning sparked a fire that, fueled by an hour of 60 mph winds, destroyed his study including five fully researched columns as well as the entire house including the slab. Flames from the 7-hour, four-alarm fire were visible more than 20 miles away and John and Faith escaped literally with their nightclothes, shoes and windbreakers—no cash, credit cards or ID.

Enough cards survived in a pocket of the slab covered by a fireproof door to let them check into a motel, and, Wylie said, “Our insurance has been wonderful and the people of our community have been incredible.” He has two more columns on his temporary desk in their apartment near downtown Tulsa, and hope the brilliance of the First Amendment’s impact won’t start a second fire while they wait up to a year to get back to their totally rebuilt home on the lake.]