by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When Rick Stengel left his job as managing editor of Time magazine to take the job of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in 2013, he became the 24th journalist to officially join the Obama administration. …
… Stengel is now on Biden’s transition team to the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which I just learned is an agency that oversees “public service media networks that provide unbiased news and information in countries where the press is restricted.”
Considering Stengel’s animosity towards free expression this seems quite a poor fit. You might remember his infamous 2011 Time cover piece, featuring a picture of the Constitution with the headline “Does It Still Matter?” …
… This malleable view of foundational law, one that allows partisans to reimagine the Constitution in any way that suits them, is pretty popular these days. It is, in essence, an acknowledgment that the contemporary left-wing can’t function under traditional American principles.
Stengel went even further, arguing in a 2019 Washington Post op-ed that the state should begin policing speech:
But as a government official traveling around the world championing the virtues of free speech, I came to see how our First Amendment standard is an outlier. 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?
Even sophisticated diplomats from Middle East theocracies and autocracies can’t wrap their minds around the principles of free expression! So, asks Stengel, why not be more like Saudi Arabia or Egypt? This is not exactly the reasoning you’d expect from a former journalist, though perhaps these days you should.