Lars Hedegaard acquitted

If you feel like a little good news amidst the worries about fallout from Egypt, this might do the trick.

Pat Condell on Europe’s continued slow-mo suicide

The Enlightenment was born in Europe and, clearly, will die there too:

Hat tip:  Small Dead Animals

The only way to have free speech is for the government to control it

I really enjoyed the beginning of this opinion piece from the Guardian:

When Barack Obama addressed a shocked nation in Tuscon, Arizona, yesterday, he deployed the only weapon left to a crippled presidency: the power of rhetorical cliche. He deployed it brilliantly.

“Together we thrive,” he cried meaninglessly. “For all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness.” While American hearts were broken, “yet our hearts also have reason for fullness … The forces that unite us are stronger than the forces that divide us.” Despite pleas to keep war jargon out of political discourse, Obama asked: “How can we honour the fallen?”

The answer came in copious references to heroism, family, home, hearth, to “September 11 … faces of hope … simple wishes … those in need … the American anthem … hand over heart”. True Americans, said Obama, “jump in rain puddles”. In a tribute to a nine-year-old gunned down by a madman, he added: “If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.”

When it comes to the almost embarrassing banality of the President’s speech, yes, that’s it.

Where Simon Jenkins lost me was his recommendation for protecting free speech in America: let the government control it.  Or, more specifically, to let a Left wing government control conservative speech.  It’s difficult to imagine a more perfectly Orwellian formulation:

Freedom of speech, like freedom of traffic, can only be defined by the curbs and regulations that make it real.

[snip]

Free speech is a Hobbesian jungle. It requires a marketplace where the trade in information, ideas and opinion has a framework of rules, including rules that maintain fair and open competition. Most will be voluntary, but others need enforcement. The US supreme court last year freed from control all political campaign gifts from corporations, on the grounds that this would be a breach of free speech. Ronald Dworkin’s rebuttal of this “devastating decision for democracy” in the New York Review of Books pointed out that freedom of speech was hopeless if vulnerable to the bullying of wealth. Obama warned that it would “open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections”.

After properly castigating Britain’s 2003 Communications Act, which seeks to impose huge and multitudinous controls on British broadcasters (“This is not freedom but authoritarianism”), Jenkins nevertheless turns around and describes his own brand of authoritarianism:

When it comes to Mosley’s defamation or Tong’s twittering, most Europeans would rely on self-discipline on the part of the media, and on the chaotic pluralism of the internet. Even so, they would argue for regulated airwaves, as they would for laws preventing libel, slander and incitement to illegality and racial hatred. Freedom can only flourish in a climate of discipline.

When the art historian and TV presenter Sir Kenneth Clark was asked what quality best defined civilisation, he did not answer with liberty or wealth or equality. He answered with courtesy, the framework of rules governing people’s tolerance of each other, so their discourse might be creative. Most of the time, it is best for that courtesy to be informal. The best rebuttal of the politics of hate is a torrent of love – or, if not love, at least of facts.

But sometimes, as Obama said, there is a yearning “to try to impose some order on the chaos”. If American politics is now going the way of wounding, not healing, it needs the tonic of order. It is the great paradox of democracy. Free speech cannot exist without chains.

What Jenkins fails to understand is that, once the chains are in place, the government in power effectively controls speech, because it gets to define infractions and then police them. It’s not only the beneficiary of the laws, but also the judge, jury and executioner for alleged violations.

Irony alert with some on the Left showing themselves very unclear on the concept

Is there a cause and effect between hate speech and violence?  These tweeters are certain there is, and they believe that Palin should be tortured, given loathsome diseases and killed for having the temerity to engage in (unidentified) hate speech:

Hat tip:  The Jawa Report

The chicken and egg of speech and action

I’ve been reminding people on facebook that censoring speech doesn’t censor ideas, it just allows governments to abuse people.  That’s a point that’s worth remembering.

Garry Hamilton makes another excellent point about the relationship between speech and action.

Zoning, religion, guns and the Bill of Rights

In the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, the Left’s trump card has been the language in the First Amendment stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  All of us correctly understand this to mean that government cannot create a state faith, nor can it dictate the religious tenets of an existing faith.  A subset of this, of course, is that government cannot, through indirect laws, make the practice of a given faith so difficult that it is tantamount to a religious proscription.

Shrill voices on the Left are now asserting, however, that the First Amendment must be understood to mean that an ostensibly religious building site cannot be touched by any other laws whatsoever, including zoning laws (which invariably include something about the character of the neighborhood) nor can it be the subject to that other First Amendment right, free speech.

The Left is much less excited about having Constitutional rights trump zoning laws when the subject is guns.  If one operates in a logical world, this is a peculiar Constitutional lapse.

Guns are virtually equal to religion in the Constitutional hierarchy, coming in at Second on the Amendment list:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Let me repeat that:  “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  This is very strong language, and arguably much broader in original intent than the First Amendment’s language regarding religion.  The First Amendment merely instructs Congress not to make a law establishing a religion, which we interpret to mean, as well, not to mess with existing faiths.  The Second Amendment, though, rebuffs any attempts whatsoever, whether by Congress or unnamed others (a reasonable inference given the passive voice construction), to mess with the right to bear arms.  It is, as phrased, a sacrosanct right.

Notwithstanding this explicit language, federal and local governments have for decades made laws messing with the right to bear arms.  One of the most significant laws is the way in which we mandate that the government gets to control every legal arms transaction.  Sales have to be in licensed stores, with massive amounts of paperwork, all going into government databases.  I’m not going to argue whether this is an infringement or not, although one could reasonable claim that these are indirect laws making the purchase of guns so difficult as to be tantamount to an arms proscription.  I’ll just note that it happens — and that Leftists are in the vanguard of making it so.

Those on the Left are also perfectly happy dictating the locations for gun shops, with San Francisco offering a perfect illustration.  In that once fair City, a totally legal gun shop, one that’s been in business for 50 years as the same location, is trying to re-open in the Bernal Heights district after a short hiatus.  Even as the local merchants pay lip service to the right to bear arms, they are up in arms (pun intended) that the means for facilitating this Constitutional right could appear in their neighborhood (emphasis mine):

Officially, the organizations are not opposed to people owning guns, Alliance member Jaime Ross told me. They’d just “rather have something the neighborhood could enjoy – a laundry or wine and cheese shop.”

[snip]

[L]local Ingleside police Capt. Louis Cassanego says that as far as he knows, “there’s never been a problem.” The captain is for the permit “so long as certain precautions are taken,” including all legal requirements and then some. But e-mails he’s seeing are running 10-1 against the store’s permit application.

I’m willing to bet, although there is no way that I can prove it, that the same people writing those emails against the store’s permit application are strident in their denunciation of those who contend that the Ground Zero Mosque is inappropriate for the Ground Zero site.  Certainly my assumption would be consistent with the political ideological that animates support for the mosque and disdain for gun rights.

(A nice coda to this story, and one that gives it a lovely San Francisco twist, is the fact that one of the groups most strongly supportive of the store’s reopening is called the “Pink Pistols,” a gay gun rights organization.  An unofficial spokesman for that group explains that, since California has enacted a law prohibiting the sale of ammunition through the mail (yet another indirect law infringing on the right), it’s greener for City residents to be able to walk, bike or bus to the store, than to have to drive to a far away location.)

A perfect illustration of how the Left counterattacks

The mosque debate in America has been instructive when it comes to Leftist rhetorical tactics.  Ordinary Americans make an argument — “the mosque is inappropriate on secular sacred ground.”  The Left then responds, not substantively, but with personal attacks — “you’re racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic and stupid.”

If you think this approach to debate is limited to the American Left, think again.  Precisely the same thing is playing out in Germany.  There, Thilo Sarrazin, a German central bank board member and former senior city official in Berlin, has given an interview and published a book, both of which carry the same message:  Germany is being destroyed by its Muslim immigrants, who take a disproportionate amount of welfare relative to their contributions, who do not contribute to the nation’s intellectual life, and who are having children at a much faster rate than the Germans themselves.

The Leftist response has been predictable.  They’ve produced carefully detailed statistics showing the major economic and social contributions that Muslim immigrants are making to Germany society, and proved that the birthrate argument is a fallacy.  In the face of these reasoned arguments, Sarrazin has backed down.  They’ve hurled myriad personal insults at Sarrazin, and threatened his right to free speech:

Sarrazin’s comments have also made waves outside of the SPD. Green Party head Cem Özdemir called Sarrazin a “tribal leader in the mold of bin Laden” in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE and said that he has done a “disservice to efforts aimed at improving the dramatic social inequalities in our country, and not just among immigrants.” He said he was disappointed because “the ongoing debate over mutual expectations of Germans and immigrants is much more rational than Sarrazin makes it seem.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel is likewise unimpressed. Through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, she said on Wednesday that Sarrazin’s offerings were “extremely injurious, defamatory and very polemical.” She also called them “completely unhelpful” and said that “a different tone is necessary.”

[snip]

Following Sarrazin’s comments last autumn, the SPD began proceedings to kick him out of the party, but the attempt failed in March. He was, however, disciplined by the German Central Bank, which stripped him of his previous responsibility for cash management as a result of the Lettre International interview. It is unclear whether the SPD will make another effort to strike him from the rolls.

No matter in which country you drop a Leftist, he’s still a Leftist, committed to doctrinal purity regardless of objective reality.

Everybody Draw Mohamed Day — or, you’re not the boss of me

Sometimes, to their creator’s dismay, ideas take on a life of their own.  In the wake of Comedy Central’s decision to censor a South Park episode that didn’t actually draw Mohamed, but merely suggested the possibility of doing so, Molly Norris came up with the idea of “everybody draw Mohamed Day.” Then, terrified by the realization that people actually thought her idea was a good one — and no doubt afraid of becoming the next chick-filet in the Islamic book of dead people — Norris quickly backed off.  As I said, though, good ideas have a life of their own, and drawing Mohamed is definitely a good idea.

It’s a good idea, quite obviously, because modern Western society is predicated on free speech.  Admittedly, there are gradations to that free speech, with America standing at the pinnacle of what is allowed and protected as an ordinary part of civil discourse.  Speech becomes increasingly more regulated as one travels through other Western nations.  Nevertheless, any nation that stands on the shoulders of the Enlightenment gives a nod to the importance of freely expressed ideas and information.  When we give up free speech, we give up a significant part of our identity.

Lately, though, European nations and American TV stations have willingly abandoned any semblance of commitment to the notion of free speech.  And what’s really dreadful about this practice is that it’s not even driven by the traditional rationale for speech restriction, which is to protect the ruling party from internal challenges to its control.  Instead, this is a purely fear-based abandonment.  It has nothing to do with principles or power.  It is, instead, a craven desire to avoid screaming mobs wielding sharp swords.

The various Western nations (and American TV stations) engaged in cultural retreat dress it up as respect for the “other.”  That respect, however, exists only because we fear that “other.”  Sam Harris, in what is probably the most worthy article the Huffington Post has ever published — and one that I strongly urge you to read — gets to the heart of the matter.  After discussing (1) Geert Wilder’s martyrdom at the hands of the Dutch political class for his film Fitna, a film that reveals how closely Islam tracks on Mohamed’s incendiary rhetoric, and (2) Kurt Westergaard’s life in hiding thanks to the very first Mohamed cartoons, Harris explains how Islam is gaming the West:

Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for “seeking to inflame” the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

When we play into this Islamic game — “We, your resident Muslims, promise to live up to our putative reputation for peace as long as you don’t exercise those of your freedoms that put us in a killing rage” — we give up the essence of who we are.  We are no longer the heirs of Voltaire and the Enlightenment, of the Founders and the abolitionists.  We are no longer free people.  Instead, we are slaves to our fears, with our lives increasingly constrained by the random and irrational demands of small subsets of our western societies.

That the demands are irrational is another reason to resist the increasingly shrill imperative to cease and desist from creating and publishing any drawings that offend Muslim sensibilities.  And please keep in mind here that this is not just about Mohamed images.  In our short attention-span world, I’m willing to bet that large numbers of people have already forgotten that, in years past, Muslims have demanded that the countries in which they live change their ice cream logos, clean up the Piglet tissue boxes, and remove their historic statutory (or have it forcibly removed).

Zombie correctly points out that, once we start ceding to resident Muslims the right to determine what is provocative (to them, that is), there is no end:

This is not an argument over the right to be “provocative” or “offensive”; rather, is it something much more significant — an argument over who gets to determine what counts as provocative or offensive in the first place. The Western world dragged itself out of the church-dominated Dark Ages and into the Enlightenment in part over this precise issue: The freedom to engage in speech and actions which formerly had been classified as the crime known as “blasphemy.” It seems such a trivial and quaint issue in retrospect, and hardly worthy of note from our hyper-secularized 21st-century perspective, but tell that to the millions of people who for centuries lived under the yoke of governments which used accusations of blasphemy and other religious misbehaviors as a primary tool of tyranny and oppression. The modern world dawned with the American and French Revolutions and the emergence of the explicitly secular state — the Americans rejecting the Church of England as Britain’s legally enforced national religion, and the French shrugging off centuries of acquiescence to domination by the Catholic Church in civil affairs. In both cases, new governmental paradigms were established in which there was an inviolable separation of church and state, which in practice meant no civil laws enforcing religious doctrines and (most importantly for our discussion) no laws against blasphemy.

So Everybody Draw Mohamed Day is a good thing because it affirms who we are — an Enlightened Western civilization dedicated, in varying degrees, to free speech — and because it reminds everyone that, in a pluralistic society, no one group gets to use violence and intimidation to engage in capricious, and increasingly restrictive, decisions about what is offensive.

To me, though, the most important reason for observing Everybody Draw Mohamed Day is to remind us, not of who we are, but who we are NOT.  As a nation, we are not Muslims.

Of course, some of us are Muslims, but those who are, at least in America, are Muslims voluntarily.  This is, after all, a a nation dedicated to the proposition that its citizens can worship freely.  Provided that we do not impinge on the public well-being, we are allowed to choose our faith, follow our chosen doctrine, and engage in the many and varied religious observances so freely available in this great land.

If I’m Catholic, I get to go to Mass and, if I’m very traditional female worshiper, I can wear a lovely lace mantilla in church.  If I’m Jewish, I attend my services on Friday night and Saturday morning.  If I’m ultra-Orthodox and male, I wear a prayer shawl; if I’m female, I wear a wig and modest clothing.  If I’m Mormon, I wear my ritual undergarments and have reserved to me the special privilege of access to the Temple.  If I’m Buddhist, I engage in contemplation.  If I’m Muslim, I pray five times a day and abstain from alcohol.  If I’m Unitarian, I believe anything I damn well please, as long as I do so in civil and liberal fashion.  Heck, such are America’s blessings that I can be nothing at all, turning my back on God, and sneering every time I see a coin with the imprint “In God We Trust.”   I am what I believe I should be, what my family raised me to be, and what my chosen religious community practices.

But if I accede to Muslim demands that I refrain from drawing Mohamed or pigs or boars or ice cream logos or buddhas, I have tacitly conceded that I am Muslim.  After all, I am conforming my behavior to Muslim doctrine.

Muslims understand this.  Their rage over these images isn’t about the images themselves.  It is, instead, about incrementally drawing all of us into the Muslim faith.  The reality is that, once you’ve stopped creating images offensive to Muslims, and stopped making movies offensive to Muslims, and stopped writing books offensive to Muslims, and stopped saying things offensive to Muslims, and stopped your stores from selling the pork and alcohol offensive to Muslims, and attired your women in burqas to protect them from rampaging Muslims, well — you’re pretty much a practicing Muslim.  You’ve been converted, and you didn’t even realize it was happening.

And once you’ve crossed that invisible line, a line known only to your new Muslim overlords, woe unto you if you try to reverse that conversion process.  Apostates, by turning their back on Mohamed, deserve death.  So really, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  If you don’t comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they threaten to kill you — and if you do comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they still threaten to kill you.

So this is where the rubber hits the road.  You’re between a Muslim rock and an Islamic hard place.  Do you take a stand now, while your freedoms still mean something, or do you simply acquiesce, step by step, until you find that you have no freedoms at all, that there are no compatriots willing to stand by you in the fight, and that y0ur remaining options are between a living or an actual death?

By the way, it’s that fighting compatriot thing that really matters right now.  As Sam Harris says, after describing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s life (emphasis mine):

The problem is not, as is often alleged, that governments cannot afford to protect every person who speaks out against Muslim intolerance. The problem is that so few people do speak out. If there were ten thousand Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, the risk to each would be radically reduced.

Whether you realize it or not, this is war.  When we draw Mohamed today, we don’t do so to be offensive, or provocative.  We do so to assert our identity and to declare, standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow soldiers in this war, that we are Westerners dedicated to freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

In that spirit, and with all due respect to Muslim sensibilities (meaning I won’t draw Mohamed immersed in urine, covered in fecal matter, attached to animals, or any other such demeaning imagery), here is my image of Mohamed, pictured in this reverential medieval Islamic art as a swaddled baby on the day of his birth:

OTHERS BLOGGING:

Rhymes with Right

Looking for Lissa (who reminds us that Islamists aren’t averse to their own, very vile, cartooning to achieve political goals and intimidation)

Michelle Malkin

You can take the Hot Air poll (with numbers now currently strongly favoring Draw Mohamed Day)

James Hudnall

Brad Thor

Liberty Pundits (which has a nice nod to me, which I very much appreciate)

Mark Steyn

Facebook

And please re-read Broken Windows, which explains why standing up now is so very important

Robert David Graham

JoshuaPundit explains why he isn’t participating, and where our energies would be better spent

[Small update:  I’ve very lightly edited the post to get rid of verbal tics and redundancies.  They do tend to slip in.]

England swings wildly between the extremes

In 1931, Nancy Langhorne Astor’s son Robert Gould Shaw III was arrested for committing a homosexual act (in a park, I believe).  This was a continuation of a long-standing British public policy of prosecuting “sodomists.”  Arguably the most famous prosecution was that against Oscar Wilde, for public indecency.  The trial, scandal and imprisonment destroyed the noted Victorian wit entirely, and he died in self-imposed, poverty-stricken exile soon after his release from prison.

How times have changed.  In 2010, Dale McAlpine, a Baptist preacher in England, was arrested for stating in a public place that homosexuality is a sin.

Have the English no sense of balance or proportion?  Do they think that criminalizing people’s thoughts and opinions is the only way to balance the scales for the humiliations they visited on homosexuals in years past?

Anyway, rather than opining more on the subject, let me refer you to my previous post on thought crimes.  I think it pretty much covers anything I want to say.

Sit back and watch as America enters “The Twilight Zone”

In the early television era, one of the most innovative and imaginative shows around was Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.  Certain episodes were so compelling that they entered the popular imagination, and are familiar to anyone over 30.  One of the most brilliant episodes, shown in 1961, was It’s a Good Life, based upon a Jerome Bixby short story.  I’ll let Rod Serling himself explain the episode’s premise:

‘Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction.

This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines – because they displeased him – and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages – just by using his mind.

Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It’s in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn’t like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you’re looking at now. She sings no more. And you’ll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion.

Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.’

The episode walks viewers through the horrors little Anthony inflicts on the town’s residents if they think negative thoughts or engage in behaviors that irk him.  By show’s end, when one of the town’s citizens, having imbibed enough to have some dutch courage, calls Anthony both a monster and a murderer, Anthony turns him into a jack-in-the-box.  Not content with that act of personal destruction, Anthony also causes snow to fall, destroying crops and ensuring the town’s demise.

Even as their destruction stares them in the face, the town’s residents still try to placate the monster in their midst, with the last scripted words spoken being “…but it’s a real good thing you did. A real good thing. And tomorrow….tomorrow’s gonna be a… real good day!”

Rod Serling, of course, provides the perfect coda to Anthony’s reign of terror (emphasis mine):

‘No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony you can be sure of one thing: you have entered the Twilight Zone.

The show’s first audience was composed in part of the World War II generation, and entirely of the Cold War generation.  These were people who had seen first hand totalitarian regimes that demanded their citizens’ total obedience.

To enforce that obedience, the spy network for each of these totalitarian governments measured people’s allegiance by closely examining their behavior.  The wrong word, a mis-timed blink or twitch, an unfortunate handshake in the street, and ordinary people would suddenly find themselves in the gulag or the gas chamber.  The regimes surely regretted that they lacked Anthony’s mind reading skills, but with a frightened population, spies in every family, and draconian punishments for even the slightest deviation from total devotion, they were surprisingly effective at creating a Stepford citizenry that, even as the world crumbled, repeated that every government initiative was “a real good thing.”

For decades, Americans assumed that “it can’t happen here.”  American strength and American freedom would inevitably overwhelm any efforts to turn the thought police lose on the American public.  But of course, it has happened here, although not with the bloodshed and torture that characterizes most totalitarian regimes.  Instead, through the medium of political correctness, which preys on Americans’ innate desire to be a good and decent people, we are constantly pushed into “correct” modes of thought.  Deviate from that line of thinking and you will find yourself publicly pilloried as an “-ist” (e.g., racist or sexist), or a “phobe” (e.g., Islamophobe), appellations that have become the ultimate insult that can be visited upon any good American.

Have you given any hint that you think unfettered illegal immigration is deleterious to America’s economy and the security of her citizens?  You’re a racist.

Have you muttered that it’s wrong to destroy collegiate men’s sports programs so that there is numerical parity with women’s sports programs, even though the latter are historically less likely to desire such programs?  You’re a sexist pig.

Have you mentioned that it’s more than coincidence that the common denominator in the vast majority of terrorism attacks around the world is the perpetrator’s devotion to Islam?  You’re a racist Islamophobe.

Did you perhaps contribute a few dollars to the campaign to maintain traditional marriage in America?  You’re a homophobe.

Have you criticized Barack Obama’s policies?  You’re a racist.

Have you criticized Michelle Obama’s arms?  You’re a racist and a sexist.

And so it goes, from matters major to minor:  any deviation from the politically correct norm is subject to withering, soul-destroying insults.  It’s not a physical gulag, but an emotional one.

What’s sad is that, as with Al Gore’s famous boiling frog, we’ve slowly acclimated to this creeping deprivation of the quintessentially American liberty of freedom of speech.  We’ve therefore willingly tried to conform our thoughts to the “right” way of thinking, so that it’s always a “real good day” in America — at least as “good” is defined by the race-obsessed, sex-obsessed, statists among us.

Bad as all this is, I think the worst is yet to come.  Right now, average Americans are censoring their speech, but they’re still thinking the thoughts.  Polls and votes show that people don’t like illegal (as opposed to legal) immigration; that they recognize that Islam is a breeding ground for terrorism (although not all Muslims are terrorists); that traditional marriage is an institution that should be carefully considered before being thoughtlessly overthrown; and that Barack Obama’s policies are disastrous, at home and abroad.  We’re cowed, but our brains our still active.

The New York City bombing attempt may change all that.  Although initial reports were conflicting a couple of things are now perfectly clear about that bombing attempt:  (1) the target was Viacom and (2) the perpetrator was a Muslim (Shahzad Faisal, according to a recent bip on my iPhone).

Viacom, of course, is the parent company of Comedy Central — and Comedy Central is the company that thought better of airing a South Park episode that poked fun at the Islamic obsession, not just with observing its own blackout of Mohamed’s image, but with forcing everyone else in the world to abide by that same religious mandate.  (As an aside, this obsession, while it has a long history in Islam, has never been universally observed.  There are significant numbers of Islam representations of Mohamed.  The current screaming mania is as much a manifestation of jihad as it is of a genuine religious impulse amongst the Islamists.)

So what we have here is a company that self-censored, but still ended up on the receiving end of a bomb.  Viacom’s dhimmi behavior was inadequate to placate the Islamic radicals.  Unlike past totalitarian regimes, which accepted conforming behavior as adequate to deflect the thought police, the new Islamic regime wants to ensure that we don’t even have the thoughts anymore.  Just like little Anthony, Islamists want to make sure that, when it comes to their faith and their prophet, we “had best think only good thoughts.” Entertaining the possibility of any other ideas relative to Islam is likely to be deadly.

In another era, of course, an era that hasn’t been bleached of strength by the PC police, by identity politics, and by increasing statism (and, therefore, decreasing individualism), Americans would have given the Islamists the one-fingered salute they deserve.  Historically, when America, with its size, strength and freedoms, stood up to tyranny, America won.  But we no longer can boast those virtues.

Sure we’re big, but we’re not a strong melting pot.  Instead, we’re a fractious “salad bowl” (the politically correct metaphor for an identity riven nation).

Yes, we’re strong, but we’re weakening all the time, as we give away our energy independence, our economic power, and our weapons.

And lastly, we’re increasingly less free as we willingly hand our lives and our thoughts over to the statists.  As the good people of New Orleans demonstrated in Hurricane Katrina’s wake, when you consign yourself entirely to government care, your ability to care for yourself (and the courage such care requires) rapidly atrophies.

Put simply:  we don’t have the moral or physical strength any more, as a citizenry, to take a stand against threats to our fundamental freedoms.  TV shows will be ever more bland and careful.  Newspapers, echoing the BBC, may well start proactively appending “pbuh” to stories the reference Mohamed.  And ordinary citizens, increasingly cowed by accusations of “isms” (e.g., racism) and phobias (e.g., Islamophobia), will not only keep their mouths shut, but will also keep their thoughts pure.

Welcome to the new American Twilight Zone.

Lowering the bar on incitements to violence *UPDATED*

Unless you’ve been visiting some other planet somewhere in the universe, you already know about Comedy Central’s South Park debacle.  That’s the one, of course, that saw Comedy Central, the oh-so-hip-and-edgy (meaning often offensive) television station brutally censoring a South Park episode that implied that Mohamed was walking around wearing a bear suit — when it turned out to have been Santa in the suit all along.

Comedy Central made this censorship decision when a New York Muslim suggested that airing the show as written might result in a Theo Van Gogh moment.  That would mean that someone associated with the show would soon be appearing on the streets of New York with multiple stab wounds, a partially severed head, and a wildly hostile-to-Western-culture letter impaled on his chest.

There are a couple of points I want to make about this whole embarrassing debacle — embarrassing for Comedy Central, which shows that it’s offensive only when it’s safe; and a debacle, because it’s one more nail in the coffin of the free speech that has always been an integral part of America’s political and social culture.

My first point riffs off something David Hazony said in a Commentary blog post about the South Park episode (emphasis mine):

The core of liberal society is the belief that every new thought, every iconoclasm, every “dangerous” idea, can be uttered somewhere, by someone, as long as it doesn’t openly incite violence — and that every sacred cow is ultimately just a cow.

(I urge you to read the whole post, but the above sentence is the one that intrigued me.)

In the old days, the notion of incitement to violence examined whether the speaker literally incited violence.  For example, the speaker might say to the crowd “Kill the President” or “Kill the Congress person” or “Kill all the meter maids” or something equally incendiary.  The threat of violence wasn’t implicit in the speech; it was explicit.  No civilized society could countenance speech that simply and directly inflamed blood lust.  We in America have always been willing to trade in the world of ideas, but the civil contract demands that we stop short of demanding someone’s head on a pike.

We’ve now entered a brave new world that redefines “incitement to violence” away from its traditional meaning of explicit demands for blood, death or revolution.  Now, “incitement to violence” includes speech or images that hurt someone’s feelings or offend their sensibilities.  As a society, we used to say that it was just tough if someone’s sensitivities were roughed up by speech that falls far short of calling for that person’s (or someone else’s) blood.  We recognized that our civil contract — our constitutional contract — requires for its health resilient people who can deal with hurt feelings.

Now, however, we see our media and political outlets repeatedly defining as incitement speech that lacks any calls for violence but that merely makes the crazy man angry.  Where we would once police the crazy man, we now police ourselves.  Everything we say must be run through the filter of “will it make the crazy man angry?”

Except of course, we’re not talking about any random crazy man.  We’re talking about the sharia-obsessed Muslim crazy man.  And by making that man — that sharia man — the standard by which incitement must be judged, we’re veering sharply away from a constitutional standard of free speech, and placing ourselves squarely within that man’s sharia code.  Which really means that the second American Revolution, the one that sees us forever part ways with our current system of government, will begin, and end, not with flaring muskets and brave midnight battles, but with a whimper and a bowed head.

What’s even worse (I’m at my second point, now), is that we’re out-sharia-ing sharia, and caving, not to the demands of the moderates, but to the extremists.  (Frankly, we’ve become such a PC, identity-politics obsessed culture that we’d cave to moderates too if we felt it would spare the feelings of someone defined as a victim in the PC lexicon.)  The wholesale ban on any Mohamed images whatsoever is an extremist ban.  Take for example this truly beautiful medieval painting, which I got from a pre-911 book:

babymohammed0002

Isn’t that exquisite (despite the scanning flaws arising from the picture’s spread across two pages)?

Not only is it beautiful, it’s also a picture of Mohamed.  The swaddled little baby in the far left corner, with his face fully revealed, cradled in the arms of two loving angels, is Mohamed himself.  Some medieval Muslim, inspired by Christian iconography surrounding the birth of Christ, painted this reverential scene of Mohamed’s birth.

Admittedly, the above painting seems to be a rarity.  Other medieval Muslims painted Mohamed too, but they carefully veiled his face, to avoid something that could be considered a blasphemous or inaccurate image.  (Considering that there are no contemporary images of Mohamed, just as there are no contemporary images of Jesus Christ, the fact is that all images are inaccurate, reflecting the artist’s faith and skill, rather than a carefully limned image of known features.)  The medieval era, therefore, produced myriad pictures, such as this one, portraying Mohamed’s marriage to one of his wives:

bridegroommohammed0001

Mohamed, on the left, has a veil neatly drawn across his face.  The artist has reverentially drawn a scene without exposing himself to the inevitable risk of erroneously portraying the prophet’s face.  Incidentally, if you’re really thinking this through, as the radicals seem not to have done, you might conclude that, although a bear costume isn’t a neat, curtain-like little veil, the effect is identical:  Mohamed is hidden from view.

All of the above, of course, is art historian persnickety-ness.  The real issue is that fact that we, a free society that has never let government dictate to us the terms of our religious worship, are meekly allowing a religion to which we do not subscribe to dictate the terms of our social, political, artistic, ideological and intellectual behavior.  The proscription against potentially blasphemous images of Mohamed should apply only to Muslims.  The fact that Muslims wish to apply it to all of us tells us volumes about their jihad mentality (a world at war, with a winning Islam and a losing everyone else) and our self-abasing victim approach to those chest-thumpers in the Islamist camp who want to make now the time, and this the place, for their world conquest.

Sadly, Comedy Central isn’t an anomaly.  Instead, it seems to be a harbinger of things to come.  It’s conduct is the thin of edge of the wedge when it comes to a cultural decision to give in and, by giving in, give away the constitutional freedoms that generations of our forebearers fought bravely to defend.

UPDATE:  A friend reminded me that Zombie created a full post with exquisite Islamic iconography showing Mohamed’s face.  Please check it out, as the images are better than anything I’ve included here.

Two unions spend $319.2 million over 10 years to affect California political process

Here’s a list of the biggest spenders in California politics for the past decade:

These 15 groups spent more than a combined $1 billion over the past 10 years to influence public policy:

— California Teachers Association: $211.8 million

— California State Council of Service Employees: $107.4 million

— Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $104.9 million

— Morongo Band of Mission Indians: $83.6 million

— Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians: $69.2 million

— Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: $69.2 million

— Chevron Corp.: $66.2 million

— AT&T Inc.: $59.6 million

— Philip Morris USA Inc.: $50.7 million

— Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians: $49 million

— Southern California Edison: $43.4 million

— California Hospital Association: $43 million

— California Chamber of Commerce: $39 million

— Western States Petroleum Association: $35.2 million

— Aera Energy LLC: $34.6 million

Source: California Fair Political Practices Commission

What’s striking is that the Teachers’ Union outspent the next biggest spender by almost two to one — and the next biggest spender is also a union.  The Chron, incidentally, tried to make it sound as if the union spending, while at the top, was indistinguishable from the trailing corporate spending:

While the powerful teachers union topped the spending list and the California State Council of Service Employees – which lobbies on behalf of public employees represented by SEIU labor chapters – came in second, at $107 million, business wasn’t far behind. Six corporations funneled nearly $324 million into the political process, including $69.2 million spent by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., $66.2 million by Chevron Corp. and $59.6 million by AT&T Inc.

In fact, on a per corporation basis, corporations were far behind unions, and, collectively, they lagged behind casinos too.  Here are the numbers:  Two unions spent $319.2 million to affect the political process.  Three Indian gambling groups spent $201.8 million to affect the political process.  Three government regulated utilities spent $172.2 million to affect the political process.  And where do the remaining corporate entities come in?  At $373.6 million, which sounds like a lot until you realize its divided between seven corporations, for an average of $53 million per entity over ten years — versus the unions’ average of $159 million per entity over ten years.  So just who is really affecting the political process?

By the way, do you want to know one of the ways in which the Teachers’ Union spent that money?

For example, the California Teachers Association, which represents 330,000 public school teachers in the state, spent $26 million to defeat a school voucher system in 2000 and another $50 million to kill three other ballot measures.

It makes more laughable than ever the Democrats’ hysterical attack on the Supreme Court for making the way clearer for corporate voices to speak.  The fact is, corporations are infinitely more representative of America’s varied voices than are the huge blocks of unions, all of which are aimed at consolidating vast amounts of political power under “progressive” control.

Thursday quick picks *UPDATED*

I’m working on a post, but thought you all would find this interesting in the meantime:

From AJ Strata, something that’s not just interesting, but is also terrifying:  the terrorists are out there and, having gotten the measure of our new president and his administration, they are massing for war.

If you needed a reminder that today’s progressives are warmed over versions of yesterday’s fascists, Rhymes with Right traces the history of the despicable anti-free speech law Obama is now praising in his support for fascists.

Here’s another one of those matched sets I like so much:  An article about the violent and sordid history of yet another Chicago Democratic pol (h/t Danny Lemieux) and Michael Barone’s optimistic prediction for Republicans based upon the Illinois primaries. (Should I remind you here that Obama selected and emerged from this Chicago political cesspool?)

And lastly, an enjoyable 3 minute video about education and young minds.

Telling a lie with a straight face is an art.  Telling nine lies about George Bush in three paragraphs is a Democratic art.  Watch Randall Hoven destroy those lies.  The only sad thing is that most of the people who read the lies won’t be reading Hoven later.

UPDATED:  I love a good mystery, but what happened to Jim Treacher is too unpleasant to be counted as good.  He was cross a street on a “walk” light, got hit by a speeding SUV driver that then left him lying in the street, broke his knee, got a ticket from the D.C. cops for jaywalking, and got told by witnesses that the SUV looked like a Secret Service vehicle.  Just what is going on here?  To mangle Shakespeare, “Something is rotten in the District of Columbia.”  (Here’s Jim’s own account of what happened.)

Alan Grayson tries to punish political speech with 5 years in federal prison

Alan Grayson, last heard of when he accused Republicans of backing a health care plan that told sick people to die, is at it again:

Not everyone thinks imitation is the best form of flattery.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando took such offense at a parody website aimed at unseating him that the freshman Democrat has asked that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder investigate the Lake County activist who started the anti-Grayson website “mycongressmanisnuts.com.”

Specifically, Grayson accuses Republican activist Angie Langley of lying to federal elections. His four-page complaint highlights the fact that the Clermont resident lives outside his district, but that Langley still uses the term “my” in “mycongressmanisnuts.com.”

“Ms. Langley has deliberately masqueraded as a constituent of mine, in order to try to create the false appearance that she speaks for constituents who don’t support me,” writes Grayson. “[She] has chosen a name for her committee that is utterly tasteless and juvenile.”

Grayson’s office did not respond with comment other than to confirm the letter exists — including its request that Langley be fined and “imprisoned for five years.”

You can read the rest here, and learn how Angie was riffing off of Grayson’s own website, and how she was trying to raise funds to oppose him in the next election.

Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  With Grayson, if you substitute “paranoid aggressor who doesn’t understand the First Amendment” in place of the word “fool,” you’ve pretty much nailed the situation.

Hat tip:  Sadie

The march of the thought police

You remember Prop. 8, don’t you?  That was the successful California ballot initiative that said that, in America, marriage is between a man and a woman.  Immediately after November 4, gay rights activists sued.  So far, the courts are being helpful.  A court in the Northern District of California just ordered the Prop. 8 backers to turn over all their documents so that the gay rights activists can see whether there’s any anti-gay basis in the documents:

A federal judge said sponsors of California’s ban on same-sex marriage may not delay in handing over campaign strategy documents to gay-rights groups that are looking for evidence of anti gay bias as they try to overturn the measure.

The sponsors had sought to keep the documents while challenging the order to turn them over in an appeals court.

But in a ruling late Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco said backers of Proposition 8 had failed to show that disclosing internal memos and e-mails would violate their freedom of speech or subject them to harassment.

He said they had refused to identify any documents that needed special protection and noted that he could order their opponents to keep any sensitive material confidential.

“It simply does not appear likely that (Prop. 8’s) proponents will prevail on the merits of their appeal,” Walker said.

He said he doubts that a federal appeals court even has jurisdiction to consider the dispute at this early stage of the case.

[snip]

The measure’s sponsors, a conservative religious coalition called Protect Marriage, said voters were entitled to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage and that the organizers’ alleged motives were irrelevant.

I suspect that every document will be redolent of anti-gay bias.  After all, if one takes the stand, as the activists do, that it’s anti-gay to want to limit marriage to the western tradition of one man and one woman, every document that strategizes about ways to encourage traditional marriage is, by definition, homophobic.

If you’d like a glimpse into what happens when the government seeks to control, not only what we do but what we think, this story out of Britain gives you the answer:

After witnessing a gay pride march, committed Christian Pauline Howe wrote to the council to complain that the event had been allowed to go ahead.

But instead of a simple acknowledgement, she received a letter warning her she might be guilty of a hate crime and that the matter had been passed to police.

Two officers later turned up at the frightened grandmother’s home and lectured her about her choice of words before telling her she would not be prosecuted.
Mrs Howe, 67, whose husband Peter is understood to be a Baptist minister, yesterday spoke of her shock at the visit and accused police of ‘ wasting resources’ on her case rather than fighting crime.

‘I’ve never been in any kind of trouble before so I was stunned to have two police officers knocking at my door,’ she said.

‘Their presence in my home made me feel threatened. It was a very unpleasant experience.

‘The officers told me that my letter was thought to be an intention of hate but I was expressing views as a Christian.’

Interestingly, even a gay rights group in Britain is worried that the government is going too far (which echoes an earlier report I found in which a Muslim rights group also protested the government’s heavy-handedness):

And homosexual equality pressure group Stonewall has branded the authorities’ response ‘ disproportionate’.

All of this is a reminder that, once government takes over “rights,” the whole concept of rights basically vanishes.  Government control and “rights” are pretty much antithetical to each other.

Orwell was amazingly prescient. For so long it seemed silly that he’d set his nightmare story of complete totalitarianism in Britain which was then, despite a Labour government, one of the freer countries in the world. He must have glimpsed something in his nation’s character.

(This story of the White House inveigling kids to a fair and then giving them heavy-handed lectures about diet somehow fits in perfectly with the above theme, doesn’t it?  H/t:  Sadie.)

AP catches up with story about WH attempt to exclude Fox from the news cycle — and the nutroots respond accordingly

Twenty-four hours after the fact, the AP finally figured out that, maybe, just maybe, it’s worth reporting that the White House tried to freeze out a news organization that challenges it, and was stopped only because other news organizations realized that, if they let this one pass, they would forever be barred from voicing any hint of criticism of the White House.  While they may not now be able to imagine criticizing their God, they’re not so stupid that they wish to foreclose the possibility.  I’ve already praised them for their wise decision in my earlier post on the subject.  What I wanted to run here were some of the comments I saw at the San Francisco Chronicle, which has published the AP story at its website.

Just as an aside, its interesting that the AP chose to assign this story, not to a political writer, but to their television reporter.  Talk about reluctantly mentioning that your idol has feet of clay.  But anyway, here are some of the comments:

I can’t stand Faux, errr, Fox News, and I do like our president, but the White House better get it together.

In this country, we have freedom of the press and their access to our elected officials is of paramount importance.

***

Fox is a well funded mirror opposite of the Worker’s World. Half-truths, propaganda, and psy-ops. They should get the same “respect” and “certification” that the communist propaganda rags get: none.

***

This is childish behavior… you don’t like me, Fox, so you can’t play with me and my friends! It’s stupid, and only draws needless attention to Fox News.

***

The WH only needs to make itself available to reputable news outlets and not the Republican’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda :Fox.

***

Dude, get with the freedom of speech thing! When it benefits you, you typical dweebs alway cry this and that. Then when people ask a question you don’t like, you want to silence them like passing a law. The city of SF actually presented a law regarding the silencing of opposition from the media, but so much outcry happened even the board of stupidvisors relented. Why are idiots like you so afraid of being asked a pertinent question????

***

The biggest problem I have with Fox News (aside from the relentless stream of hateful invective and hysterical fearmongering) is that they continually present misleading and/or demonstrably false information (otherwise known as lies) as if it were true, wrapped up in the packaging of “news”.
This is highly unethical, it encourages confusion and misunderstanding amongst their audience, and I don’t even think it should be legal, much less profitable.

***

Is Fox News a news organization? Or would it better be called Fox Propaganda?

***

And we know how “fair and balanced” the MSM are:

Campaign donations, 2008
$297,187 was given by people who identified their occupation as “journalist”

$22,076 from 28 people to Republicans.
$275,111 from 312 people to Democrats.

http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?newest=1&type=occ&occ=journalist&search=Search

***

Why back down? Just exclude Faux News. They aren’t journalists, they are far right Republicans.

***

Everybody knows that 99% of Fox News is not news. It’s radical right wing Republican religious nut opinion and propaganda. And, it’s 100% anti-Democrat and anti-Obama. The hacks at Fox are just squawking because somebody finally called them on it. Those nut jobs are the face of the Republican party, and the very reason that only about 20% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans.

What’s so fascinating about those of the above comments that support the White House freeze-out is their absolute disdain for the notion of a free press — meaning free from government interference, control and censorship (and barring a news station from a press event is a form of censorship).  It occurs to none of them that it’s the marketplace of ideas, not the government (and certainly not the White House) that decides what’s news and what’s not.  Like the White House, they fear Fox and they want to destroy it.

I have to admit that I never watch the news on TV (I never get the chance), but I’m inclined to do so now, if only to make a point.  Or better, because watching TV at home is a very silent point, perhaps I’ll go over to the Fox website and click on every single ad, to show that Fox gets the business.

Be ever vigilant regarding the current administration’s assaults on free speech

All of us have been worried that the Obama Administration, working in tandem with a wildly Democratic Congress, wants to clamp down on freedom of speech.  Heck, in true Orwellian fashion, the House of Representatives has already taken myriad terms off the table for fear that they might be used against their Fearless (albeit whiny) Leader.  We also know that Obama’s new “Diversity Chief” at the FCC, Mark Lloyd, is bound and determined to shut down conservative radio.  The Democratic administration’s cry of “racist” when it comes to any opposition to Obama’s policies is also meant to shut down speech by shaming the speakers.  Still, we have a First Amendment and, ‘though it’s getting battered and bloody, it’s hanging in there and protecting us for the time being.

Things are not so good in other places, and I’m not talking about North Korea, Cuba or Venezuela.  We all watched last year as Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant and Kathy Shaidle were attacked by the Canadian government for having the temerity to offend Muslim sensibilities.  In Canada, for goodness sakes!  We tend to think that our country is an awful lot like theirs (only less tidy), but it turns out that there are fundamental differences in the two countries when it comes to a citizen’s relationship to the state, and the control the state has over its citizens.  The same holds true for England.  We look to England as the mother country, the one that gave us ideas about constitutions and freedom and equal rights at the law, etc., but we forget how far we’ve outstripped England when it comes to those principles — an outstripping that finds its source in our unique American Bill of Rights.

Well, today’s British news served to remind me, once again, how very different a country is when it has a constitutionally enshrined right to free speech from one that doesn’t.  In England, two Christian hotel owners are being prosecuted by the government (this is not just a civil suit between citizens) for having “offended” a Muslim woman when they stated the historically and factually accurate truths that Muhammad was a war lord (and proud of it) and that Islamic dress does not serve women well (emphasis mine):

A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman complained to police that she had been offended by their comments.

They have been charged under public order laws with using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ‘religiously aggravated’.

The couple, whose trial has been set for December, face a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record if they are convicted.

Although the facts are disputed, it is thought that during the conversation the couple were challenged over their Christian beliefs.

It is understood that they suggested that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that traditional Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage.

They deny, however, that their comments were threatening and argue that they had every right to defend and explain their beliefs.

In other words, in England, even to have a fact-based discussion that offends Muslims can turn you into a criminal.  And I do mean fact-based.  The Koran is one proud boast after another regarding Mohammed’s martial prowess.  To the extent the Koran constitutes both a religious source book and the sole historical record about the man, he was indeed a warlord — and, as it happens, a religious leader too.  Further, I don’t know about you (and it’s very un-PC of me to say so), but Ibelieve reasonable minds could consider the burqa a form of bondage:

Muslim women in burqa

It’s becoming clear that, of all the dangerous things coming out of the Obama White House — the criminal ACORN associations, the cozying up to the worst actors in the world while alienating our friends, the attempt to socialize our economy, etc. — the single most dangerous thing may prove to be the one that’s slipping under the radar, and that’s the assault on the crown jewel of our Bill of Rights:  Freedom of Speech.

“It ain’t [America] no more” *UPDATED with video*

This is an interesting video, in which a police officer tells a protester to remove his anti-ObamaCare sign from public school property.  A “helpful” bystander explains that the Supreme Court has barred this type of speech.  Frankly, without doing even minimal research, I do not know what the rules are for protest when you’re on public school property.  I understand that public schools cannot be used for prayer and that principals can control student clothes, lockers and publications, but it’s a new one to me that, during non-school hours, all political protest is barred on public property, especially protest with pictures.

Regardless of what the specific laws are, what is unpleasant about this video is the cop’s closing line:  “It ain’t [America] no more.”

It’s entirely possible that the officer’s final statement was just a harassed, non-obscene version of a “f*** you” to an irritating member of the public, but it still sounds appalling to hear him say it.

UPDATE:  Here’s the video:

Bringing class to protests

For the eight years of the Bush presidency, we saw almost non-stop protests. These protests were characterized by speakers being shouted down; fake blood; fake waterboarding; crude, obscene and violent picket signs, etc. Not the American way we said. Freedom of speech is one thing. Ugly, violent, obscene speech is something else.

We need to keep that in mind, especially now that Obama has called out the SEIU thugs. We are the classy protestors. The ones who come armed with facts and dignity. We are not the people of death threats and swear words, nor are we opposed to free speech.

The Anchoress says it best. I’ll quote her at some length, but please be aware that this is only a part of a longer, more thoughtful post on her blog, and one I think all concerned citizens should read:

Of course we should be vocal, but not violent, not shrill, and not so emotional as to allow ourselves to be goaded into behavior which the Dems and their press would love to edit and broadcast.

That has not happened yet, but clearly the introduction of union strongarms and the deliberate attempts to exclude protesters from townhall meetings are partly meant to provoke emotionalism and outrage. I realized then that -because these protests are so grassroots and disorganized- they have no common ideal by which they can protect themselves from being baited into bad behavior. Attempting to find such an ideal or tactic, we joked at first that the protesters need to -when they are not being listened to, and are being disrespected- break into a Rickroll, singing and dancing both to cut tension and to shock-and-awe their Reps.

Then someone suggested that the protesters, about 2 days before congress reconvenes, encircle the capital 10 deep and refuse to allow the reps back in “until they until they stop Teh Stoopid.”

Mockery is, of course, very effective, too.

What is needed, I think -particularly under a White House who (rather than thinking seriously about how to create jobs and shore up our crashing tax revenues) wants its minions to “punchback twice as hard”– is to take a few pages from the playbook of Dr. Martin Luther King. Classic civil disobedience has a strong commitment to non-violence and passive-resistance, and that tactic works, because it unmasks the opposition and exposes them for the crude tyrants they are. When Bull Connor (Democrat, btw) turned his hoses and dogs on the peaceful marchers in Birmingham, Alabama, it was the beginning of his end, and a turning point in the civil rights movement. The injustice of his act was more eloquent than a Shakespearean soliloquy.

So, I think protesters should consider attending these meetings and teaparties with the understanding that they WILL be provoked, but that they are committed to answering provocation only through non-violent means. No matter the provocation, no matter the injustice, the protesters should simply keep to their purpose and not respond-in-kind. It is as powerful as a Tai-Chi move; you turn the opponent’s energy back upon himself to defeat him, or (as Jesus said) you “heap hot coals upon their heads.” Either way, you win. But of course, bring your cameras. Expect no hint of fairness from the press.

The other useful reminder at the same post from the Anchoress came from one of her readers. Saying “no” is only the beginning. The fact is that there is a problem with health care in America, and that problem is sky-rocketing costs. Part of the problem is tied to the fact that medicine has moved beyond leeches and cupping. Scientific sophistication is going to cost you. But the other part of the problem is that there are no incentives to save money, and that’s true whether you’re a provider, an insurer, or a patient.

The answer that Obama & Co have to rising costs is simple: let’s just transfer all control to the government. It won’t cost less (in fact, it will cost much more), and the medical care you receive will degrade significantly, and innovation will vanish, but the important thing is that citizens won’t see the money being spent at the doctor’s office. (Never mind that it’s being sucked out of their pockets through sky-high taxes.) After all, we’re dumb little sheeple and, when it comes to money, out of sight is out of mind, right?

No, not right! Anchoress’ reader lisap comes up with a wonderful mnemonic for remembering several simply economic approaches to cutting costs significantly:

I was thinking of an easy way for all to remember talking points…We should be pointing out an alternate version–not just a NO to their ideas…
I was reading David Limbaugh’s column today and he quoted from an article by Sally Pipes “To 10 myths about Health Care and had suggestions…I put them down as follows…

V ouchers for working poor
I ndividual tax breaks much like employers
C ross state lines to purchase insurance
T ort Reform
O wn health savings accounts
R emove excessive state-mandated treatments
Y es! We the People CAN!

What your representatives think of you, Part II

A few days ago, I quoted from some representatives saying that those attending town halls are an ill-informed mob that must be ignored.  The editors at National Review nicely sum up the Democratic party attitude and its profoundly anti-democratic meaning (links omitted):

President Obama likes to pose as the tribune of the common people, but Americans who show up at town-hall meetings to object to Obama’s plans to nationalize health care are, in the words of Obama’s Democratic National Committee, “the mob,” a bunch of “extremist” yahoos who must be publicly denounced and ridiculed. It’s a remarkable piece of condescension and snobbery, but one that is indicative of how President Obama thinks and does business.

Except when he condescends to make the occasional offhanded jibe about cops policing “stupidly” in Boston or hapless Special Olympics competitors, Obama famously likes to strike a pose of being above it all — but what country does he think he is president of, anyway? We cannot recall a similar episode in recent history in which a group of Americans bringing their concerns about a public-policy question to their representatives were told to sit down and shut up. It’s true that democratic discourse should be respectful and dignified — but it also should be two-way: Politicians should expect to listen as much as they expect to be listened to.

The DNC’s ad, “Enough of the Mob,” abominates those Americans who show up to address their congressmen and to exercise their constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to petition their government for redress of grievances. You know, that old pre-hope-and-change, hopelessly retro, pre-messianic democratic stuff. The ad is deeply dishonest, even by the standards of Washington discourse: The beginning and ending images, and many of those in between, are not those of people protesting Obama’s health-care proposals, but rather of the wacko fringe “birthers” (about whom much has been written here and elsewhere), who have nothing to do with either the town-hall meetings in question or with the Republican party as such. This is pure chicanery: The people protesting Obamacare have not gone out and comported themselves like a gang of buffoons, so Obama’s partisans simply took video of different people comporting themselves like a gang of buffoons and substituted it. That’s a low, shoddy, and intellectually dishonest way to operate.

Democrats work to impose Newspeak

Orwell understood the totalitarian mindset.  That’s why he invented Newspeak, a language with the specific goal of making anti-governmental thought impossible.  The Wikipedia article on the subject sums it up nicely:

Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it is described as being “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year”. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix[1] in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking — “thoughtcrime“, or “crimethink” in the newest edition of Newspeak — impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Hold that thought tightly in mind as you read this story,* which has a Democratically controlled government committee dictating to Republicans the phrases and thoughts they can, and cannot, use in describing to constituents the health care plans currently being trotted out in the Democratically controlled House and Senate:

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the secretary of the House Republican Conference and a former District Court Judge, is having his messages to constituents censored by Democrats on the Franking Commission.  Republicans are no longer allowed to use the words “government run health care” in the communications to their constituents.

Carter received an email from the Franking Commission informing him of the censorship.

“It came to me from the Franking Commission and I have the email from the Franking Commission here if you’d like to see it,” Carter said.  “We held a telephone town-hall… When you hold telephone town-halls you have a recorded message that introduces the town-hall and the subject matter you’re going to be talking about.  You have to now submit that language to the Franking Commission.

“What we proposed as language was as follows, ‘House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan,’” Carter said.  “Our response from Franking was, ‘You cannot use that language.  You must use, ‘The House majority unveiled a public option health care plan,’ which is Pelosi-speak or ‘just last week the House majority unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers…’”

_______________________

*One caveat:  currently, the link I provided is the only source for this story.  I recognize the possibility that it may prove to be a false or confused report.  Right now, though, since it is sourced to a named House member, I’m assuming it’s true, and blogging as if it is.

Hat tip:  Elanamama

Sotomayor’s good instincts on free speech

Sotomayor’s statements about judges (better if they’re female and minority) and their role (to make policy) have been disturbing.  It’s worth nothing though that, as James Taranto points out that, on at least one occasion Sotomayor came out strongly in favor of free speech, even though it was very ugly speech:

Sotomayor Plays Against Type

Blogger Tom Goldstein has a roundup of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions on the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and one First Amendment case caught our attention. Here’s Goldstein’s summary:

One of her more controversial cases was Pappas v. Giuliani, involving an employee of the New York City Police Department who was terminated from his desk job because, when he received mailings requesting that he make charitable contributions, he responded by mailing back racist and bigoted materials. On appeal, the panel majority held that the NYPD could terminate Pappas for his behavior without violating his First Amendment right to free speech. Sotomayor dissented from the majority’s decision to award summary judgment to the police department. She acknowledged that the speech was “patently offensive, hateful, and insulting,” but cautioned the majority against “gloss[ing] over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives just because it is confronted with speech is does not like.”

In her view, Supreme Court precedent required the court to consider not only the NYPD’s mission and community relations but also that Pappas was neither a policymaker nor a cop on the beat. Moreover, Pappas’s speech was anonymous, “occur[ring] away from the office on [his] own time.” She expressed sympathy for the NYPD’s “concerns about race relations in the community,” which she described as “especially poignant,” but at the same time emphasized that the NYPD had substantially contributed to the problem by disclosing the results of its investigation into the racist mailings to the public. In the end, she concluded, the NYPD’s race relations concerns “are so removed from the effective functioning of the public employer that they cannot prevail over the free speech rights of the public employee.”

We’re not sure where we come down on this particular case, but we like Sotomayor’s instinct to err on the side of protecting speech–an instinct that was a hallmark of “liberal” jurisprudence in the days of the Warren court but really is not anymore.

[snip]

If President Obama’s first nominee turns out to be an old-style liberal with a reverence for free speech, the country could have done a lot worse.

I was also interested to read that there is concern on the Left that Sotomayor, a Catholic, is not a reliable vote on Roe v. Wade.  I won’t go into my abortion ambivalence here (sufficie it to say that I’m more pro-Life than I was, but less pro-Life than I could be), but I do find it interesting that her own fans are worried.

Quisling England *UPDATED*

The Brits turned Geert Wilders back at the border for daring to try to enter the country to show an anti-Islamic film.  Wilders isn’t too pure himself, since he advocates muzzling Islam, which just goes to show that Europeans fundamentally fail to understand free speech. (England once understood it, but a combination of leftism and fear seems to have wiped clean its memory banks.)

Free speech means you get to advance your view.  It also means that, if others don’t like your view, they get to challenge it with more speech.  What’s happening all over Europe, though, is that the only speech that is finding freedom is radical Islamic speech, with everything else collapsing in a craven heap before it.

UPDATE:  Power Line gives a little context on Wilders’ own demand for book banning:

Much has been made of Wilders view that the Quran should be banned in the Netherlands. But, as Diana West has explained, Wilders’ position must be understood in the context of existing hate speech laws in that country, which ban Mein Kampf for its incitement to violence and hatred of Jews. Since the Quran contains incitements to violence and hatred of non-Muslims, Wilders contends that, under the same hate speech laws, the Quran should be banned as well. This seems like a reasonable interpreration of an unreasonable law.

Abortion, politics and Obama’s agenda

Okay, I admit it.  I’m easy.  Call me “winsome” and write a thoughtful, well-informed, interesting article about the continuing resonance abortion has on the political process — even if it did not serve as the centerpiece of this last political campaign — and of course I’m going to link to the article.  In this case, “the article” is Patrick O’Hannigan’s rumination about the fact that a person’s views about abortion are themselves a litmus test of their morality and about their understanding of the limitations of government and the judiciary.  In other words, abortion is not going to go away in large part becauase it actually helps define the body politic.

Speaking of the judiciary, I had a thought this morning about both abortion and the unfairness doctrine.  As you know, Obama promised that the first thing he would do as president would be to enact laws promoting abortion to an absolute unfettered federal right, something that takes it even beyond the trimister-by-trimester limitations the Roe v. Wade court imposed.   And if you missed it, the FCC, looking forward to an Obama administration, has already made noises about a backdoor approach to the unfairness doctrine — namely, requiring all radio shows to be vetted by local panels, to ensure that the shows meet “community” interests.

With regard to these local reviewing committees, you already know from school books that, if you abandon the marketplace and hand content decisions over to government committees, you first get a voiding of any meaningful content, followed fast and hard by a creeping political correctness.  This, incidentally, occurs not just because liberals take over these committees.  It occurs because your average fairly conservative person on the committee is a nice person and doesn’t want to make waves.  He doesn’t see the Ailinsky incrementalism in front of him. Instead, he just sees a few nice people from his community who make all these heart-rending victim arguments about people’s feelings being hurt by myriad little facts.  Your average committee conservative therefore finds himself making one little concession after another so as not to get into a tussle with those other nice people on the panel.  The result, of course, is that the product under review (whether it’s a book or a radio show), becomes an information vacuum that is slowly and deliberately filled with Ailinsky-directed content.

But I’m digressing.  My point was that Obama, if he’s wily (note that I say wily, which he is, not smart, which I question) is not going to rush into making these changes.  Why not?  Because the Supreme Court is not yet a reliably liberal, activist engine of change.  Justice Kennedy, having taken over O’Connor’s swing position, will probably side with the liberal justices on expanding Roe v. Wade or putting a free speech imprimatur on the unfairness doctrine, but that’s not 100% certain.  He’s a bit of a loose cannon.  The wily Obama will wait to push these issues until he gets a solid majority on the court.  Once it’s a firmly activist court, he can do anything the heck he pleases when it comes to trampling on fundamental constitutional rights such as free speech, the right to bear arms, a true separation of church and state (which also means not making religion second class), etc.

So, my current bet is that, while Obama will do things that have dreadful repercussions, he’ll move slowly on the things that have dreadful constitutional repercussions.  He simply won’t take the risk that the Roberts’ Court will undo his efforts.

The Fairness Doctrine

As you are, I’m worried about an all Democratic D.C. passing a new “Fairness” Doctrine.  I have an idea:  if Democrats are worried that liberals aren’t getting their message out over the radio airwaves, why don’t they use taxpayer dollars to fund a station devoted to Democratic messages, and one that has a TV and radio presence in every single market in America?  I even have a name for it:  I think National Public Radio would be good.  Or, perhaps, the Public Broadcasting System.

This morning, my (liberal) husband showed the kids pictures of Obama’s house, surrounded by the media and security.  He noted that it was a nice house and wondered how Obama could afford it.  I said that Tony Rezko helped.  “Who’s he?” asked my husband.  He’d never even heard of Rezko and scoffed when I said Obama had a friend who was a convicted felon.

This is a man who listens only to NPR, and reads only the Times and the New Yorker.  He considers himself extremely well-informed, especially because he doesn’t indulge in the tainted, paranoid-conspiracy garbage emanating from conservative radio and the conservative blogosphere.

I mention this only because it strikes me that, even without the aid of a Fairness Doctrine, the beleaguered “liberal media” (the one Dems are concerned is being shouted out by the shrill voices of conservative talk radio) is doing a very good job of controlling the flow of information.

The state of free speech today

As I do, my in-laws, all of whom are McCain supporters, live in a liberal community.  They periodically get together with their conservative friends and bemoan the fact that lawn signs are stolen or despoiled, or that cars bearing McCain-Palin bumperstickers are targets of vandalism (keying, smashed windows, etc.).

Along with the rest of us, they were unimpressed by MSM hysteria about a few nasty-mouthed audience members at McCain/Palin rallies.  They know that, while those people get the attention, the reality is more consistent with Michelle Malkin’s photo essay showing the hatred routinely spewing from liberals towards conservatives generally, and Bush, Cheney, Palin and McCain specifically.

This video gives you a frightening insight into the abuse conservatives face when they exercise their right to free speech:

Unsurprisingly, my in-laws have been as cautious as I have been about the decision to put a McCain bumpersticker on the car.  The resulting ruined paint job or scratched window can make free speech extremely expensive.  Unlike me, though, my in-laws are clever and they came up with an alternative bumpersticker, which will soon decorate their car, and which they plan on distributing to their local McCain-Palin organizations.  Isn’t this great?

Free speech for me, but not for thee

A righteous Andrew McCarthey puts together in a single place what astute observers have long known:  Obama is an active enemy of Free Speech.  Using tried and true Leftist tactics, including coopting sympathetic officials in the current administration, Obama and his team are doing everything they can to stifle speech.

It’s just the beginning of the curve, of course.  But when you get to the end of the curve, you have the former Soviet Union, which routinely saw the Communist powers-that-be get voted into office by an amazing 99% of the citizens.  (And I’m sure the other 1% enjoyed their comfortable stay in a Gulag of the government’s choice.)

Harry Truman, America’s most famous Missourian, is rolling in his grave

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  — Harry Truman.

If you can’t stand the heat, get goons to frighten your opponents — and in Missouri, this means rounding up Democratic government prosecutors and officials to threaten people with prosecution for political speech.

“Ve haf vays of making you not talk”

Being a circumlocutious type myself, I’m not normally a fan of Glenn Reynold’s bullet point approach to sharing information.  Nevertheless, it makes a powerful point in his post setting out an ever expanding laundry list of the efforts the Obama campaign is making to stifle open political debate.  What’s really scary is that this list is all about Obama’s efforts to stifle just one ad the NRA is running about the gun positions he’s taken over time.  It doesn’t even touch on his (or his acoyltes’) earlier efforts to shut down radio stations that had speakers critical of Obama, to black mail people planning to donate money to Obama, or his own exhortation to his followers to “get into people’s faces.”

When it comes to free speech, Obama doesn’t believe in a marketplace of ideas, where open debate is the best disinfectant for bad or untrue political ideas.  Instead, he has a Chicago-style approach to free speech, which is that free speech works great if the other person is threatened with cement shoes.

Are Americans, by what looks today like a 3% margin, really willing to turn the country over to this man?  And did you ever think that the Democrats would front a candidate who makes Bill Clinton look like a model of temperate, Constitutionally-oriented rectitude?

The thought crime police

One of the common responses to my post urging hidden conservatives to come out into the open in this election, if not to their friends and neighbors, at least to their fellow Republicans was that the situation can’t really be that bad.  The Left isn’t any more snarky and snarly than the Right, and you simply have to speak up and make them back down.

In the ideological middle, where people have rather knee-jerk responses to politics (“my father voted Democrat, so I do too”), that may be true.  The true Left, though, and this is a true Left that’s feeling a great deal of power because of the way the masses surge along in its wake on war and environmental issues, is much more deeply committed to its ideology — and part of the true Leftist ideology is to stifle all debate.

Only days after Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s death, it’s ironic that we are once more engaged in a battle royal for true freedom of speech, whether at the political rostrum or simply in letters we send to friends.  (Solzhenitsyn, after all, found himself in the Gulag for writing a private wartime letter somewhat critical of Stalin.)  Nevertheless, that it precisely what’s happening.  Ralph Peters describes a reporter’s question, asked in all seriousness, on Peters’ pro-War stance:  should Peters be tried for war crimes?  Keep in mind that Peters did nothing at all but speak his mind on the war.  That means, even if we buy into the worst of the Leftist belief and paranoia, and admit that the war was wrong and that the powers that be lied to get us into it, the Leftists are still suggesting that any average American who had an opinion on the war — no, who had the wrong opinion on the war — should be rounded up, tried and “reeducated.”

Are you scared?  I am.  And so are a lot of conservatives buried deep under mountains of blue, and feeling very, very alone.  That’s why I’m urging them, not to announce to the world their conservatism, but simply to go to the place where they are most likely to find others just like them:  their local Republican party.

Hat tip:  Danny Lemieux

One more for the road

First, thanks to all of you who have posted such interesting, informative and intelligent comments the past two weeks.  You always make my time here enjoyable and educational.  Still, I’m glad Bookworm is back and ready to bring you her wide diversity of posts, and her thoughtfullness and intelligence that make the Bookwormroom such a great place to hang out.

Still, I’d like to talk about one more topic.  Last year about this time, the Supreme Court, in Morse v. Frederick, 127 S.Ct. 2618 (2007), held that a student could be disciplined for unfurling a banner saying “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” at a school event (specifically, while standing at the side of a street waiting for the Olympic torch to go by).  As a libertarian/conservative, I’m distressed that the conservative members of the Court were so willing to restrict speech. 

The Court used to apply a “substantial disruption” test, but this Court rejected that test.  I suppose it had to, because the most disruption this banner could have caused was that some students might have been distracted and missed seeing the torch go by — hardly a great loss to their education. 

The Court correctly notes that students do no have the same rights as other citizens, because of the “special characteristics of the environment,” whatever that means.  Though it could have been clearer on the point, the Court appeared to make a distinction between advocating illegal drug use (which it viewed this banner as doing) and advocating changes to legalize drug use.  This strikes me as an unworkable test that breaks down completely when considering advocacy of civil disobedience.  Obviously, in this case, advocacy of drug use at least implicitly advocates making drug use legal. 

In any case, the notion that a school should be permitted to suppress advocacy of drug use on campus is most unfortunate.  Are teachers to become hall monitors, listening in on student conversations, suspending anyone they hear suggesting drug use is a good thing?  I would go back to the substantial disruption test.  Unless the student’s speech threatens to disrupt the educational process, it must be permitted.  Granted, drug use is a bad thing.  Granted, as the Court goes on at length about, we’ve decided it is a part of the schools’ mission to discourage drug use (Lord knows why this is a part of the schools’ mission, but that’s another subject).  That just turns this rather silly banner into dissenting political speech, in that it dissents from the message the school is tasked with preaching to the students.

The First Amendment matters.  Speech must be protected, even in our schools.  Dissenting speech must be especially protected.  Where, as here, that speech clearly does not threaten to disrupt the education of the listeners, and is not lewd or offensive, it must be protected absolutely.

We conservatives should keep in mind that the vast majority of the schools in this country are controlled and run by liberals.  Do we really want to give them authority to suppress dissenting speech, and to teach our children that suppressing speech (in the name of political correctness, for example) is okay?  Yet, it’s the conservative members of the Court, led by Justice Roberts, the author of the the opinion, who have struck this blow against free speech in the school setting.  I think that’s unfortunate.  What do you think?    

Separating principles from personal preferences

One of the things I’ve always admired about Harry Truman is the fact that he was able to separate principles from personal preferences.  He was a racist who integrated the American military and an antisemite who was among the first to recognize the State of Israel.

I keep thinking of Truman when I see the American media’s stunning lack of curiosity, let alone outrage, about the Mark Steyn persecution taking place in Canada.  (Here’s a good, recent summary, for those unfamiliar with the matter.)  As a matter of principle, American newspapers should be howling at the thought that the Canadian government is stifling free speech.  The most that’s happened in the MSM, though, is a single New York Times article that presents the whole thing as an interesting relativistic question between old fashioned American values (free speech) and sophisticated European norms.

The problem, of course, is that members of the American media don’t like Mark Steyn’s speech, which recognizes factual truths that the American media refuses to acknowledge.  They’re therefore very happy for the Canadian government to do their dirty work and shut Mark Steyn down.  The fact that a greater principle is involved than their personal prejudices — and it’s a principle that affects them, the media, more than any single job demographic in America — does not seem to occur to them.  They are little people, with little minds, and no discernible values.

Un-American education

I just attended the end of year program at my children’s elementary school. I won’t run on here about how adorable my children were or how charming the other children ewre (accept that as given). Instead, I want to focus on the show’s content, which I found both fascinating and depressing.

A little background first: This school, as is typical for nice middle class schools all over America (and it is a very nice school, despite my carping about its systemic problems), boasts “character” as a big part of its curriculum. This doesn’t mean that character issues permeate every lesson or interaction with an adult in the school, which would make sense to me. That is, the teachers don’t use every history lesson to discuss a historic figure’s virtues or faults, nor do I see that teachers demand of their students’ every interaction a level of respect and kindness.

Instead, the school has bought into the “Character Counts” program, which has “character” taught as just another lesson, with the students viewing it as an abstract subject, unrelated to themselves and as easily ignored as geometry. (There are lots of posters too, although a friend has rightly pointed out that a school’s commitment to actually teaching an issue seems to decline in direct inverse proportion to the number of posters on the wall.)

This year, the school decided to integrate the character curriculum into the end of the year show, with the classes doing little vignettes to illustrate the various virtues, such as “trustworthiness,” “responsibility,” “fairness,” etc. When I first heard the announcement, and not having yet looked at the program, I instantly saw the show play out in my head, replaying the national myths of my own childhood. “Trustworthiness” could be Parson Weem’s wonderful story of Washington and the Cherry Tree; “Responsibility” would be Paul Revere; “Citizenship” could be about the Declaration of Independence; etc. Oooh, was I wrong.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that every one of the vignettes drew from cultures other than America. Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia — they all yielded lessons for our children about the basic moral virtues the school was trying to teach. The school did not field a single lesson tied to our own American culture, myths and history.

I don’t think this was a conscious decision on the part of the teachers and administrators. I think, instead, that they’ve been completely Zinn’d when it comes to history: They accept unthinkingly that America is a nation without virtue. George Washington wasn’t an exemplar of honesty and freedom; he was a slaveholder. Paul Revere wasn’t a brave freedom fighter; he was a sleazy merchant trying to make money instead of doing the decent thing by shutting up and paying his taxes. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t a stunning moment in human history that turned away from autocracy and a subordinate citizenry; it was the opening shot in a sorry history of American jackbooted imperialism.

This learned, innate hatred of American exceptionalism is now seeing horrible fruit in university professors and media elites who want to destroy the one Constitutional right that makes America a better, freer, healthier nation than any other country in the whole world: Free Speech.

The New York Times has finally written about the Kangaroo Court in Canada that is prosecuting Mark Steyn and McLean’s Magazine in connection with the latter’s reprint of an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone. As I know all of you know, Steyn’s point is that Muslim population growth and immigration patterns indicate a Muslim Europe in the fairly near future. Some Canadian Muslims took exception to this and complained to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which cares naught for free speech (or even truth), but worries only about the fact that someone’s feelings (er, make them, an oppressed class or person’s feelings) might have been hurt.

What’s fascinating about the Times article is how it found prominent American thinkers who are anxious to jettison America’s free speech in favor of European censorship:

The Maclean’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn called “America Alone” (Regnery, 2006). The title was fitting: The United States, in its treatment of hate speech, as in so many other areas of the law, takes a distinctive legal path.

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”

[snip]

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

Professor Waldron was reviewing “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment” by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of efforts to use the law to limit hate speech.

But even Mr. Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections “in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism.” In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

The imminence requirement sets a high hurdle. Mere advocacy of violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government is not enough; the words must be meant to and be likely to produce violence or lawlessness right away. A fiery speech urging an angry mob to immediately assault a black man in its midst probably qualifies as incitement under the First Amendment. A magazine article — or any publication — intended to stir up racial hatred surely does not.

Mr. Lewis wrote that there was “genuinely dangerous” speech that did not meet the imminence requirement.

“I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience, some of whose members are ready to act on the urging,” Mr. Lewis wrote. “That is imminence enough.”

Just so you know, these are the professors who are teaching your children and the writers who are disseminating their profoundly anti-American ideology at home and abroad. And I don’t feel at all as if I’m lapsing into disproportionate ad hominem language when I call them anti-American. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more American than virtually unfettered free speech. Therefore, nothing can be less American, more antithetical to core American values, than trying to shut that speech down.

No wonder my kids’ sweet little school, without a second thought, was incapable of looking to our own country and culture to illustrate abstract virtues. We don’t believe in ourselves any more, so much so that we are willing to destroy, not only the thing that makes us most American, but the thing that keeps us most free.