Free Speech and the Peaceful Public Order

I arrived home from my sister Mary’s funeral Saturday evening, and saw that Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several other people had been shot during some kind of meet-and-greet in her congressional district. I’d never heard of Giffords, but was discouraged that such a thing would happen – it’s hard enough just given our political process to get good people to run for public office, and it was of course a terrible tragedy for the people involved. It seemed to me that it had been a long time since something like that had happened.

As I read the AP story published on Boston.com, I began to get increasingly uncomfortable as the report progressively shifted from providing information about the tragedy and background on the people involved, to inserting accusatory innuendo aimed at various opponents of the Democrat Party and overall leftist political agenda: repeatedly finding a way to mention Sarah Palin by name in a setting suggestive of her being a menace to the lives of her political opponents; dredging up a reminder of a man who once threatened Nancy Pelosi over the telephone; dropping in a reference about a mad gunman from California the article tied to “conservatives” while simultaneously reporting that he wanted to “start a revolution” (note to moronic left-wing journalists: conservatives, by definition, are anti-revolutionary); pointing out that Giffords’ TEA Party-backed Republican opponent this past fall had fired a gun at a rally during the campaign; and suggesting in less-than-subtle language that this tragedy should be interpreted as the culminating denouement of “a highly charged political environment” that had hitherto not “reached the point of actual violence.”

I was, needless to say, dripping with disgust at the sleaziness of the journalism by the time I finished the story. Even the sketchy details in the earliest stories were enough to make it obvious that this was the handiwork of a deranged idiot, not an attempted political assassination. But the willingness of the leftist journalist class (and I quickly discerned that several other “mainstream” propaganda channels had picked up essentially the same meme) to immediately exploit the tragedy as an opportunity to try to score political points was just truly revealing – and infuriating.

Over the next several days, as we all know, we have seen an avalanche of contemptible opportunism from the leftists, as they’ve tried not only to pin the blame for the violence on the usual opposition scapegoats (Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, talk radio in general…), but have taken to self-reporting a mysterious hubbub of “concern” over “inflammatory political rhetoric:” an ailment that quite obviously knows no medicine except the silencing of such opposition.

And this new ethic of “civility” is being trumpeted by even some of the most screwball partisans in the leftist media! Even Keith Olbermann is in on the act! Keith Olbermann! This is the man who, on his April 23rd, 2008 “Countdown” show, back when Hilary Clinton was an opponent to Barack Obama for the Democrat nomination for U.S. President, and therefore a legitimate target for leftist bile under the ethics of the revolutionary order, wished on the air for “somebody who can take her into a room, and only he comes out," this on account of the "negativity, for which she is mostly responsible."

Negativity? Gee, sound familiar? This despicable clown all but called for someone to snuff Clinton out in order to save the narrative of the left’s favorite candidate from criticism, and the other left-wing loonies in the so-called “mainstream media” largely yawned and looked the other way. Three years later, he’s in the vanguard of a reactionary assault force intent on suppressing criticism of the leftist agenda by exploiting a personal and national tragedy to call for political speech censorship – or “an end to inflammatory rhetoric.” Priceless. You couldn’t sell fiction this corny.

The history of the leftists, from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks to the Olbermanns, routinely resorts to characterizing criticism as “extremism” or “reactionaryism” in an attempt to marginalize and suppress it – a useful tactic when you can’t win the intellectual battle, and are stuck trying to sell a bagful of lies. Not only is this chicanery in and of itself, but in the American context, it is thoroughly disrespectful of the reality of what this country has managed to nurture as its political life.

Admittedly, being called a racist, or some other clever form of ”hater,” simply for opposing a puerile and idiotic political agenda, is frustrating (not to mention mendacious on the part of the accusers). On the other hand, for some reason, left-leaning people in this country resent being called socialists simply for trying to advance socialist ideas. And for some other reason, libertarians often want to be called conservatives, even though about the only thing they want to conserve is their bankrolls (and, I suppose, the U.S. Constitution, which is ironically an archetypical document of liberalism).

So while, yes, there are fissures in the political fabric of our society, they are fissures that run only from philosophy to rhetoric – and branding, or marketing. Political violence in the U.S. is virtually unheard of – unlike so many places in the world. Why is the media fixating on the Giffords shooting while giving short attention to those who died in the shooting – including a U.S. District Court Justice and a nine year-old? It may very well be in part because Giffords is a Democrat (the judge, on the other hand, was a G.H.W. Bush appointee), therefore facilitating the propagation of the above discussed agitprop, but I suspect is has more to do with the fact that elected officials are so rarely targeted for violence in the U.S. Even looking more broadly, I can’t recall any political violence in the U.S. in about 40 years, save a couple of abortionists who were assassinated in retribution for their death-dealing. People like Hinckley (and Loughner) are  lunatics, not partisans.

The idea of “overheated political rhetoric” fomenting violence in the USA is absurd – and worse than absurd: it is a dangerous threat to the country’s ability to retain the relatively peaceful political climate we enjoy. The left would like to suppress dissent, but that cannot be allowed to happen. The liberals who formed this country were so much wiser than their unfortunate French cousins precisely because they understood the value of political moderation, and the value of allowing political opposition secure standing.

Some of the people being lambasted by the leftists today for their “inflammatory rhetoric” do indeed go over the top sometimes, and the Ed Schultzes and Keith Olbermanns on the left are even worse; and we’d all be better off if political discourse was always more polite and more thoughtful; but that’s not the important point at all.

Our institution of free speech is crucially important to maintaining not just an environment ripe for good intellectual discourse, but, more importantly, the very requirement of a peaceful public order that is capable of solving its political differences at the ballot box, regardless of how much yelling and screaming precedes it. Only a fool would fail to recognize what a good that political freedom truly is for society.