Free Markets, Free People
The Los Angeles Times was there when the LASO came to pick up the "Innocence of Muslims" filmmaker for a "voluntary interview".
As the Times put it:
Just after midnight Saturday morning, authorities descended on the Cerritos home of the man believed to be the filmmaker behind the anti-Muslim movie that has sparked protests and rioting in the Muslim world.
Sheriff’s officials could not be reached by The Times, but department spokesman Steve Whitmore told KNBC News that deputies assisting the federal probation department took Nakoula to the sheriff’s substation in Cerritos for interviewing.
Apparently, they’re concerned about a possible probation violation, because he wasn’t supposed to access the Internet. But now his horrible movie is on YouTube, so he may in trouble. Hence, brown-shirted men showed up at midnight to "escort" him to a "voluntary interview".
There’s no free speech issue at all to be concerned with here. Move along citizen.
Instapundit has a round-up of reaction.
Yes, just three. You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300. 3,000 even! But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.
First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.
Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do. An example? The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:
Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”
That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.
“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”
Indeed it is. And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket. They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.
In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry. It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law. That’s called “crony capitalism”. The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result. If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.
Some good news on that front:
The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”
As you might imagine, the other side is not happy. So is it the state that is appealing? Well not the state, exactly:
The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.
That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected. Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.
And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom. Our next two examples come from the state of New York. I know, shocking.
Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy. That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down. Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.
Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice. Limit freedom. All for the common good, of course. (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”. Amen, cuz).
Case 2? Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet. A couple of Republicans, by the way.
New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state. The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting. Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.
His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose. State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:
…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.
As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:
Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms. The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:
“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country. I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level. But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels.
The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago. 50 years ago. in fact, 20 years ago.
These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands. They are fairly common unfortunately. They cost a lot to enforce. They’re unnecessary. Most important though, in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.
Frog. Pot. Rising heat.
Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.
Apparently Greenpeace has decided that dissent and disagreement (especially when it is effective) doesn’t warrant protection under the right to free speech.
That’s especially true if you’re a dirty, rotten global warming “denier”.
From a FAQ on the Greenpeace site, this question: “Don’t the deniers have a right to free speech?"
No poisoning of the well with the question, is there? They couldn’t ask “don’t those who disagree with the theory of man-made global warming have a right to free speech”?
If they’d phrased the question that way it might have been harder to attempt to justify this idiotic answer (not that it can be justified even with their poison question):
"There’s a difference between free speech and a campaign to deny the climate science with the goal of undermining international action on climate change," Greenpeace argues. "However, there’s also responsibility that goes with freedom of speech – which is based around honesty and transparency. Freedom of speech does not apply to misinformation and propaganda."
Because, you know, there’s consensus and the science is settled and all that. Nothing like smug but unsubstantiated faith in their crumbling cause, huh?
Given the last sentence, if Greenpeace believes that to be true one has to wonder when they’ll begin to self-censor.
Let freedom, scientific inquiry, honest debate and free speech ring.
Or join Greenpeace.
The most recent example of that is Rep. James Clyburn who thinks it is time the concept of free speech is rethought in the wake of the Tucson shooting:
The shooting is cause for the country to rethink parameters on free speech, Clyburn said from his office, just blocks from the South Carolina Statehouse. He wants standards put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage with a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, in addition to calling on elected officials and media pundits to use ‘better judgment.’
‘Free speech is as free speech does,’ he said. ‘You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and call it free speech and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that.’
“Free speech is as free speech does?” Does that sort of Gumpian nonsense pass for wisdom now? Of course you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater – unless there’s a fire, of course. But comparing what politicians (and others) have said to that, I find nothing of relevance (and yes, that includes “crosshairs”) that compares.
However those who would restrict your freedoms for their perceived safety don’t see it that way. And facts are simply an inconvenience to be ignored as they try to move their argument along. Clyburn again:
Clyburn used as an example a comment made by Sharron Angle, an unsuccessful U.S. senatorial candidate in Nevada, who said the frustrated public may consider turning to ‘Second Amendment remedies’ for political disputes unless Congress changed course.
Clyburn said the man accused of shooting Giffords did just that.
‘He saw a Second Amendment remedy and that’s what occurred here and there is no way not to make that connection,’ Clyburn said.
Despite Clyburn’s position, law enforcement has not yet revealed any motives in the shooting.
In fact, and as Clyburn must know even as he uttered those words, there appears to be no real political motive for the shooting in Tucson. But that doesn’t change the narrative does it?
More control of speech (in an effort to better control the opposition’s speech) has been an goal of the left for decades. Political correctness, birthed among academics from the left (and most evident on campuses today) ,is a speech code that has successfully limited and suppressed free speech. And there are other attempts being made. But the Clyburns of the world would, if they could and you would give them the okay, limit your speech despite the fact that the words “Congress shall make no law” appear in the amendment limiting government’s ability to do just that.
After all, It’s only the Constitution and we all know that it is followed by Congress only when it is convenient for Congress to do so.
I continue to be incredulous of the blatant political opportunism this shooting of Rep. Giffords has unleashed on the left. OK, not really. But in a way, it is the Paul Wellstone memorial all over again on a national level.
First, all of this angst over political rhetoric is so overwrought and overblown as to be laughable. There has never been a time in the history of this land that the language hasn’t been rough or partisan. Never. Pretending this is the worst it has ever been is simply historically inaccurate. It may be more obvious now because of mass communications and the democratization of opinion, but it isn’t at all any different than it ever has been. Folks, do a little digging in the history books. Hell, use Google. I’m not going to do you homework for you, but trust me on this – this era isn’t any better or worse than the vast majority of the rest of them.
Secondly, the entire premise of those calling for the toning down of the rhetoric originally was that it was the cause on the attack on Giffords. Now it is becoming more and more apparent that isn’t the case. But it provides such an opportunity for the left to demonize the right that the talking heads and political advisors continue to make that point even while they walk it back a little with a disclaimer about this guy being a nut. It now goes something like “we must ratchet the vitriol and rhetoric down, even if this guy wasn’t a right wing nut influenced by it”.
Right now the only reason they can come up with is “it could happen”. When they first started harping on this nonsense, soon after the shooting, you got the impression that the left was 99.9% sure this guy was a right-wing militia member or something. As it turns out he was the .01% loon instead. But that hasn’t slowed down the messaging has it?
And, as I mentioned in another post, political strategists see this as a golden opportunity for the president to speak out on something that didn’t occur. Oh, forget the last part of that – we’ll pretend it did to give Obama’s forthcoming words some sort of foundation of relevance. One of those political strategists who are enamored with the opportunity is the odious Paul Begala:
Paul Begala, one of Clinton’s top political advisers during the 1990s, thinks Obama has a genuine opportunity to re-define the nation’s political debate – a promise he first made in his breakout 2004 speech to the Democratic convention —and reclaim moral high ground lost during the last two years of intense partisan combat.
“One of the things I learned from Oklahoma City is not to rush to judgment…We don’t know this Arizona animal’s motive,” said Begala.
“But almost irrespective of that, it wouldn’t hurt for all of us to tone things down a bit – myself included. If the President uses this tragedy to challenge us all to move to higher ground, it would be a welcome message. And if the right tries to demonize him for doing that, they will look small and petty and extreme.” [emphasis mine]
Begala learned “not to rush to judgment” in the OK City tragedy? Did he really? So why is he doing it now by attempting to tie political rhetoric (“tone things down a bit”) to the shooting in Tucson (the reason for any speech Obama might make)?
Well in reality I guess he doesn’t. Note the “but almost irrespective of that” phrase. He’s saying, hey it really doesn’t matter if the dream scenario didn’t play out (right winger shoots left wing pol), this is still a great opportunity for the President to pull a Bill Clinton and demonize the right (although he doesn’t say that specifically, that’s precisely what Clinton did – Limbaugh and the militias were the bad guys then) and connect with the people (which he sorely needs to do). And, of course, if the right fights back, well “they will look small and petty”?
What if the right fights back by throwing the facts of the case (loon, not right winger, shot Giffords not because of rhetoric, but because he’s a loon) in the President’s face and standing firmly on 1st Amendment grounds to resist the call to curb political speech, Mr. Begala? Who’ll look rather diminished then, sir?
Begala’s not the only operative salivating on the chance to capitalize on this tragedy:
Veteran Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein said the crisis “really plays to Obama’s strengths as consensus-builder” and gives him the opportunity to build a deeper emotional connection with the people he governs.
“He’ll be active, but also very careful not to appear like he’s blaming or politicizing,” Gerstein predicted.
Since when has Obama yet demonstrated he is a “consensus-builder?” On what? And when in his last two years hasn’t he “blamed” or “politicized” just about everything? If I hear anything more about his “predecessor” or about what he “inherited” I’ll puke. If Gerstein is Obama’s consultant, it isn’t at all difficult to understand why Obama is in trouble. Gerstein obviously has Obama mixed up with someone else.
Gerstein goes on:
“The biggest question about him is strength – can he be a strong leader? This tragedy will give him an opportunity to answer that question and build a closer emotional connection with the middle of the electorate that sees this as a reflection of something disturbing about our politics.”
I can answer that question – making a speech about a shooting and calling for toned down rhetoric and less partisanship (while having use heated rhetoric, blaming and blatant partisanship) does not make someone a leader, Mr. Gerstein. It doesn’t make him a strong leader or a weak leader or even a mediocre leader. Leadership is about action, decisions and consequences. It isn’t a passive word as folks like Gerstein seem to think.
Will it help him “connect” with the middle of the electorate? Have his speeches in the past done so? Sure, when he was a total unknown, his words were pretty, inspiring and hopeful. But now the “middle of the electorate” know him much better and he has an actual record of 2 years. Pretty and high-minded speeches aren’t going to impress anyone anymore.
The rest of the POLITICO article discusses the similarities and differences between Tucson and Oklahoma City as well as the differences between Clinton and Obama. But here is the nut of the premise that the left is trying to lay on the right at the moment:
And Clinton has made clear he believes that the trend he identified in the 1990s – the connection between radical speech and violent deeds – still exists.
Even though Timothy McVeigh explicitly cited Waco as his reason for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, this premise continues to exist as if it has been proven. Yet, again, when the violence is cited and radical speech blamed, we find little to convince us that there’s any connection. The nutcase that shot Giffords dreamed up his own reasons for going after her it seems, independent of anyone else’s rhetoric.
How inconvenient for those who would love to shut us up.
Clinton said in an oped during the time of the OK City bombing:
“Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy,”
I don’t think any reasoning person on the right disagrees with that statement. What they will disagree with is what constitutes “advocacy” for violence.
Well, here’s a clue – it’s not crosshairs on a political map. If one can reasonably deduce what that means in context with a political campaign, you understand without a second thought that it is a metaphorical device. So are may other terms. But the left is attacking that in the normal contextless and disingenuous way they do their business:
A key ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, explicitly called out Palin for injecting gun imagery into politics, arguing that her use of crosshairs over districts – including Giffords’ — in an email pitch to SarahPAC supporters incited violence.
“We live in a world of violent images … the phrase ‘don’t retreat, reload’ — putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets … they invite the unstable,” Durbin told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Our political speech should not be held hostage by the “unstable”. And this latest nut is a perfect example of the point. It appears he was not swayed by anything to do with political speech by anyone but Giffords. He was obsessed with her and for all we know, he got his orders to shoot her from the chicken pot pie he ate the night before.
Durbin’s nonsense notwithstanding, we cannot and must not make ourselves hostages to what could happen if some nut decides to take something literally. There is a difference between a random nutball deciding for whatever reason to do something and a movement that advocates violence as a solution to political problem. We must not bow to the pressure to accommodate the former by denying our free speech and we must not accept the latter as a solution to anything. But what we can’t do is lump the former with the latter and just curb our speech “in case” it might set one of the nuts off. That’s precisely what Durbin and his ilk are suggesting.
Yeah, I know, what, 4 posts in and around the subject? Can you tell it hacks me off? I’m disgusted by the cold-blooded opportunism, I’m aghast at the concerted attempt to limit speech and I’m just pissed that anyone would calculate any sort of political win out of an obvious tragedy.
But then, I’m talking about the left here and nothing they do surprises me anymore.
Well, as you can imagine, the Giffords shooting has sucked all the oxygen out of just about every other subject. And, as you can probably further imagine, the "let’s make a law" crowd is busily at work trying to again limit our freedoms in the name of "security".
We have a representative from PA who wants to outlaw "crosshairs" in political advertising. I have to wonder what part of "Congress shall make no law" in the 1st Amendment and political speech he doesn’t understand? Perhaps the word "no" as in none, zip, zero, nada?
The typical overreaction is underway. As is the inevitable. Gun control pops its ugly head up again as a New York Congresswoman prepares to introduce legislation banning high-capacity ammunition clips.
And then there’s Paul Krugman. The historically blind and deaf Paul Krugman. Check out these opening two paragraphs in a piece entitled “Climate of Hate”:
When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?
Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.
Notice anything missing in his trip down memory lane? Yeah, 8 years of inflammatory rhetoric and what he now labels as “hate” directed at George Bush and the right. I’m sure you’re not surprised – this sort of memory loss is endemic on the left. The memory hole, which they seem unable to acknowledge, is why most on the right take the likes of Paul Krugman and their hate claims with the grain of salt they deserve. When their rhetoric was pointed out to them, their retort was “dissention is patriotism”.
Note too that the economist turned political hack continues to insist, in the face of almost conclusive evidence to the contrary, that the violence visited on Rep. Giffords was the result of the “hatred” from the right. And he uses the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center’s report (hidden in the just as discredited Homeland Security report) as “proof” of his claims.
Krugman must have sensed he’s on thin ice because a few paragraphs in he throws this out:
It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
Holy Mars and Venus, Batman – is this guy living on the same planet we’re living on? Of course it can be an “isolated event” and it certainly can have nothing to do with the so-called “national climate”. The guy was a loon. A nutcase. He has serious mental problems. He’s a yahoo who became fixated on Rep. Giffords for no apparent logical reason other than she was a local politician. Trying to warp this into something it isn’t, however, is suddenly becoming the pastime of the left. Well, much of it anyway (there are indeed islands of sanity out there, but they’re becoming less prevalent).
Krugman then attempts to whitewash the left’s very recent past by claiming you’ll mostly hear only caustic remarks and mocking at worst. Michelle Malkin neatly disposes of that myth.
So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?
If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.
What then, as evidence continues to mount supporting it, if it was indeed a “mere act of a deranged individual” Mr. Krugman. Will we get an Emily Litella like “never mind” from you?
This is the latest in a long line of efforts by the left to shut its opposition up. Political correctness has finally begun to wear thin as most have now recognized it for what it is – an attempt to control speech. This effort is nothing less than that. It is the claim that speech must be modified because others who are deranged might act on it, even out of context. But that lack of memory about their own toxic speech and their spirited defense of it (again, see Malkin’s listing of the left’s happy talk about George Bush) smacks of such hypocrisy that the word is almost insufficient to define them at this point.
Freedom and democracy demand risk to work. They must not be held prisoner to speech codes and “security”. We must not let the priorities that underpin freedom be chipped away or removed by a bunch of scared rabbits. If Congress wants to beef up security around its members, I can understand that. However, that’s as far as I’m willing to go. Restricting the freedoms of the rest of us because of some nut is just flat unacceptable.
And by the way, Mr. Krugman – go see a doctor. I’m told the type of memory loss you’re suffering is the first sign of senile dementia. Have it checked out, will you?
I shut off the comments to the earlier Helen Thomas post, because the comments pretty much ran off the rails. I mean, talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees..
Look, whatever you may think about the legitimacy of Israel, the arguments of the reconquistas, that’s all irrelevant. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with the issue I was addressing. All of that stuff is a non-sequitur.
Helen Thomas didn’t say the Jews should be stuffed into ovens. Now, maybe she’s a raging anti-semite who believes that’s what should happen. I dunno. I don’t have access to her inner life. All I know is that isn’t what she said.
What she said was that the state of Israel was occupying Arab land, and that the Israelis should return to their countries of origin, i.e. “Germany, Poland…America, and everywhere else.” That’s certainly a minority opinion in the US, but it’s less of one in Europe, and it’s the absolute majority opinion in the Arab world.
So the only relevant question is whether stating that opinion is so outrageous that she should lose her livelihood for stating it. If so, then the implied conclusion is that questioning the legitimacy of the Israeli state is a disqualification from participating in public discourse (and is no doubt prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism to some).
So, lets confine ourselves to what she actually said, and discuss whether denying the legitimacy of Israel is such a horrific opinion that those who express it have to be driven out of public life like some kind of poison troll.
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.
Hollywood provides the grist for today’s bit of outrageous verbiage in the words of Sean Penn (I know, I know, shocka). He’s upset about how his buddy and virtual dictator of Venezuela is being treated here he’s ready to jail everyone who speaks out against him. Talking on Bill Maher’s show he said:
Because every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it! And accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should – truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.
Sounds like someone who’d be very comfortable in the Venezuela of today because there they do have a bar by which one goes to prison – but not necessarily for “lies”. Instead it can be for simply speaking out against that kind and benevolent dictator, Hugo Chavez. Tell you what Sean – go down to Venezuela and try to start a media outlet in opposition to the Chavez regime and tell us what happens, mmkay?
This is worrisome. I just featured a story in which Democrats have slipped a “hate speech” bill into the Defense Appropriations bill in a bid to further eroding our 1st Amendment protections. Now we find out that the Obama administration has supported a UN resolution that is also designed to restrict free speech:
Around the world, free speech is being sacrificed on the altar of religion. Whether defined as hate speech, discrimination or simple blasphemy, governments are declaring unlimited free speech as the enemy of freedom of religion. This growing movement has reached the United Nations, where religiously conservative countries received a boost in their campaign to pass an international blasphemy law. It came from the most unlikely of places: the United States.
While attracting surprisingly little attention, the Obama administration supported the effort of largely Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council to recognize exceptions to free speech for any “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” The exception was made as part of a resolution supporting free speech that passed this month, but it is the exception, not the rule that worries civil libertarians. Though the resolution was passed unanimously, European and developing countries made it clear that they remain at odds on the issue of protecting religions from criticism. It is viewed as a transparent bid to appeal to the “Muslim street” and our Arab allies, with the administration seeking greater coexistence through the curtailment of objectionable speech. Though it has no direct enforcement (and is weaker than earlier versions), it is still viewed as a victory for those who sought to juxtapose and balance the rights of speech and religion.
One of the bedrock sentiments of free speech is “I may not like what you say, but I defend until the death your right to say it”. This resolution may not have the force of law, but it is the second example of a disturbing trend with this administration which essentially assaults that sentiment. In both cases, you’re not allowed to say something which government arbitrarily decides is “hate speech” or “negative racial and religious stereotyping”. In the case of the UN resolution, there’s not even any nod to “incitement”.
I find it disturbing that speech codes are beginning to seep into national and international laws and resolutions in contravention of our Constitutional rights. It is and has been one of the dreams of the far left (which seems to have found its way into power) to institutionalize political correctness. The trend has been toward doing just that in much of the world:
The “blasphemy” cases include the prosecution of writers for calling Mohammed a “pedophile” because of his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha (which was consummated when she was 9). A far-right legislator in Austria, a publisher in India and a city councilman in Finland have been prosecuted for repeating this view of the historical record.
In the flipside of the cartoon controversy, Dutch prosecutors this year have brought charges against the Arab European League for a cartoon questioning the Holocaust.
Do we want to become a part of this anti-free speech circus? While I may find Holocaust deniers to be ignorant fools I find no reason to put them in jail because of it. Yet that is precisely what the sort of resolution just supported by this administration leads toward (and something that actually happens in certain European countries). All in the name of politics. While I may not agree with Christopher Hitchens, I certainly believe he deserves the right to be heard when he speaks of his atheism, no matter how acerbic or insulting his speech may be deemed by some. The right of free speech demands he have that ability. Political correctness demands he speak only what is approved and suffer consequences (TBD) if he strays from that narrow pathway.
Controlling speech is one of the first things totalitarians attempt to impose. As stated, while this resolution does not have the force of law, it and the hate speech legislation pending in Congress suggest a trend. It is a trend that should be resisted mightly. It represents steps down the path toward a form of government that is fundamentally opposed to that our founders instituted here and guaranteed with the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
UPDATE: Here’s a little test for you - read the article and identify those engaged in “hate speech” or “negative racial and religious stereotyping” or both? And who, based on the premise they should, be punished?