As progressives we’re constantly reminded by the likes of Bill Riley, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limgaugh that we need to thank all the Americans who have died in wars gone by for our right to speak out against the government.
I’m thinking that a different kind of thanks are in order.
For the past few weeks Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and that cohort have had a clown-car of crazy coming out of their talk shows. Glen Greenwald highlighted some of it here—the kind of talk that Beck, the uber-crazy conservative spokesperson Chuck Norris, and a gaggle of retired military and intelligence officials have been spouting. The short version is that they believe that the U.S. is on the verge of destruction, and they have a plan for a bunch of militia cells to rise up and overthrow the Obama government. The kicker, according to retired military, is that the U.S. armed forces—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard—might not follow the orders of the Commander in Chief but might instead side with the militias.
Now, everyone has the right to their personal version of crazy—even a national “news” organization like Fox News. I’m a bit disturbed by their “war gaming” the overthrow of the U.S. government, but hey, that’s freedom of speech.
Still, in some ways this kind of talk has a distinctly anti-government, even, perhaps, and anti-American flavor. After all, they’re talking about the overthrow of the U.S. government. And they’re actually helping plot it. And, in many ways, they’re encouraging it.
One could make the accusation that the media is anti-American. And this particular media seems to accuse the military of being willing to go along with it.
But that’s exactly the kind of freedom of speech that conservatives love to say came at the expense of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers’ deaths over the years. And in that they’re right.
But I think they owe a more immediate debt of gratitude. After all, Fox is a media organization. Rush is an entertainer. Chuck Norris is . . . well, whatever he his. He has an op-ed column, and he appears on Fox. Anyway, the common denominator is that they are all part of the media.
So all that got me thinking back to the last time the media came under fire for spouting anti-American views. When was the last time that a group of entertainers was accused of being too anti-American in their views? And when was the last time the military—or at least the Army—came under similar accusation?
Sure, it was the McCarthy era. But back then the tables were turned. Back then it was liberals who were supposedly plotting anti-American activities such as the overthrow of the government. Back then it was the conservatives who perpetuated a chokehold on public speech, hauling anyone they deemed “un-American” in front of congressional committees. Squads of anti-free-speech thugs made blacklists and kept a keen eye out for anyone who might be talking about overthrowing the U.S.
What stopped that? Liberalism. In perhaps one of the finest hours in U.S. history Joseph Welch excoriated Joseph McCarthy with a single plea: "At long last sir, have you no sense of decency?"
Here was a triumph of liberalism in favor of the right to free speech—free speech that included the right to speak out against the government. From that time on the media was free to become more liberal, to question, to attack, to bring to light all the ugliness of the American government.
So, Beck, Hannity, Rush, Norris, Coulter, et al.—next time you feel like going off on a rant about how militias are going to rise up and overthrow the U.S. government, and how you think Supreme Court justices and presidential candidiates ought to be poisoned, and about how you plan to help break up the Union because you don’t like our current administration. . . .
Thank a liberal for your right to say it.
Labels: AndrewMC, Fox News, joseph welch, mccartyism, Progressives
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Ahistoricality on 3/13/2009 7:46 PM:
When was the last time that a group of entertainers was accused of being too anti-American in their views?
Dixie Chicks, 2003.
Aside from my quibble about "the last time" being all the way back in the 50s, when the drumbeat of anti-americanism has been used to silence or belittle everyone on the left of Lincoln, from academics to Vietnam veterans for a century or more, I have a more fundamental problem with your argument.
I don't think freedom of speech is a liberal issue, per se. There have been both liberal and conservative figures who have pushed the limits of acceptable speech, and liberal and conservative defenders of their freedom to speak. (I think the association of freedom of speech with liberals is more a result of the conflation of the issue with the ACLU which deals with both [mostly non-partisan] speech issues and [usually liberal] religion issues.)
Was McCarthyism about freedom of speech, anyway? Or was it about freedom of association, and the standards of evidence necessary to presume guilt?
AndrewMc on 3/14/2009 10:06 AM:
All good points. I definitely should have attached a "rant" tag to the post.
I agree that freedom of speech isn't a "liberal" issue per se. But we are continuously treated to the canard that we have "all those who died" to thank for what conservatives see as criticism of the U.S. And, while do have a huge debt to those who actively fought in the military, we also have a huge debt to people like Joseph Welch. To some degree we have even more of a debt.
Ahistoricality on 3/14/2009 11:14 AM:
There has always been something of a divide between liberalism and conservativism on the issues of rights and responsibilities. Liberals emphasize rights over responsibilities except in the case of property rights, which are subject to public need; and conservatives are exactly the opposite, emphasizing responsibilities over rights except in the case of property rights which are nearly absolute.
What's most galling, to my mind, is that the criticism and sometimes blatant anti-Americanism on both sides is rooted in idealism, in the belief that an American which doesn't adhere to certain standards isn't authentic and legitimate, but the left gives the right the benefit of the doubt under these circumstances, rarely questioning the patriotism of secessionists and eliminationists, whereas the right rarely, if ever, gives the left any leeway, questioning the patriotism of even mainstream interlocutors.
on 3/22/2009 9:56 PM:
If you value free speech so much, enough to pat yourselves on the back for giving this precious right back to America, then why are you trying to take it away from us via the Censorship, excuse me, Fairness Doctrine? The only reason to pass such a bill would be to silence opposition to our socialist president. Funny, the first thing Communists do when they take over a nation is to silence the intellectuals, free thinkers, and other voices of reason.
on 3/22/2009 10:13 PM:
Ahistoricality, conservatives emphasize both individual rights and responsibilities equally. For example, providing for yourself and protecting your property are both individual rights and individual responsibilities. Personal property is NOT subject to public need! Furthermore, I don't understand how you can say that liberals value rights. Exactly what rights do you value? The right to demand that the government steal the resources of one group of people to give to another? And, what "leeway" does the left give to the right? If anything, the left is completely intolerant of anyone with differing views. How many people were called racists for not supporting Obama's policies?
As far as patriotism goes, one side should never criticize how patriotic the other side is. Unfortunately, both parties are guilty of making accusatory statements. Quite frankly, I agree with Menken who said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
AndrewMc on 3/25/2009 7:31 AM:
"The right to demand that the government steal the resources of one group of people to give to another? "
This makes no sense whatsoever. Taxation in a representative government is not stealing. What conservatives fail to grasp, it seems to me, is that the people are the government. You can't steal from yourself.
"Personal property is NOT subject to public need!"
The US Constitution provides for eminent domain, so your statement is not true. Perhaps you meant this in a different way?
on 4/15/2009 12:10 AM:
Taxation is stealing when money is being stolen from me for programs that the government has not been given the power to implement according to our Constitution. Furthermore, our government is run by an elite group of power-hungry, money grabbing incompetents, and they certainly don't represent me! I am not the government, and neither are you. Neither of us has any control over what they do. Our congress has an insatiable appetite for power and money, and they are trampling the Constitution and stealing our freedom. According to our Constitution, the government only has the right to tax for postal roads and the military.
Either you didn't read the Constitution or you didn't understand it. Eminent domain only allows the government to seize property for national security purposes only. It was actually put in the Constitution to prevent government abuses of power, as when the British seized private property to house their troops. It was put into our Constitution to protect us from government seizure, not to promote it! Read the Federalist Papers if you want a more detailed description.
on 4/15/2009 12:17 AM:
Jeremy Young, where have you been? The Fairness Doctrine is supported by our president and almost every liberal member of congress. It was one of Obama's and Clinton's campaign promises! Now, it seems as if the plan is to implement the program through a shady, backdoor method known as Localization of Content. Funny, but the Fairness Doctrine doesn't apply to our liberally biased media, which dominate the entire industry. It only applies to the very few media voices who oppose the Obama regime.
AndrewMc on 4/15/2009 9:50 AM:
Can you point out where the president has indicated support for the Fairness Doctrine? Or where either campaign made a promise to try to implement it?
on 4/17/2009 4:27 PM:
First of all, I'd like to commend you and thank you for engaging me in polite, civil debate. There is so much animosity between parties right now that it makes informative debating impossible. I wish more people would engage controversial issues the way you do.
You're right about one thing. Technically, Obama does in fact claim not to support the Fairness Doctirne. He's too intelligent to support such a blatantly unconstitutional policy; however, he does support something called localization, which is basically the same thing. It would give the government the right to dictate what types of programs talk radio is allowed to air.
Here are some links to articles. Please take what they have to say into consideration. Thanks!
on 11/15/2009 11:09 PM:
Anything that is hate filled speech SHOULD be banned and anything that speaks out agianst the progressive, good work that Obama is doing for all of us SHOULD be banned. This nation is tired of the rhetoric from the right to use fear to try and keeps things in rut in this nation so the elite white and religious bigots of this country stay in power! It isn't about free speech, it is about what is good for the world and any speech that biased ,bigoted, racist, sexist or demeaning to anything liberal or progressive only sets the world back more. Obama is doing everything he can to save this nation and repair our image with the rest of the world as well as to make a more diverse and tolerant world. Already he is making sure poor people,gays and minorities are going to be provided for and making sure all people can go a hospital or doctor if need be! The GOP and conservatives are working VERY hard to try and keep America only for the rich and keep the poor getting poorer! The GOP HAS to be stopped, as well as fundamentalism, conservatism and over the right-wing whacko faction of this nation. The sooner they are silened and the the final nail is driven into their coffins the better place not only the U.S, but the entire world will be. As a nation we need to push forward to a united world where we all have what we need, no one is struggling or worried about basic needs and where war is obselete and outdated for good. The right doesn't want that, the left and liberalism does...so therefore it is obvious why the right needs to be silenced be that by a "doctrine" or any other policy. We simply cannot as people allow the lunatics to keep running the asylums so to speak. We all elected grown-ups to office,so we all need to support them , let them continue to do the good the have proven to do and all work to bring a death to the anti-Obama speech that is gainging more and more power and threatening the well being and advancement of humanity! Conservatism is near death, the GOP is near death, right-wing politics and its politicians and personalities are near death so as educated, informed, open-minded, aware, concerned and progressive citizens of this nation...lets pull the plug to take them all out of their misery and to stop the insane costs of their radicalism that is starting to once again indoctrinate and scare people into submission! Look at Sarah Palin's book...that is only going to drive home my point about the right getting out of hand and creating rebellion and violence!
on 11/15/2009 11:17 PM:
What does Sarah Palin's book have to do with this? And why couldn't you leave a name on your post? For someone who runs their mouth with such self-rightous arrogance you don't have the spine to say who are you? Obama is just another presidnet BTW, he isn't untouchable or messianic like the way you make him sound. I am sure you very vocally critized Bush and every other Republican president, but now that others are critizing Obama you want some silence policy on questioning a president to exist? Why can you seemingly question anything and anyone you want but no one better question anything you support? Obama is the one that said he will ensure a transparent government. Freedom of speech works both ways sweet heart. It is ridiculous to say that no one should be able to question the government now simply because the politicians YOU like are in power.
on 11/15/2009 11:28 PM:
Sam-you sound about ten years old. When you grow up and learn to think like an adult come back to the grown up forums. You are just another idiot right winger that knows nothing about the world and hates Obama just because he is black! Stop being SO racist! You are a prime example of why the right needs to be eliminated! I never said that no one should question the governtment, I said when the government is finally doing good the people who are angry that things are going for ALL people (not just white, Chrsitians) should be silenced! If you could read you'd know exactly what I said! Also, Sarah Palin's book is an issue because Sarah Palin has poor values and basis her opinions off religion and religion should not run things. Sarah Palin is racist and hates Obama and said he created death panels, all is a lie. So anything she says in her book is going to create a movement that is going to be violent and agressive and dangerous. Sarah Palin is not a feminist woman! Just because she is female does not mean she is a spokeswoman for women everywhere! That is how women get fooled into her liking her and supporting her. If they knew she was anti-woman's rights and anti-birth control and anti-abortion women would not like her. No woman wants her rights infringed upon and women have been done a great diservice in this nation as it is, we don't need to be set back by another woman no less! That is why her book should be banned! It is dangerous and against advancement, anything that doesn't promote advancment should be banned. We have to move forward as people, not keep falling backwards. I can't wait until Obama makes Christianity illegal and makes it a crime to be conservative, he already said he is going to do that and I fully support him! I support anything he does! He already repaired the economy and created jobs and healthcare for all! There is nothing he can do wrong, the man isn't a god I know...but he is close enough and should be honored like a god. I don't understand why his face isn't on our money and there isn't statues built to him. I think all citizens should be required to have his photo up in their house and the American flag should be replaced with the Obama symbole and all Americans need to be required to fly that flag and show their support, loyalty and patriotism to this nation that way! I also think the national athem should be replaced with the Obama song that was being taught in schools to children. Obama is fuckin' amazing and I WILL NOT tolerate hate, racist speech against him! I say anyone who speaks against him is a domestic terrorist and a threat and should be questions and detained! It doesn't make any logical sense to question what he does since he has PROVEN to be the best president ever and everything he is doing is the best way to do things! If someone dislikes Obama they are either racist, stupid or insane and no matter their issue is,they are a danger to freedom, progression and the betterment of the world and need to be removed from society, reducated , placed back into society in volunteer positions to serve the community and closely monitored because they are a threat. I also think the election can be elminated because there is no need for another president EVER! Why bother? No one can out do Obama, no one gets better than Obama... he is above all of us, no one could ever be better than Obama so there is no logical relevant need for another president. Any educated, intelligent and wise person knows this. If you disagree you are either an idiot or racist, end of discussion.
on 11/15/2009 11:32 PM:
Wow Anonymous you call others insane? Have you ever read anything you post? I hope you were joking or trolling. People like you scare me.
Show me where Obama said he is going to "make it illegal" to be Christian. When did he say that or even imply that? I think that is in in your messed up little, misguided head.
Statues and his face on money are you serious? Anyone who questions him should be "reeducated" and forced into working for the government doing volunteering? What?
Elections are not needed anymore because Obama is president now?
You would have done well in Hitler's SS anonymous.
Fortunantly I think Obama would disagree with everything you said and be ashamed that you are a supporter.