Free Markets, Free People


Helen, We Hardly Knew Ye

OK, that’s not really true.  We knew that Helen Thomas was a pretty opinionated, nasty piece of work, as her questioning of President Bush–when he occasionally deigned to recognize her–showed over his two terms.  So, learning this week that Ms. Thomas was of the opinion that Israel had no right to exist, should be disbanded, and the Jews should return to Wurstland and Kielbasastan wasn’t much of a surprise.  Her agent acted surprised, though, as did Hearst newspapers–both unconvincingly.  Surely they knew what a c– uh, controversial set of opinions she had.  They had to.  But they went through the tired old kabuki of being shocked at her opinions about Israel…and of letting her go, after suitable mouth noises indicating shock and surprise.

Now, all the right-wingers are happy she’s been fired, and her career is over.  Although, at 89, wasn’t her career in the inevitable winding down phase anyway?  I find I can’t really join in the celebration at her firing, though.

NineSpeakers, her agent, and Hearst, her employer, are, of course, perfectly within their rights to choose not to work with her.  But I don’t particularly rejoice to see them exercise that right.  I guess I approach this differently.  I didn’t think Don Imus should’ve been fired for the “nappy hos” comment.  I didn’t think Opie & Anthony should have been suspended because they let a homeless person come in and make horrible statements about Condoleeza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II.  And I don’t think that Helen Thomas should have been fired because she thinks that Israel, as a state, was illegitimately created on Arab soil.

When the La Raza/Reconquista types talk about how the southwestern United States used to be part of Mexico in the 19th century, that people of Mexican extraction have continuously lived there since, and that it needs to go back to Mexico, conservatives immediately reject that argument as having any validity at all in today’s political context.  They then turn around and argue that, since Israel was the Jewish state prior to the Romans forcing Jews to disperse in 70AD, and that Jews have lived there continuously since, that gives Israel the right to exist as a modern Jewish state.  So, it’s a completely illegitimate argument in Mexico’s case, but perfectly rational in the case of Israel.  That means that when Helen Thomas makes the same argument about Israel that conservatives make about Mexico, it’s an intolerably outlandish opinion.

And I find it fascinating that the same people who get themselves in a tizzy about “hate speech”, political correctness, and speech codes are the same people who are cheering on Helen Thomas’ firing.  Turns out that they don’t really object to speech codes or political correctness.  They just want them enforced on a different set of opinions.

Helen Thomas’ opinion about Israel tells us all something.  It provides us with information that we can use in judging her subsequent writings or statements.  Now, of course, what we’ve done is send a message to everyone else who might have controversial or nasty opinions to keep them to themselves.  So, in the future, people in Ms. Thomas’ position will now be less likely to share those opinions with us, and we will be deprived of insights into their minds that help us judge their veracity and intentions.

Once again, a clear message has been sent out about the importance of narrowing acceptable political opinion. So, apparently there are a lot of people on both the Left and Right who sanctimoniously declare that “the solution to bad speech speech is more speech,” but they don’t really mean it.  It just makes them feel good about themselves to say it.

For my part, I think Helen Thomas is a kook when it comes to Israel, just like I think the reconquista folks are kooks when it comes to Mexico. I am hugely uninterested in revisiting geopolitical events that occurred before I was born, whether in 1948, or 1845. And I am completely opposed to using distant historical events as a justification of who gets to live where today.  Quite apart from anything else, if pushed to its logical conclusion, it would mean that I would have to turn over my house to the Pala Indians, and spend the rest of my life wandering around the cold, windswept coast of north-central Scotland in a plaid skirt, with maybe an occasional jaunt to Aberdeen for a night of drunken fist-fighting. Mexico lost the southwest.  The Arabs lost Israel.  Tough.

I just find that I don’t disagree enough with Helen Thomas’ opinion–or anyone else’s–to want to deprive her of her livelihood, or to deprive me of the pleasure of pointing at her and laughing.

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25 Responses to Helen, We Hardly Knew Ye

  • 5th paragraph, first sentence should be Helen Thomas’ firing not Helen’s Thomas firing.

  • I agree with you on this.   Whether it’s Trent Lott being forced to resign for honoring Strom Thurmond (whose career was honorable) or this (which was more serious, to be sure), this “gotcha game” of catching people doing something politically incorrect and forcing them to leave is absurd.   Now we get scripted candidates afraid of any gaffe, and a sense that people can’t say what they think.   Helen Thomas showed something of herself in her comment — that she is out of touch and a bit whacko — but that’s OK.  Out of touch and whacko folk make politics interesting.

  • We often forget this: the right to free speech is a limitation on the power of government.  So long as the government didn’t incarcerate Helen Thomas, or take away her property, or take away her right to vote, her free speech rights are perfectly intact!

    NineSpeakers and Hearst are not government entities.  They are businesses.  Their purpose is to make a profit for those who have placed their capital at risk.  The duty to resist the regulation of speech is binding on the federal government, but it is not binding on businesses.  Businesses have employees and contractors.  If a business’s employees and contractors say things that offend and/or drive away that business’s customers, then the business has every right to discipline and/or terminate the contractor or employee.

    Neither Hearst nor NineSpeakers did anything wrong.  If they refused to protect their business interests, then they would have been negligent.  They made a call, and probably the right one.

    —Tom Nally, New Orleans

  • Let me follow up on my previous comment.

    One may believe that the termination of Helen Thomas by Hearst actually hurts Hearst’s relationship with its customers.  I tend to think not, but perhaps that will turn out to be true.  No one knows yet.  But it is inarguable that Hearst’s duty to protect itself as a business includes the right to discipline or terminate employees or contractors based on their public statements.  The fact that Hearst is a media company does not change this duty.

    —Tom Nally, New Orleans

    • Umm, OK. But no one suggested otherwise. I made your point in the lead sentence of Para 3.

      Although, I think was kinda crappy for her agent to drop her, rather than defending her.   Agents aren’t employers.  They’re supposed to work for you. That’s what you pay them for.

      • That agency books speaking engagements – I am not sure they actually represent her as opposed to have her in a “catalog” of choices for high school graduations and such.
        And since they have many clients, if they choose to represent a client that other people don’t like it reflects on them. Maybe they could have kept her on as a secret menu option. “Oh, you want something a little more exciting than Cokie Roberts? Well, we do have Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, or Jeff Gannon.”

      • They also have to work for other clients, all of whom probably said “Get rid of her, before her taint spreads to you, and then to us, making it impossible for US to get speaking gigs”.

      • “They’re supposed to work for you”

        And I am sure they did, and probably pretty well since she continued to use them. However, they are not slaves. They are entitled to associate themselves and work for  whomever they wish. I myself prefer not to work with people I detest. I think most people do the same if they can afford to.

  • Idk.  If she had on several occasions made the pretense that she is a supposedly objective reporter, reported on Israeli affairs, but it turns out she had intense biases which she may not be able to overcome I think it would be within a Newpaper’s right to fire her.

    And although the Newpaper should have known, it depends on how high the decision making goes.  This may have actually been news to the owners.  Maybe not in the sense of ‘knowing’ but in the sense of having actionable evidence in a HR/wrongful dismissal lawsuit sense.

  • Isn’t supporting the creation of a new state of Israel sort of like supporting the creation of the new state of the USA, both to be populated with people who lived there and for generations and also with newcomers ? I don’t get the Reconquista concept as being analogous.
    I guess you mean using the ancient historical record as a raison d’etre rather than “modern” history.
    Its going to really suck for any Mexican-Americans of pure Spanish descent when this concept is fully implemented…they are going to get kicked out of the America, then get kicked out of Mexico, and then possibly kicked out of the area of Spain they took from the Moors.



     

  • As f0r Israel, I don’t think the Mexican / Illegal alien analogy is the best one.  The Republic of Texas/Mexico Analogy is not exactly correct either, but some ways closer imho.

  • jpm100, shouldn’t you be asleep? :)

  • Interesting argument.  I should also say “unsettling” as I recognize that I have been guilty of double standards such as you discuss, including the very one (Israel vs. the Southwest) that you mention.

    Tom Nally‘s response is much the same as I would make, i.e. that free speech rights apply with regard to the government.  As for the right of a private employer to punish or curtail speech… I confess to being a little conflicted (perhaps hypocritical?) on this.  On the one hand, I think that employers have a right to decide whether or not the good of their business is served if certain opinions of their employees become known.  On the other, I am much irritated by political correctness and regard certain instances of outrage (Imus, for example) as both phony and evidence of what one might call the tyranny of the mob: “You can’t say that because we don’t like it!”

    Should Thomas have been fired?  There is much food for thought in the answer to this question.  I suggest that many conservatives say “yes” and feel great satisfaction that she was pricipally out of spite: after years of watching the left pillory various people for real or ginned-up violations of their politically correct speech codes, it’s good to see one of them caught in that very trap.  Shoe’s on the other foot now, eh?

  • Israelis had a history in the area dating back thousands of years.   Mexicans had some ownership of parts of what is now the US. . for twnty years.  Not very Analogous IMO. . . and if you wanted to go back further, the mexicans woudl be thrown out and replaced by the SPanish, who would be.  ..

    Jews have a much longer – massively longer – continuous presence in the area of the middle east.




     

  • With apologies to the handful of good and even great journalists out there, American journalists are largely an endless crop of incompetent morons. That Helen Thomas was considered the “Dean of the White House Press Corps” is my first offer of proof. But books have been written with plenty more proof. Or there’s the New York Times, available everyday, filled with bad, biased, reporting and irrelevant almost sick commentary.

    Franks’ analogy to Mexico is off by about 105 degrees. The Jews were stateless when Israel was created, and that goes if all you count are the Jews who were living in the Middle East. The Mexicans are hardly stateless. They have a huge failed state that was destroyed by a Marxist-Leninist regime. Imagine if the Mexicans had been allowed to prosper in a free and dynamic society over the course of the 20th century. Californians would be retiring there like it was south Florida.

    I was long indifferent to Israel. Until 9/11. That’s when I got how important it is not just to Jews but to America. They are tough people, the Israelis, and I appreciate now that they have led the way against the infernal claims of Arabs and Islam in fighting for their own piece of the desert in the Middle East. Had the Palestinians not been led off into the wilderness by the KGB more than 40 years ago, into perpetual violence, they could have partnered economically with the Israelis by now and built their own prosperous society. Instead, they live as the Western Left’s favorite global grievance basket case and are now transitioning from Arafat’s Soviet stoogemass into another Islamist human sacrifice.

    The Israelis should be admired for their tenacity and their restraint, and it’s laughable that dictators and thugs from around the world get to go to the UN and complain about Israel. I don’t know what Hegel would say about that kind of zeitgeist, but it’s the very rough equivalent of the American Left’s delusional thinking that the madman Barack Obama was the second coming of sliced bread.

    • Stoogemass.  I heard it first here.

      It could apply to so much, but to nothing more perfectly than to the Palestinians.

      Arafat’s Soviet stoogemass.   The subtitle of their definitive 20th century history.

  • I heroically dissent.  hehheh.
    Hearst hired her to do opinion.  But suggesting Jews should re-board the cattle cars was one opinion too far.
    She is still quite free to offer her services elsewhere. If someone hires you, that means they can fire you. Otherwise, “free markets, free people” has little meaning.

  • When the La Raza/Reconquista types talk about how the southwestern United States used to be part of Mexico in the 19th century, that people of Mexican extraction have continuously lived there since, and that it needs to go back to Mexico, conservatives immediately reject that argument as having any validity at all in today’s political context.  They then turn around and argue that, since Israel was the Jewish state prior to the Romans forcing Jews to disperse in 70AD, and that Jews have lived there continuously since, that gives Israel the right to exist as a modern Jewish state.  So, it’s a completely illegitimate argument in Mexico’s case, but perfectly rational in the case of Israel.  That means that when Helen Thomas makes the same argument about Israel that conservatives make about Mexico, it’s an intolerably outlandish opinion.

    Who makes this argument exactly?  Idiots maybe, but nobody who knows anything about history.  The modern state of Israel has the right to exist because of what happened in the 20th century, and nothing else.  In the same way the Ottomans had a “right” to rule the region, as did the Romans and the Persians and the Egyptians and the Byzantines at various times.  Similarly we have the right to rule the American southwest because we kicked the shit out of Mexico in a war to win the right.  The Mexicans had the right to rule it before because they dominated indigenous peoples, and the indigenous peoples had the right before that because they dominated OTHER indigenous people, and so on, and so on, and so on.   There is no “time zero” where all the existing set of rights are “legitimate” and any other arrangement is “illegitimate.”  Machiavelli is right.  Your country is only your country as long as you can defend it.
     

    • Rich, I don’t disagree with any point you made.  But…and somebody may have already made these points…the Reconquista argument is silly for LOTS of reasons.  First, nobody forced Mexicans into a diaspora.  Nobody is saying they may not live here now.  Nobody (virtually) is saying they have no right to live.  Nobody is denying them a state of their own.  If the UN is supposed to be the new model of international legality, there is no nation on earth with a greater claim to legal existence.  Where there is any real overlap between Palestinians and Reconquistas, it occurs from their fundamentally racist positions, and their drive to forcibly take what is not theirs.

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