Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Jonah Goldberg makes a decent point that "I have a right to speak!" is often used as a defense by people who can't otherwise defend their ideas, though I think this happens on the right as frequently as the left.

Jonah's argument augers right into the ground, though, when he asserts that the notion that conservatives want to limit speech is purely a figment of the paranoid Leftist imagination:
If you immediately assume that criticism from the political Right is tantamount to questioning someone's constitutional right to speak in the first place, what you are really saying (Pace Dan Savage) is that if you scratch a conservative you'll find a Storm Trooper just under the surface. We knuckle draggers may say we're just offering criticism, but what we really mean is that anyone we disagree with has no right to say so. That so many on the Left seem to believe this, says a lot about the intellectual and psychological state of Lefties while saying nothing of interest about conservatives. I don't think it's always a matter of projection — assuming your enemy sees things the same you do — but I do think this knee-jerkery illuminates in a small way the bad faith of the Left. Not only does the "I have the right to speak" tantrum dodge the merits of specific criticisms, it starts from the assumption that as a matter of first principles left-wing protest should never be questioned.

Let's just say, first, that the implication that the American Left is anywhere near as paranoid than the American Right is preposterous on its face. More sensitive, perhaps.

Second, it's an inescapable fact that, just as there are liberals and leftists who cannot or choose not to distinguish between criticism of their ideas and challenges to their rights, there are conservatives who cannot or choose not to distinguish between criticism of government policies or politicians and "hating America."

Third, does Jonah own either a TV, computer, or a radio? If he owns either a radio or computer, it would take him about twenty seconds to find some conservative charging a liberal with "hating America" simply for criticizing the government, the war, what have you. It might take him a little longer to find this on TV, at least until Sean Hannity comes on. Right-wing media goddess Ann Coulter wrote an entire damn book called Treason, which uncovered absolutely zero actual treason, though that was entirely beside the point. The point was to try and define the expression of certain political ideas, liberal ideas, as unnacceptable and out of bounds to Real Americans.

For a couple more very recent examples, here's Bill O'Reilly last Tuesday:
So I mean, I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this and also for the responsibility of other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq, who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.

Speaking out against the war=Treasonous. Yeah, I know. O'Reilly didn't say Sheehan's words or actions were treasonous, he just said some people might feel they were treasonous. O'Reilly knows how to cover his ass, but I think we can safely say: Message received.

And here's Jonah's friend Rush Limbaugh last Thursday:
Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous. The Supreme Court ought to look into this. Absolutely brilliant idea out there.

Is this a legitimate criticism of ideas? Of course not. Limbaugh isn't even bothering with ideas, he's just flat out saying "anybody who speaks out against this country." Rewind seven years, and consider how much time Limbaugh put into criticizing the then-current administration over every damn thing. Of course, Limbaugh would claim that he wasn't criticizing this country, he was criticizing its president and his policies. But that's apparently a distinction conservatives reserve for themselves.

No comments: