#BillMaher gives a lovely example of the way the Left uses itself as the template for what’s fair

I always love it when Leftist idiocy highlights some sort of life lesson I just imparted to young people.  Today’s life lesson is that fairness should be a reasonably objective standard, rather than one that, as Bill Maher would have it, depends on whether you, personally, are benefiting from the standard imposed.

Back in 2008, all the Marin children with whom I had contact were claiming that they “would vote” for Obama “because he’s black.”  They were taken aback when I said, “That’s racist.”  To them, racism means negative treatment based upon race.  It never occurred to them that racism includes any treatment that sees one so dehumanize a person that the person becomes nothing more than the color of his or her skin.  I suggested that, if they were indeed interested in the election, they should consider Obama’s history, statements, and ideas, rather than his skin color, in determining whether he was fit for office.  I wish the opportunity had arisen (which it did not) to make the same point to their parents.

Yesterday, I again had the opportunity to help a couple of kids understand that things are not always as they seem.  We were talking about good and bad teachers.  Good teachers, obviously, were the ones who communicated well and, even better, made the material seem meaningful and sometimes exciting.  Bad teachers were poor communicators and managed to make every subject boring.

Within these good and bad divisions, though, something interesting cropped up:  One of the hallmarks of the bad teachers was that they treated students differently within the class.  This didn’t just mean picking on some students, which the kids easily classified as “unfair.”  It also included playing favorites, something that the kids didn’t like, but didn’t recognize as equally “unfair.”  To them, “fair” is good treatment, “unfair” is bad treatment.  A teacher who is too good to some students therefore cannot be considered “unfair.”  They were quite taken aback when I suggested to them that any equal treatment is unfair.  Sometimes the lack of fairness can be justified, but it’s still not “fair.”

I thought of this inability to comprehend that it’s just as unfair to treat people too well as it is to treat them too badly when I read about Bill Maher’s defense when Jake Tapper queried him about the truly vile statements he’s routinely made regarding conservative women:

Bill Maher: The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know.  Because it was a routine where that word came in at just the right moment. Context is very important, and it’s also important to remember that stand-up comedy is the final frontier of free speech. Still, I stopped doing that routine, but I would like someone to replace that word if it’s so awful with another one that has the same meaning for a person – not just women, it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.

Jake Tapper: And that’s not comparable to what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke?

Bill Maher:  To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and “unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.

John Nolte nails down precisely what is wrong with Maher’s self-serving analysis:

Bill Maher is a comedian and commentator. Rush Limbaugh is a commentator. But for some reason, Maher is apparently under the absurd impression that there’s some kind of caveat in the First Amendment that gives him super, secret, double free speech rights over the rest of us.

Well, I’ve read the First Amendment and no such caveat exists.

If there’s a difference between what’s happening to Maher and what’s happening to Limbaugh, it is that Maher is under fire from private citizens and Limbaugh is under fire from a stealth campaign led by the government — specifically, the President of the United States.

Private citizens exercising their free speech rights to protest Bill Maher is the purest form of democracy there is.

The government, however, joining a crusade to silence one of their critics is the very definition of censorship.

(Nolte has much more to say, which you can read here.)

What’s pretty apparent is that, when it comes to fairness, Maher’s understanding of the word is stuck in the middle school years.  For all his sophisticated patina, he’s still a little boy who thinks that his emotional reaction to something determines whether something is fair or not.  If it works in his favor, it’s fair; if it doesn’t, it’s unfair.  Easy-peasy analysis for the small, immature mind, right?

Even the affable, slightly generic, left-of-center Jay Leno cannot escape the hurt feelings of the political correctness crowd

Back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, when political correctness first floated into the realm of mainstream culture, everyone thought it was the same as being nice or having good manners.  It’s not.  Good manners, to my mind, means assuring that the people around you feel comfortable.  Political correctness means controlling people’s thoughts and actions.  It’s a very iron hand draped in a warm and cuddly velvet glove.

Jay Leno, bland, slighty-left-of-the-middle-of-the-road Jay Leno, made a rather pathetic little joke about Romney’s wealth, which consisted of claiming that a beautiful Golden Temple is his home.  The Golden Temple happens to be a Sikh religious site, but you can see how Leno’s writers were attracted by its gold-ness.  In other words, the joke wasn’t about (or, more importantly, directed against) Sikh’s.  Instead, it was about Romney and riches.  Indian Sikhs, however, are up in arms:

A Leno skit showed the temple as the summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Mr Romney has faced taxation questions over his huge wealth and many Sikhs are angry the temple has been depicted as a place for the rich.

The Sikh community has launched an online petition and an Indian minister called the comments “objectionable”.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters: “It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple.”

The friend who sent me this story zeroed in on a specific quotation:

“Freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others… This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display.”

As my friend said, “Uh, yeah it does, unfortunately,” along with a more pungent (but entirely apropos) comment about the fact that India too has figured out that the only religions in the world that can be the subject of jokes or insults are Christianity and Judaism.

On the subject of free speech, much as I venerate the Constitution, I think the most pithy statement is one that is attributed (incorrectly) to Voltaire:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Frankly, the contrast between that statement and the political correctness doctrine — “only the arbiters of political correctness, all of whom are Leftist, can determine what speech is acceptable” — pretty much says it all when it comes to the Statists and the Individualists.

Free speech for me but not for thee

American universities pay lip service to multiculturalism and inclusiveness, but one of their despicable secrets is that, while conservative and Jewish speakers are ignored or shouted down with no push-back whatsoever from the university administrations, pro-Palestinian speakers are given a bully pulpit.  The worse their rhetoric — the more anti-inflammatory and antisemitic — the more aggressively the university administrations go the mat for them to defend their right to free speech.  One of the best and most diligent chroniclers of this trend is Bruce Kesler, who blogs at Maggie’s Farm.

Kesler has now turned the spotlight on Cal State University, Northridge, where David Klein, a math professor has a university sanctioned webpage devoted, not to math, but to demonizing Israel in terms that would have made Goebbels, Eichmann, and the whole gang proud.  The good professor, you see, is exercising his “right to free speech.”

Back in the day, I naively understood professorial free speech to mean that, within the context of teaching the subject matter for which he was hired, a professor could not be coerced into limiting his teaching to state/employer mandated doctrine.  To do so would destroy an academic institution’s ability to introduce students to new ideas and new ways of thinking.  Foolish me.  I didn’t understand that academic free speech means that tax payer funded universities are open forums for one thing and one thing only:  the most radical Left ideology on any subject known to man.

“In God We Trust” banned in California classrooms

Do you have any spare change lying around?  Yes?  I thought you might.

My dollar coins say “In God We Trust.”

My dollar bills say “In God We Trust.”

My quarters say “In God We Trust.”

My dimes say “In God We Trust.”

My nickels say “In God We Trust.”

My pennies say “In God We Trust.”

Every time I touch American legal tender, I touch the words “In God We Trust.”

Nevertheless, it turns out that those words are illegal — if they appear, not on a student’s coins, but on his classroom wall:

Saying a high school teacher has no right to “use his public position as a pulpit,” a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a San Diego County school district was on solid legal ground when it ordered a math instructor to remove large banners declaring “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE.”

Those inscriptions and others that longtime teacher Bradley Johnson displayed on his classroom wall amounted to a statement of religious views that the Poway Unified School District was entitled to disavow, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the appellate panel said, government employees, including public schoolteachers, have no constitutional right to express views in the workplace that contradict their employer’s rules or policies.

“Johnson took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon the impressionable and captive minds before him,” said Judge Richard Tallman in the 3-0 ruling, which reversed a lower-court decision in the teacher’s favor.  (Emphasis mine.)

"Hey, you can't say that in here!"

I especially like Judge Tallman’s reference to “impressionable and captive minds.”  Apparently those young minds can withstand the constant propaganda emanating from legal tender, but put it on a classroom wall and their mushy psyches are completely overcome.  Under that kind of pernicious “God We Trust” influence, the next thing you know, those poor, weak-brained students are going to rush out and commit some heinous acts of morality and decency. You can see pictures of the hypnotic, over-powering banners here.

(By the way, if you’re getting old, as I am, and are trying to fix “God Shed His Grace On Thee” in your mind, it’s from “America The Beautiful,” a song that liberal media stalwart Lynn Sherr identified in her book about its creation as our “nation’s favorite song.”)

We need to stop worrying about al Qaeda and start getting seriously worried about our judiciary.  For three federal appellate court judges to say that the motto imprinted on every coin in America constitutes a private statement of religious views that can be banned from the classroom crosses a line from Progressive to deranged.

“It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

If you’re old enough to have lived through the 1970s, you recognize my post title:  Gilda Radner’s famous character Roseanne Roseannadanna would let loose with a foolish tirade, and then wrap it up by saying “It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”  Someone needs to resurrect that character, or at least that catch-phrase, to appreciate fully what’s going on right now with the Koran burning.

Everyone I know thinks that that Pastor Terry Jones is an insensitive, ill-mannered, publicity-seeking lout for having burned the Koran.  That he did so is un-American, not because it is illegal, but because it runs counter to deep American values that find repugnant the thought of book-burning, especially burning religious books, and that embrace a pluralism that shows respect for different religions.  Ordinary Americans, not crude attention seekers such as Jones, understand that America is blessed with a huge population of peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims, and that it’s a rude, mean-spirited slap in the face to treat their holy book so badly.  Can I make it any plainer that I am disgusted with what Jones did?

Sadly, however, significant numbers of Americans, all (almost all?) liberal (including Lindsay Graham, who is RINO through and through) think that what Jones did requires government intervention, in the form of federal laws banning Koran burning, or religious book burning, or all book burning, or Islam insulting, or whatever the liberal thinks will work to placate the Muslims so that they don’t riot and murder innocent UN workers.  (And while, God knows, I hold no brief for the UN, to invade a UN compound and murder workers in cold blood is the slaughter of the innocents.)

Those who are willing to pass such laws fail to understand two things.  First, one of the things that makes America uniquely American is the reverence we hold for free speech, even ugly free speech.  While we draw the line at two types of free speech — pedophilia and direct incitement to violence, a la “go out and lynch the person right now” — we otherwise believe that free speech can only benefit us.  Ugly, mean speech should be countered by smart speech, compelling speech, apologetic speech (if necessary), persuasive speech, etc.

If we allow the government to ban ugly speech, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation that sees the government determining what’s ugly.  I can tell you with certainty that, during the first two years of the Obama administration, he and Congress, working together, would happily have banned all anti-Obama speech on the ground that it was racist hate speech.  It’s a slippery slope and a censoring government will always slide you down to the midden at the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible.

Second, the other thing that the pro-censorship crowd utterly fails to understand is that banning Koran burning or book burning or smack talk about Islam is only the beginning.  Those who haven’t been paying attention don’t appreciate that this is the religion of perpetual outrage.  “It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

If we ban Koran burning, the agitators amongst the Muslims will riot about pigs on tissue boxes, something that excited much outrage in England a few years ago.  If we ban pigs on tissue boxes, they’ll start killing over abstract ice cream logos that, if held at a certain angle and viewed with one eye half closed, could possibly be understood to be Arabic script for Allah, something that also happened in England.  If we ban ice cream labels, they’ll agitate wildly over people entering Muslim-driven cabs with alcohol bottles or seeing eye dogs, as Muslims did in St. Paul, Minnesota.  If we ban alcohol and dogs in cabs, the jihadists and their useful idiots will storm embassies because of cartoons, which is what happened all over the world over some Danish cartoons (pictures that were skillfully augmented by exceptionally vicious anti-Mohamed cartoons that an Imam drew when he didn’t get the proper reaction to the original cartoons).  And of course, if we ban cartoons people have already drawn, the Islamists will hunt down people who merely suggest drawing cartoons, as happened to poor Molly Norris, who had to go into permanent hiding for her suggestion.

If you pay a blackmailer, he won’t go away.  He’ll come back for more.  “It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”  Those who wish to drain the American bank account by chipping away at Constitutional freedoms will discover themselves bankrupt, burqaed and muzzled.  The radical Islamists will not be grateful for our sacrifice, they will be delighted by our obeisance, and they will push and demand more and more and more.  Further, because they know we haven’t got the stomach for the fight, each demand will be accompanied by bloodshed, along the lines of the Mafioso who slices off an ear or a finger, or blows away a knee cap, to make his point.

To those who say “But they’ll kill our troops,” I have one more thing to say:  What the hell do you think the Islamists have already been doing to our troops for the past eight years?  Everything the troops have been fighting and dying for goes away if we unilaterally surrender our Constitution and bow to our new sharia overlords.

“It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

UPDATEThis post perfectly illustrates the one-way street nature of sharia and its adherents.

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.

A quick morning round-up — and an Open Thread *UPDATED*

If you’re on the ball, this week you have the opportunity to bid on a great sounding book, get an iPad, and help Soldier’s Angels.

Everyone’s wondering why multiple New Yorkers just walked by as a good Samaritan bled to death on the sidewalk in front of them.  The intelligentsia has jumped on the usual suspects:  violent video games.  I think, though, that we’re simply looking at life in the big city, in which people cultivate the mindset of “it’s not my problem; someone else, preferably a City employee,” will fix it.  And in the last shot of that deeply depressing video, one sees New York’s own come driving up to carry away the corpse.  It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that urban dwellers vote overwhelmingly for big government.  Living in the City means never having to take care of things yourself.

Speaking of cities and government, it’s clear that one city’s government knows how to take care of itself.  It turns out that 1 out of 3 San Francisco employees is earning in excess $100,000 annually on the taxpayer’s dime.  (Here’s an example of a teacher feeding at some government’s public trough who can’t possibly be worth whatever money they are paying her.)  I suspect that, if you had a picture of sheep being led to the slaughter, and San Franciscans walking down the City streets, the images would be indistinguishable– except that the sheep earn our sympathy because they, at least, are not complicit in their own demise.

And speaking of sheep, Michael Barone thinks that some sheep may be lining up for rebellion and will start demanding spending cuts, not tax increases.  They will be met, naturally, with cries that, should such cuts go into effect, there will be people starving in the streets.  Funnily enough, those statements will echo precisely the arguments made back in 1990s, when the debate was on about “ending welfare as we know it.”  We did end welfare as we knew it, and Armageddon failed to occur.  What a disappointment to the doomsayers.

I’ve spent a fair amount of blog time this week talking about the danger of identity politics.  The trigger for me was the gay softball team stripped of its championship because some of its players weren’t gay enough.  The world of sports, though, is too small a stage for sexual identity politics, and the same argument is now playing out on the Pennsylvania political scene:  “Just how bisexual is Gregg Kravitz? His political career may pivot on the answer. Kravitz is a 29-year-old former stockbroker from Philadelphia, who is running for the Pennsylvania statehouse. He claims to be a bisexual. [para.] His opponent in the Democratic primary, incumbent Babette Josephs, says Kravitz is lying about who he sleeps with in order to curry favor with gay voters. Josephs claims she met a woman at a fundraiser who identified herself as Kravitz’s girlfriend. “I outed him as a straight person,” Josephs announced.”

Lastly, although I can’t find a graceful way to tie the following in with my snippets, above, I wanted to bring your attention to the hatred directed at the Tea Partiers.  While the media may be very busy trying to paint peaceful constitutionally-oriented protests as potential bloodbaths, that’s not where the ugliness lies.  (Warning:  bad language and potential scary nightmares lie at this link.)

UPDATE:  Since this was a post that leaned heavily on government worker issues, this Saturday Night Live sketch seems apropos:

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.

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

This is what oppression looks like

Through the Bush years, those in the grips of BDS likened him to Hitler based upon their contention that he was running the most oppressive administration ever in American history.  They made this claim despite the fact that, insofar as I know, no protestor was ever imprisoned merely for having protested.  (This is separate from protesters who might have been charged with vandalism, assault, etc.)

Two stories in today’s paper serve to remind us exactly what it looks like when you have a truly oppressive government.  In Uganda, a movement is afoot to make some homosexuality and homosexual acts a capital crime, with family and friends risking imprisonment if they don’t turn their loved one over to the government:

Proposed legislation would impose the death penalty for some gay Ugandans, and their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report them to authorities. Even landlords could be imprisoned for renting to homosexuals.

[snip]

The Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” faces seven years in prison if convicted. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years and anyone with “religious, political, economic or social authority” who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.

(Incidentally, if you read the whole AP story, you’ll see that it’s all the fault of American Christians that this legislation is on the table.)

And in Iran, of course, we see exactly what happens in a place that actually has a repressive administration, as opposed to a gentleman-like administration that people can safely attack:

Iran will “show no mercy” toward opposition protesters seen as threatening national security, a judiciary official said on Tuesday, a day after thousands of students staged anti-government rallies.

[snip]

“From now on, we will show no mercy toward anyone who acts against national security. They will be confronted firmly,” said prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, according to the official IRNA news agency.

“Confronted firmly.” Translated, I assume that means beatings, electrical shocks to the genitals, starvation, and other forms of torture a bit more extreme than waterboarding, all of which is followed by either a kangaroo trial or just a swift gunshot to the back of the head.  That last, of course, assumes that you’re lucky enough to make it alive off the streets:

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.

What Obama really seeks to destroy by destroying Fox News

Charles Krauthammer identifies the enormous damage the Obami risk doing as they attack and try to destroy national entities associated with conservatives (the Chamber of Commerce, talk radio, Fox news):

There’s nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality. We have norms, Madisonian norms.

Madison argued that the safety of a great republic, its defense against tyranny, requires the contest between factions or interests. His insight was to understand “the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties.” They would help guarantee liberty by checking and balancing and restraining each other — and an otherwise imperious government.

Factions should compete, but also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize, and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian.

But didn’t Teddy Roosevelt try to destroy the trusts? Of course, but what he took down was monopoly power that was extinguishing smaller independent competing interests. Fox News is no monopoly. It is a singular minority in a sea of liberal media. ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC vs. Fox. The lineup is so unbalanced as to be comical — and that doesn’t even include the other commanding heights of the culture that are firmly, flagrantly liberal: Hollywood, the foundations, the universities, the elite newspapers.

I long for the Bush days. If nothing else, Bush was ever the gentleman, and he presided over a remarkably civil administration.

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.

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.

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.

Long hidden species carefully emerges from hiding *UPDATED*

Thought to be extinct, Marinicus Republicanus is emerging from its long dormancy and beginning to make itself known.  Tonight, I attended an enthusiastic rally of at least 100 people crammed shoulder to shoulder in a beautiful home in Marin. People were informed, excited, and refused to be intimidated by the polls.

Melanie Morgan, former conservative talk show host and founder and chairman of MoveAmericaForward.org, was the big draw.  As you might guess given her career, she’s a great public speaker — clear, vivacious, intelligent and amusing.  She has one other quality that completely endeared her to me:  she’s petite.  Indeed, she’s what used to be called a Pocket Venus — a lovely woman from head to toe, only on a someone smaller scale (although at about 5’2″, she’s still taller than I am).

Melanie’s speech touched upon a few main themes, familiar to all conservatives:  Obama’s “spread the wealth” socialism, his frightening unpreparedness for attacks against the US (both because of his inexperience and his temperament), the huge risk of a complete Democratic takeover of the government (a government that will be far to the Left of anything Roosevelt, Truman, Carter or even Clinton envisioned), and the death of the conservative media.

As to the last, Melanie warned those assembled to make no mistake:  The very first thing an entirely Democratic government will do is pass a bill with the Orwellian title of “Fairness Doctrine.”  This will mandate that any radio or TV show that has political content must give equal time to both Democrats and Republicans.

While I can guarantee you that this “fairness” won’t be imposed against MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN, the Democratic controlled FCC will come down like gangbusters against Fox News, Dennis Prager, Rush LImbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, and any other national and local conservative shows you can think of.  The FCC will warn any station carrying these shows that, unless they start airing Air America too (or like shows), they will lose their licenses.  And the radio stations, unable to afford the financial black holes of liberal talk radio, will go with the obvious response:  they’ll take conservative radio shows off the air.  Progressives will still have MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN (since Democrats profess to believe that these networks are “objective”), but conservatives will have . . . nothing.

But that’s not entirely true.  Conservatives will still have the internet, whether written or podcasts.  And I think conservatives should start having guerilla radio.  During World War II, resistance fighters and local partisans all over Europe set up underground radio stations that beamed real news — not Nazi propaganda — to those who still wanted the truth.  Heck, even in the last Harry Potter book, the good guys set up secret radio broadcasts aimed at keeping community alive and thwarting the Death Eaters.

Don’t you love the idea of a secret Rush Limbaugh radio show?  Because it will be illegal, it will immediately gain the same cachet as other illegal activities, such as marijuana use or underage drinking.  College students will start having parties in darkened dorm rooms, behind locked doors, as they chase the elusive Rush across the radio dial.

Before long, these same college students, their minds finally stimulated by an alternative to the Marxist doctrine taught in their classrooms, will be taking to the streets, demanding that the government “Free Rush Limbaugh.”  It will be exciting.  There will be riots.  Nancy Pelosi will barricade herself in her San Francisco mansion as deeply committed college students mount 24 hour a day protests on her street.

As the streets become maelstroms of free speech protests, the MSM will be forced to report on the story, complete with dire warnings about the dangers to youth from illegal conservative radio.  Concerned parents, anxious to know what kind of ideology is sparking their childrens’ behavior, will “try” rush (although few will admit to this kind of mental inhaling).

To their horror, most of them will find themselves agreeing with him.  Some will have to go into therapy.  Many will go into deep denial.  But some, those who have a youthful rebellious streak, will begin covert listening operations as well, and find themselves hanging out at skate parks trying to have the boarders give them info about the next place and time for a Rush broadcast.

After that, heck, anything can happen.  Stick around long enough, and by 2012 or 2016, we may have a successful Palin-Steele, or Palin-Cantor, or Palin-Jindal ticket, that can start the long, painful work of undoing all the damage done to America by several consecutive years of unbridled socialist . . . um, Democratic rule.

UPDATE:  BTW, Melanie Morgan’s own blog is here.

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.