Jonah Goldberg: Free speech double standard
The American Prospect insisted on Sept. 12, when the rubble was still burning and the dead had not yet been retrieved, that “a number of government agencies and their cheerleaders would be clearly tempted to lock the Bill of Rights away in some basement dustbin of the National Archives.” Two weeks later, novelist Barbara Kingsolver warned, “Patriotism threatens free speech with death.” She bravely attacked the claim that “free speech is un-American.” Author Richard Reeves penned an op-ed for The New York Times under the headline “Patriotism Calls Out the Censor.” Conferences were rapidly convened, vows to fight the crackdown on free speech were issued.
Later, when there was at least some theoretical basis to be concerned about lost liberties, the reaction from prominent liberals was nonetheless unhinged. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, goaded by the press to respond to a bigoted comment from a Republican congressman and a typically stupid comment from “comedian” Bill Maher, said such statements are “reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”
All this fueled an earnest debate about the downside of free speech in America. Cable news networks, op-ed pages and public radio lit up with “expert” commentary about how we must find ways to accommodate the sensibilities of Muslims who don’t understand or care about free speech. And much of the crowd that once set about to “snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze” when George W. Bush was President said nary a word.
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