One of the tenets upon which our country was founded, and upon which we most highly cherish, is the freedom of speech… the right to express one’s opinion. We, Americans, may surely speak our minds on any number of issues without fear of incarceration or persecution by the government, but we must deal with the consequences of our expression. Neither the Bill of Rights nor the Constitution protects citizens from any retaliation that may be lodged against someone for speaking their mind, expressing their beliefs, or, unfortunately, even having an opinion. Because potential retribution looms for whoever possesses or subscribes to an unpopular position on a controversial topic, it tends to mute contrary expression and/or public dialog on that particular subject. Bottom line is that the potential for suffering consequences for certain thoughts and opinions are routinely kept in check out of fear of being subjected to backlash.
This matter came to the nation’s awareness recently when NPR (National Public Radio) commentator Juan Williams stated during an interview with Fox News that he was uncomfortable whenever he saw Muslims dressed in their traditional garb on airplanes. NPR executives viewed this comment as being unethical and undermining his credibility. Personally, I do not share the same phobia as Mr. Williams regarding Muslims traveling by air, and I did not find his remarks to be offensive. He was merely stating an opinion of his, which I felt had no relevance to his credibility. NPR should not have focused on this benign, but candid expression of Mr. Williams. Certainly, he should not have been fired… at least in my opinion.
Fear of retaliation for taking a position is very real in this country and can be best exemplified by the Nifong-phobia. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of intelligent and sensible people in North Carolina are of the opinion that Mike Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred (especially in consideration that he is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933). However, the play given to the topic by the mainstream media and the punitive, draconian, and irrational treatment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong by the Attorney General’s Office and other state agencies, makes it clear to the well-informed that to take a side with Mr. Nifong is to possibly invite serious and catastrophic results… the most feared being loss of employment. There are many attorneys who are of the opinion that Mr. Nifong was unjustly disbarred, but they are not going to publicly say so because they realize to do so would put their license to practice law in serious jeopardy by the unregulated and out of control State Bar. Civil rights leaders and religious leaders in their pulpits avoid taking on the injustice to Mr. Nifong out of fear of losing financing and donations, support, and/or tithe.
What sets aside the Mike Nifong issue from many others in the arena of public discourse is the fact that the media has defined the debate by taking a position and pushing it on the public. This drive to destroy Mr. Nifong was spearheaded by Rae Evans, mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans. She held an executive position with CBS News for more than a decade, but this has never been disclosed during her appearances on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, and the media has been hush-hush on the topic, as well. The PR and media blitz by the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse families have produced a jihad against Mr. Nifong that is complete and without comparison. So successful has the media been in defining what opinions and expressions about Mr. Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case are acceptable, and what positions carry untold risks, that the state’s director of the American Civil Liberties Union is afraid to express her opinion on the topic. A couple of years ago at a public debate on freedom of speech at NCSU, I asked the ACLU’s Katy Parker, to opine in writing about Mr. Nifong’s disbarment, specifically asking if his actions were as egregious as other prosecutors who had not been disbarred. She was aware that I was a supporter of Mr. Nifong, and when I handed her the questionnaire, I asked her if she was going to fill it out. She responded, “It depends on the questions.” Evidently, she did not like the questions as she did not respond (I even enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope). But neither did the three other law school professors at event to whom I personally gave the questionnaire.
This is very telling, because an agency like the ACLU which is willing to protect the civil and constitutional rights of Nazis and Ku Klux Klanners is afraid to go up against the powerful Carpetbaggers by expressing its opinions about Mr. Nifong’s disbarment. Mr. Nifong’s unjust disbarment is a topic that is even off-limits at law schools. Law professors, even with tenure, are unwilling to breach the topic in a public forum. It is evident why the subject of Mr. Nifong is institutionally and universally taboo… because Mike Nifong’s disbarment was selective and unjust. This is a conclusion that anyone using a modicum of rational thought and knowledge of the issue would reach.
Elected public officials, who are compromised by their lust for public approval, display absolutely no courage when it comes to taking a public stand on the issue of Mike Nifong’s disbarment. Although the First Amendment protects their right to express an opinion on the subject, they undoubtedly act like politicians by cloaking their unwillingness to discuss the issue by pleading that the protocol in place restricts their ability to comment.
The heat surrounding the topic of Mike Nifong’s disbarment is so high that even having a view that is supportive of Mr. Nifong can lead to mistreatment. It happened to me at Duke University School of Law in April 14, 2010, when I attended an event which was open to the public. I was kicked off the campus, for no reason other than being a supporter of justice for Mr. Nifong. The attack against me by Duke was premeditated, malicious, and unwarranted, and illustrates the depth of contempt that has been generated by the media and the state against Mr. Nifong and his supporters. A university, especially one of Duke’s stature - not to mention that it is law school, should be a beacon for independent thought, opinion, and ideas. Debate on differing views should be welcome in such an academic environment. I’m sure that, generally speaking, it is on the Duke campus. But, again, when it comes to the topic of Mr. Nifong, open expression or even privately held opinion supportive of Mr. Nifong is squelched. Because I believe that Mr. Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred I was nearly arrested.
Tar Heelians, especially in Durham, know the score and are timid when it comes to speaking out on behalf of Mike Nifong. They realize that doing so could cost them a promotion, opportunity, or even their jobs and livelihood. The vindictive reach of the Carpetbagger Jihad is long, strong, and venomous. That is what makes members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong special. Each individual member has the conviction, and courage to back it up, to lend his/her name and face to the cause of obtaining justice for Mr. Nifong. Justice for Mike Nifong can be defined by action on part of the North Carolina State Bar to unilaterally and unconditionally reinstate Mike Nifong’s license to practice law in the state without restrictions. And that is the goal of our committee, which has been in existence since June 2008.
Like Juan Williams, I have experienced backlash because of my position in support of Mr. Nifong… discrimination against me and my near-arrest on the Duke University campus in April 2010, being one of the more recent. Because of the fear of retaliation, the Powers-That-Be, especially with the assistance of the media, will continue to determine what opinions the citizens of this state are considered acceptable to harbor and/or express. For those who elect to give an opinion that is not held in the mainstream, brace yourself and prepare to suffer retribution. Keep in mind that expression of opinion is free, but you oft times will end up paying the consequences for doing so.