Thursday, February 09, 2006

National Review's O'Beirne On The Wrong Side Of Free Speech Debate

Two seemingly disaparate stories -- Muslim anger over anti-Muslim cartoons in the Danish press, and eulogies offered at Coretta Scott King's funeral -- provided an unusual forum for a discussion on free speech on Tuesday's edition of MSNBC's Hardball.

On each story, the bulk of the show's guests came out strongly in favor of free speech. The Danish cartoons, even if repugnant, should be protected. Political speech at a funeral for a political figure should not be frowned upon.

Consider what MSNBC's Tucker Carlson said about the Muslim protests:

CARLSON: (I)t seems to me it‘s the role of the United States government at that point to help teach the rest of the world the lesson about the freedom of the press, the ability in a free society to disagree with one another without killing each other, the rights of minorities to express their views.

Consider what the Washington Post's Colbert King said about the eulogy:

KING: Of course, that legacy was non-violence. And you can‘t come to a funeral where you eulogize Coretta Scott King and not talk about non-violence, and the presence of violence in the world. You can‘t come to a celebration of the life of Coretta Scott King and not talk about civil liberties and the infringement on her civil liberties by her own government. You cannot do that and be true to the King family.

But with each story, one guest came out against free speech. These guests wouldn't say they supported censorship, instead offering the spin that people should be more "responsible" or "appropriate." In other words, self-censorhip.

Osama Siblani, publisher of Arab American News, wasn't defending the riots, but he did suggest that there should be limits on freedom of speech.

SIBLANI: I think that freedom of speech comes with responsibility and accountability. I think the Danish newspaper does not practice responsibility, nor do they practice the accountability. ... Perfect example of an abuse of freedom of speech.

Siblani is a Lebanese emigrant who came to the U.S. at age 21 and began publishing his newspaper six years later out of Dearborn, Mich. He should have a better understanding of freedom of speech and freedom of the press -- freedoms he takes advantage of each day.

The same could be said of National Review editor Kate O'Beirne, who made it clear that she found political eulogies "inappropriate" at King's funeral.

MATTHEWS: Was there something inaccurate in what they said, either (former President Carter) or Dr. (Joseph) Lowery?

O‘BEIRNE: It doesn‘t matter. It doesn‘t matter if they were reading factual material to make a cheap political point. It totally is contrary to the spirit and we‘re not talking about Coretta Scott King and the incredible legacy of the Kings and her incredibly dignified life, which this runs counter to, I might add.

Ironically, Martin Luther King Jr. offered comments in 1959 that suggest that he would have been proud of the political tone of the eulogies for his wife:

KING: And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?"... I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.

***

It shouldn't be surprising that O'Beirne implied there should be limits on speech -- speech that she finds offensive.

Conservatives have a long history of trying to stop people they find offensive. It was conservatives who were offended, and thus sought to stop people from seeing the movie, Brokeback Mountain. Conservatives who were angered, and thus lobby against NBC's short-lived drama The Book of Daniel. Conservatives who were offended, and thus fought to silence a video featuring SpongeBob SquarePants.

And Carlson, who spoke eloquently of free speech and a free press when discussing the Danish cartoons, told Dr. Lowery on Wednesday's edition of his MSNBC show, The Situation, that his eulogy "seemed like bad manners," and questioned whether President Carter's eulogy was "appropriate."

***

JABBS is firmly in support of free speech. A favorite movie moment is the speech given by Michael Douglas' character, President Andrew Shepherd, at the end of the 1995 film, The American President:

DOUGLAS: America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

Some conservatives don't understand that.

9 Comments:

Blogger M A F said...

I am at a loss as to how one can give a eulogy of Coretta Scott King without mentioning what she spent a life time fighting against. Perhaps Bush should do a better job of self-censoring before he decided to conduct a war of aggression, wiretap citizens, cut services to the poor and enrich the wealthy.

The quote from King is a nice touch. Somebody should read it to O'Beirne.

As for the calls for a self-censoring media, the MSM needs to dig a little deeper. The MSM hasn't addressed how 12 cartoons became 15.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

I agree that it would probably be impossible to eulogize Coretta Scott King without bringing up her lifetime of political activism.

What I find unfortunate is the total lack of dignity, class and graciousness that some of the speakers demonstrated, considering that President Bush and the First Lady were there to honor Coretta Scott King as well.

I thought some of the commentary was over the top and pretty tasteless, but then, it's also true that liberals have a history of turning funeral services into half-crazed political rallies. Who could forget their disgraceful and undignified conduct at the Paul Wellstone memorial?

So I'm sure that President Bush was not really all that shocked at the display. He most likely expected it, but had the grace and the courage to attend the funeral regardless, because it was the proper thing to do. Imo, he came out looking like a giant among some very small, petty people.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Scott W. Somerville said...

I’ve been taking a strong position on the Danish cartoons, but I’ve written an open letter to President Carter that takes a pretty strong position, too. I voted for Carter twice, so it gets a little personal…

2:50 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

Macdonald's Animal Farm said...
"As for the calls for a self-censoring media, the MSM needs to dig a little deeper. The MSM hasn't addressed how 12 cartoons became 15."


Your link didn't work for me, so I'm not sure where you were going with this, as there is more than one theory/story going around. If you check back here, maybe you could post the actual URL for your story. Thanks.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

CARLSON: (I)t seems to me it‘s the role of the United States government at that point to help teach the rest of the world the lesson about the freedom of the press, the ability in a free society to disagree with one another without killing each other, the rights of minorities to express their views.

I agree with Carlson 100% here. I was pleasantly surprised when the Philadelphia Inquirer decided to show solidarity to the Danish cartoonists and newspaper by publishing the cartoons, and I commend Bill Kristol, editor of the National Review, for doing the same in his magazine.

CNN and NBC Nightly News chose not to show the cartoons out of "respect for Islam", although they never seem to have a problem showing images that show disrespect for other religions. Cowards!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"The same could be said of National Review editor Kate O'Beirne, who made it clear that she found political eulogies "inappropriate" at King's funeral."


Freedom of speech cuts both ways, David. Kate O'Beirne has every right to express her disgust at the level of nastiness and hatred towards the President that was displayed at the King funeral. She's allowed her opinion as well.

She's certainly not advocating rioting in the streets or the beheadings of those who engaged in the hate speech. She was simply saying that in her opinion, and in mine too, I might add, it was terribly inappropriate and downright rude to show such disrespect to our president, sitting only a few feet away. You can defend that if you'd like, but we'll just have to agree to disagree about it.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"Conservatives have a long history of trying to stop people they find offensive."


Now THAT is laughable, David! Nobody is more intolerant of opposing views than liberals, and that's just a fact.

Where are all the conservatives on college campuses that are throwing custard pies at liberal speakers I wonder? Yet the libs do it to conservative speakers on a regular basis.

Often times, conservative college newsletters are stolen and destroyed before they can be distributed on campus, and in general, conservative points of view both in classrooms and on speakers' platforms are shut out. Some liberal professors even punish students with conservative views by giving them lower grades than they deserve.

And from my own personal experience, when my husband and I bought tickets a couple of years ago to see "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal", the Dems organized their Philly union thugs to threaten the theater owner and intimidate the ticket-holders, to the point that it was difficult for the police to control the situation. Talk about a bunch of bullies! The theater owner had to give out refunds, because of the threats of violence he received from the libs. Real tolerant!

And there are a gazillion other examples of liberal intolerance. As a rule, when liberals refer to free speech, they mean for themselves, not for others with opposing views.

Imo, there is a major difference between the aggressive, very physical and oftentimes violent way that liberals try to stifle ideas they do not like, and the more reasoned and Democratic manner in which conservatives show their displeasure at things that offend them.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

I just wanted to add Fox News, and the New York Sun, to the list of media willing to display the cartoons we are talking about. Good for them.

And on the other hand, I forgot to give a "thumbs down" to our State Department for calling the publication of these cartoons "unacceptable".

Here is a CNN video clip of Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit.com) who, imo, has exactly the right take on the issue. Go Glenn!

http://exposetheleft.com/2006/02/11/reynolds-onthestory/

4:19 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

DOUGLAS: America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

David R. Mark said...
"Some conservatives don't understand that."


To which I accurately reply.....Most conservatives do!

4:35 PM  

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