Thursday, May 10, 2007

THE LIBERAL WAR ON FREE SPEECH

Sam Smith

IT'S hard enough defending the First Amendment against the right. But these days one is almost as often likely to find the foe a liberal who believes that free speech only belongs to the righteous, the appropriate and the responsible as defined by people like themselves.

In today's liberal climate it would be hard to get an ACLU off the ground because its potential organizers would be too busy being morally superior to lesser mortals.

The only way out of this trap seems to be to choose among the censors. Do you want liberals or conservatives telling you when to shut up? Those of us who share Walt Kelly's view that we must defend the basic right of all Americans to make damn fools of themselves are in a minority in both camps.

A case in point is the despicable Ann Coulter, who has called John Edwards a "faggot" and suggested that Al Qaeda wants Obama to win the White House.

John Edwards reaction: "Her outrageous comments are inexcusable and should not be tolerated in the public dialogue."

Would attorney Edwards care to enlighten us on what Coulter could have said that would have been tolerated? Would it have been all right to call Edwards a "wimp" or to claim that a President Obama might weaken our stand against Al Qaeda? And how does one discover when the line of inexcusability has been crossed?

The Democrats are also pressing for an expansion of hate crime legislation even though it is clearly constitutional to hate; it's just criminal to do anything about it that hurts someone or their property - matters already well covered by law.

There are other problems with such an approach. It helps to drive hate further underground. It makes it harder to deal with in its political and psychological manifestations and, above all, it helps let off the hook all those related issues such as cross-ethnic economic inequities. Far better, say, to guide angry lower income white frustrations away from blaming immigrants towards tackling the big white guys in charge than implying - as liberals increasingly do - that if they're just nice to people everything will be fine.

Unfortunately, liberals increasingly have become indifferent to the economic issues that a populist progressive would use to redirect misplaced anger. The liberal message has become one of propriety over progress and in the end you get neither.

Since Edwards presumably is trying to learn as much about populism as he has about hedge funds, here's a suggestion. Say that Coulter can utter any stupid and mean thing she wants but if she does it on radio or TV, under an Edwards presidency, there will be a revival of the broadcast fairness rule so that her victims can come right back at her on the same outlet. And talk about Coulter's ties with the big businesses that are ruining the lives and communities of so many Americans.

Broadcasting didn't used to be this nasty. But the robber barons of the RBCB era* worked their evil magic on the airwaves just as they did on everything else. They killed the fairness doctrine and fostered the rise of the repulsive right.

In the end, what we need is not less free speech but more of it.


* RBCB is the Progressive Review's neologism of the day, standing for the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush era

19 Comments:

At May 10, 2007 4:55 PM, m said...

Bravo!

 
At May 10, 2007 5:23 PM, xilii said...

This would be an ideal forum for a flame war.

 
At May 10, 2007 9:37 PM, Anonymous said...

It's pointless, because this site insists on identifying liberals with the Democratic Party and its ideals, period. There's no admission that liberals and liberalism could extend beyond, or transcend what the Dems are putting on the table.
Many of your despised liberals, Sam, would be among the first to disown the DNC as in any way supporting social ideals they stand for, believe it or not.
But it seems you're going to continue to play to the crowd, and not attempt to examine beyond that; and that's a shame and a disservice. But I've come to expect continual media bias, even in (sometimes most especially in) those outlets who most ardently trumpet their 'fair and balanced' reportage. Oh well.

 
At May 11, 2007 9:30 AM, Anonymous said...

Wake up, 9:37. This site is called The Progressive Review not The Liberal Review. Progressive and liberal are two different things. The whole idea behind the term progressive was to distinguish ourselves from the corporate "liberals" of the Democratic party.

 
At May 11, 2007 10:21 AM, Anonymous said...

'Despised liberals'?

If but they were liberals.
Maybe that's the point Sam is trying to get across. Thirty years ago the rantings of all but a few of those calling themselves Democrats, including Barry and the Slick family, would have been recognized as yet another iteration of the Rockefeller Wing of the Republican Party.

 
At May 11, 2007 10:29 AM, Anonymous said...

Rereading the above post, it seems a bit of clarification may be in order. I do not consider Barry and the Slicks to be among the few exceptions. Make no mistake, they are at the head of the parade of liberal apostates.

 
At May 11, 2007 6:06 PM, Anonymous said...

Some people will go to the greatest lengths to obfuscate a simple point. Go back and re-read my post at 9:37. Of course, I don't really know why I bother with recommending that, since you'll still willfully refuse to see what I'm getting at.

If there's anything 'progressive' about a mindset as deliberately narrow as you guys' seem to be, then count me out of your movement. Even certain segments of the Right seem to be a bit more open-minded then many of you come across as being.

 
At May 11, 2007 7:12 PM, Anonymous said...

In other words, you object when other people are as resistant to changing their beliefs to match yours as you are to changing your beliefs to match theirs.

 
At May 12, 2007 1:09 AM, Anonymous said...

Chaplinksy V. New Hampshire

I never understood the entire "absolute free speech" people. Fighting words, Speeches used to incite a crowd for violent action, yelling fire in a crowded movie, and beating the crap out of someone because they are a certain race, religion, or sexual orientation theater are not protected by the 1st Amendment.

 
At May 12, 2007 1:21 AM, Anonymous said...

937 makes a good point.

The first sentence of their post makes note of the fact that the Review too often seems to identify 'liberal' with Democratic Party line-tower, period. They are trying to put the not-outrageous idea on the table that not all people who refer to themselves as liberals identify with DNC-style 'liberalism' than do all adherents of any other political philosophy necessarily share all the same core beliefs as mainstream exponents of any other political viewpoint, be that viewpoint libertarian, republican, liberal, progressive, etc.
I tend to consider myself a progressive, but I must admit I'm disturbed by a great deal of what seems to me the type of knee-jerk response to people who post on this site without first loudly pasting that particular label on themselves. To me, this tends to smack of the worst kind of old-school McCarthyite, "if you are not an immediately identifiable member of my political tribe, then that definitively proves you an enemy" style of republican reactionary thought.
That's not a good advertisement for the progressive viewpoint, folks. It comes across looking primitive, and not very open to any ideas that don't already square completely with yor own prejudices.
In other words, 712, this person is no more obligated to change their beliefs to fit yours that vice-versa. What's so difficult for you to take in about that? Unless of course, you're convinced that you are speaking from the mountaintop and therefore no one else's views could possibly possess any credence than your own, Again, if that's the case, it doesn't speak well for self-advertised 'progressivist' thought.

 
At May 12, 2007 1:33 AM, Anonymous said...

"then count me out of your movement."
Don't let the door hit you on your way.

 
At May 12, 2007 2:55 PM, Mairead said...

I have what I think is a good touchstone: I ask myself 'what would Tom Paine or Saul Alinsky think about this position/person?'

It seems to be the case that nearly all people who do well in that test identify as something other than 'a liberal'.

 
At May 12, 2007 4:12 PM, Anonymous said...

My word, what a great lot of windy pronunciementos; all boiling down to exactly "I support freedom of speech as long as that speech doesn't diverge too greatly from my own."

Mairead, think you could get out of your Vulcan mind-meld with Mr.Alinsky long enough to formulate some opinions of your own? Your variant on What Would Jesus Do doesn't mark you out for the independent mind you apparently think you possess.

Reading the above natterings gives me a pretty good glimpse into the nascent totalitarian mentality a-budding out there in the dark fields of the republic. I only hope it's the ignorance of youth I'm seeing on parade here; otherwise, it's too depressing to consider that supposedly literate adults could be such a lot of self-delusory (not to mention self-congratulatory) jackasses.

 
At May 12, 2007 4:26 PM, Anonymous said...

9:37 is only trying to make the simple point that demonizing 'liberals' as some monolithic entity is both childish and counter-productive, when coming from people who identify themselves with a movement that is supposed to be about freeing one's mind from externally imposed rigid stereotyping. What's so hard to understand about that? Why do many of you seem to find this so threatening?

My own limus test is 'HOW GROUNDED IS SOMEONE IN THEIR BELIEF SYSTEM, IF THEY CANNOT TAKE IN AN ALTERNATE VIEWPOINT, WITHOUT ADOPTING THE STANCE OF SOMEONE WHO FEELS THAT SYSTEM HAS BEEN THREATENED TO THE CORE BY THE MERE FACT OF THAT ALTERNATE VIEW'S EXISTENCE?" In that test, the majority of you have not fared too well.

I'm reading more herd fear here than mental independence, or basic good sense.

 
At May 12, 2007 6:14 PM, Anonymous said...

Mairead reminds me of the character in ( I believe it was ) Thackeray, who, having read only one book by one author in his entire life, would then make the poor author stand duty for voicing every opinion the character wished to express.

In Mairead's case, I'm not certain she even got through the entire book.

 
At May 13, 2007 12:30 AM, Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone think for themselves anymore?
You know, the kind of independent thought that defies formulaic descriptions and categories.
How can any individual, group, or philosophy claim absolute certainty on any subject? To do so is the height of absurdity. That being the case, how can anyone completely discredit the ideas and positions of others as totally invalid?

 
At May 13, 2007 2:21 AM, Anonymous said...

I've noted elsewhere that very often the biggest sheep are the sheep who think they're other than sheep.
Their pen is mental rather than physical; and thus, even more hopelessly confining.

 
At May 13, 2007 2:28 AM, Anonymous said...

I think 1:09 put it best, when s/he said:

"I never understood the entire 'absolute free speech' people."

There you have it, in one nut's shell.

You are dealing with individuals who can't even grasp the basic wording and concept of the First Amendment, much less concepts any more complex than that.

 
At May 13, 2007 10:01 AM, Anonymous said...

Hell, the Supreme Court doesn't grasp the First Amendment which clearly says "Congress shall pass no laws..."

Congress has passed all kinds of laws and the Supremes have made numerous rules infringing on every element of the First Amendment. It's a safe bet that those of us who understand and support the actual wording of any part of the Constitution are a tiny minority and no judges are included in our ranks.

FoE

 

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