Cowboying Up on Freedom of Speech GOP Style

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.

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.

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