Free speech is only truly free, if it is contentious. It needs to be defended most when it is most indefensible. Regardless how much I may disagree, I do not want to silence others at the expense of liberty. I want to hear from those with whom I differ. Only then can I decide whether they are misinformed, stupid or dangerous and react appropriately. Helen Thomas' comments last month about the Jews and Palestine were inane and reprehensible. They exposed her not as the grand old lady of the White House press corps, but rather as a bigoted journalistic half-wit who despite her age and experience knows nothing about history. But should she lose her job as a result?
Thomas has covered every President since Eisenhower and really was a ground breaking female journalist. But her recent anti-Semitic comments calling for the Jews to "get the hell out of Palestine" and go "home" to Germany and Poland were stupid and totally off base. However those comments represent her opinion, which she is entitled to. Now I can read or, more likely ignore her journalism because I know that her reportage is colored by her loopy world view.
Many others have fallen victim to blurting out their true feelings. Some have paid the price, and others have been rewarded with positions of power. In all cases however, we have a better insight into what kind of people they really are because under our Constitution, they are allowed speak out.
Actor Sean Penn during an interview with Bill Maher, spoke glowingly of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Penn's diatribe included a wish that American journalists who dared call Chavez a dictator should be sent to prison. It is interesting that while exercising his rights under the First Amendment, Penn advocates suspending the freedom of press, also guaranteed by that very same Amendment.
In a total loss of decorum and common sense, radio host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos". Not only stupid, rude and boorish, but insensitive, mean-spirited and provocative. Should he have been fired? I don’t think so, but now I have one more reason not to tune in just like anyone else who does not appreciate such comments.
Rand Paul, winner of the GOP primary in Kentucky, expressed his belief that government should not force private businesses to abide by civil rights law. Paul apparently believes that private property rights extend to ownership of a business, and feels the Government has no right to tell business owners who they must do business with. Though I would never support discrimination, I don't think Paul is that far off with his basic concept regarding Governmental meddling, and the importance of private property rights in our society.
President Obama's Regulatory Czar, Cass Sunstein wrote: "There would be no tension with the establishment clause (of the 1st Amendment) if people with religious or other objections were forced to pay for that procedure (abortion). Indeed, taxpayers are often forced to pay for things –national defense, welfare, certain forms of art, and others – to which they have powerful moral and even religious objections." Mr. Sunstein apparently feels that using public money to end the life of a child in the womb, is no different than using it to buy a Picasso for his office.
Bill Ayers in a 1995 interview said, "I am a radical, Leftist... The ethics of communism still appeal to me. I don't like Lenin as much as the early Marx." In spite of his admitted involvement with the Weather Underground and domestic bombings, Ayers hasn't had any trouble finding work, and interestingly hasn't endured much criticism for his views.
One of this Country’s great strengths is the right to free speech, the right to speak your mind, the right to analyze and criticize. All the great dictatorships and political failures of history have restricted that right. Our current administration, and its FCC seek to do so. We must resist attempts to control speech, no matter how distasteful or vile it may be. No one has a Constitutional right to not be offended. It is an extremely fine line between controlling speech and thought, and once we've relinquished freedom of the first, loss of the second most certainly will follow.
Originally posted on 06/13/2010 at ConservativeCompass.com