Cowboying Up on Freedom of Speech GOP Style

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NPR finds itself under siege. These are the words of an NPR employee in my area to me. Under Siege. It is not NPR’s members or donors who are upset with that entity, but Republican politicians and pundits. This is an attack directed at NPR by Republicans in order to silence, if not destroy somebody for firing somebody for saying something offensive.

I’m reminded of the film Tombstone, in which a Cowboy (a local criminal gang in that town, the Cowboys) tell Wyatt Earp that if you mess with one Cowboy, they will destroy you. That’s the situation here: Don’t touch any of us, the Republicans are saying, or we will destroy you.

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The Cowboys of our time are a big gang, with lots of money, and they want to control things in town too, and they don’t brook any interference. I’m going to talk about one specific Cowboy here. Sarah Palin has been addressed; I am going to look at another.

Cowboy Eric Cantor, whose idiocy I have excoriated here before, is one of them, and he seems determined to prove to America that he is a first-class idiot. He’s upset right now because NPR fired Juan Williams for his anti-Muslim remarks. Cantor calls this a threat to free speech (does this mean we can all say anything we want and keep our jobs, Mr. Cantor?).

The Republicans want to “ACORN” NPR. Anything they don’t like, anything, any group, that says something they don’t like, they want to destroy. Because free speech apparently only applies to Republicans and people the Republican party approves of (rather like Sarah Palin deciding who and who cannot use the “R” word – oh what the hell, I’m going to say it just because I am not on her approved list: retard).

In May, Cantor introduced a little thing called “You Cut” in which he lets from among five items in a list to tell the Republicans to offer on the floor for an up-or-down vote. On Friday, he put NPR on his nifty little list.

“Whether it’s people walking off ‘The View’ when Bill O’Reilly makes a statement about radical Islam or Juan Williams being fired for expressing his opinion, over-reaching political correctness is chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression.”

Let’s look at your examples, Mr. Cantor:

1)      “people walking off ‘The View’ when Bill O’Reilly makes a statement about radical Islam”

2)      “Juan Williams being fired for expressing his opinion”

He concludes from this that “, over-reaching political correctness is chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression.”

Do I have it right? I think so. Let me ask you this: Is not people walking off the set in reaction to what somebody says a form of “expression” as you put it? Yes, I think it is. And you object.

But you just said that you are against freedom of speech and expression being “chipped away.”

You say that Juan Williams being fired is an attack on freedom of speech. But isn’t NPR exercising its own freedom of speech, their own freedom of expression, by saying, that sort of talk does not belong here?

What you seem to be saying, M. Cantor, is that ONLY Republicans have freedom of speech and that as part of this freedom you can,

a)      Say whatever you want, and

b)      Nobody has a right to have a reaction to it

But that’s not what freedom of speech is about, Mr. Cantor. It is a reciprocal process. You have heard perhaps of Newton’s Third Law, that says, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”? You may have the right to free speech, but listeners have a right to respond, whether it be in approval or disapproval. They have a right to disagree and they have a right to take offense. These are all forms of free speech and expression.

Bill O’Reilly said something offensive. Two of The View’s co-hosts took exception to his remarks and showed their displeasure by walking off the set. Juan Williams said something offensive, and NPR showed their displeasure by firing him.

You are aware, perhaps, of sportcasters being fired for making offensive remarks. You have heard, perhaps, of athletes being fined or otherwised punished for their off-the-field antics. Ben Roethlisberger is not alleged to have raped a young woman in the stadium while wearing his Steeler’s Uniform, yet he was suspended for four games.

Do you see what I am getting at? Employers have a right to have certain standards of expected behavior – well, most employers – FOX News apparently has NONE -  and if an employee violates these standards they can expect to be punished.

Fortunately, Mr. Cantor and his wish-list are effectively stymied by a Democratic majority. He is no doubt hoping he can unleash his panacea of exclusions after the Midterms.

But Eric Cantor is not alone in his crusade to ACORN NPR. Sarah Palin is leading the charge as well as other party notables, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, who feels George Soros should pick up the tab.

There is a trend here, and it is unmistakable: free speech is a tool, or more accurately, a weapon, to the Republicans. It is not a freedom at all, because they don’t think anyone else should share in it. They have always destroyed ACORN (and without any justification whatsoever based on what has been exposed as a scam); they have promised to bring the Obama administration to a halt with investigations and committee hearings if they achieve a majority in the Midterms, and now they are engaging in a witch-hunt, an “ACORNing” of NPR.

Anyone or anything that does not tow the Party line must be silenced, and by silenced, I mean ruthlessly destroyed.

Of course, if a Democrat, say President Obama, utilizes his own right of free speech and expression, he is attacked immediately, say by Karl Rove with his “How dare you?” implying of course that Obama has no actual right at all to say what he thinks. And of course, if President Obama decides he should say nothing at all, one way or another, because as President he should not express an opinion, the Republicans decide what it is he said, and then attack him for it.

This is how free speech works for the Republicans.  The Founding Fathers did not intend free speech to be a weapon, but a freedom, an essential liberty, and not one held only by a few. Our system of government was not meant to be that of a criminal gang running the country like it’s own private business, but that is increasingly what the Republicans are selling, and they are making it quite clear that they are willing to 1) identify the “Other” and 2) silence them in any way necessary.

Nothing could sum it up better than Tombstone itself:

Curly Bill: [takes a bill with Wyatt’s signature from a customer and throws it on the faro table] Wyatt Earp, huh? I heard of you.

Ike Clanton: Listen, Mr. Kansas Law Dog. Law don’t go around here. Savvy?

Wyatt Earp: I’m retired.

Curly Bill: Good. That’s real good.

Ike Clanton: Yeah, that’s good, Mr. Law Dog, ’cause law don’t go around here.

No, the Cowboys in 1880’s Tombstone weren’t about Democracy, or freedom of speech, and neither, ultimately, are the Republicans of the 2010’s.

13 Replies to “Cowboying Up on Freedom of Speech GOP Style”

  1. Cantor is a complete idiot that doesn’t seem to care that NPR has employment agreements. If this had been a large sponsor of the RNC or Fox News instead of NPR they would be bashing the guy that got fired and supporting the corps right to fire.

  2. More Republican selective application of the first amendment. If Mr Cantor is truly this out of touch with what the first amendment means, perhaps he should be recalled so that a lawmaker who is able to understand the document our laws are based upon can be installed. One who won’t behave like a little child with a bag of tricks to see what he can get away with while Mommy has her back turned.

  3. He is one of the fools whose interpetration of the Bible, the Constitution, and freedom of speech are extremely selective. The GOP is for rights for themselves and those who agree with them, but not for others who don’t. This is exactly why they should not be allowed to set the narrative on anything, as they have about health care reform and a host of other issues.

  4. Well said. All I can add (because I’m feeling super-salty today) is that Eric Cantor is a brain fart in a suit who can smoke a toad in the fiery pits, IMHO.

  5. Thomas Jefferson, whom Republicans love to invoke as an anti-federalist, wanted a Bill of Rights to ensure that “The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished, does not give impunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error” and that “A declaration that the federal government will never restrain the presses from printing any thing they please, will not take away the liability of the printers for false facts printed.” Religious faith shouldn’t protect you from prosecution because you said God wanted you to do it and freedom of the press shouldn’t protect you from libel laws. There are limits to everything; Jefferson, at least, understood this.

  6. Eric Cantor makes my skin crawl, literally. He is a nasty piece of work – reminds me of one of those Mafia guys who slinks around in shiny suits and breaks people’s heads for a living.

    He is a creep and he brings out the worst in people. Awful man.

  7. Nope, I wish I could take credit for it. Jason or Sarah must have nabbed it for my story, though with my enthusiastic approval!

    I just watched it the other day myself, which is probably why the analogy occurred to me.

  8. Only now there is no excuse for Democrats to go along with this attempt at ACORNing any other organization, especially a news outlet that far outstrips FOX in terms of fairness and balance. The GOP was able to destroy ACORN, because of a number of Democratic enablers.

  9. I’m going to perform a little experiment here….

    1. There is one HUGE difference between firing a staff member from any old news stations versus NPR. And that HUGE difference is that NPR leans on government funding, taxpayer dollars! So you, as the taxpayer, are funding this organization. You can’t choose not to fund it. So when the government’s broadcasting station is making some shady decisions regarding free speech, I think people have the right to take notice and criticize what’s going on.

    2. You referenced the Bill O’Reilly on The View thing I noticed. Let’s break this down. Ok. Is Bill O’Reilly an asshole? Yes. Did they ladies on the View choose to INVITE HIM TO SPEAK ON THEIR SHOW?! Yes. they did. The walking out demonstrated a clear example of how certain people choose to deal with issue they don’t want to/can’t debate intelligently. Even the other lady on The View was saying this the entire time!! Isn’t just walking away with disgust one of the most-used tactic to avoid uncomfortable situations we know of!? What happens when you prove your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend wrong during an argument? What is their reaction typically? Ever seen this? So no it’s not really showing freedom of expession by walking off the show. It’s just showing that you let your emotions get the best of you and you clearly can’t handle the profession of talk-show-host to which you seem to be committed.

    So my experiment really is to see if this post gets DEBATED intelligently (which I hope it does). But most likely it will just get DELETED (you know–just so disgusted with what I’m saying that we don’t even want to hear it). Or I’ll probably just get some reply with unintelligent opposing rhetoric. Please prove me right people, I ask for nothing more than an intelligent response!!

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