TODAY IT SEEMS NO METHOD OF COMMUNICATION IS SAFE, FROM BLOGGERS, TO NEWSPAPERS, TO SCHOOLS, TO TELEVISION, IF WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY DOESN’T AGREE WITH THE VIEWS HELD BY THE LEFT, THEY’LL COMPLAIN, WHINE, SCREAM, AND SUE YOU!
Lorne Gunter: Liberals defend sanctity of free speech for liberals only
Lorne Gunter October 22, 2010 – 1:45 pm
Juan Williams: He can’t say that!
Really, should anyone be surprised by National Public Radio’s firing of analyst Juan Williams? Liberals and leftists are far and away the most intolerant people in public debate. As my friend and fellow National Post columnist, David Frum, likes to say, liberals are all in favour of free speech and a diversity of opinion until they encounter views that differ from their own. Then they are shocked to find people who actually disagree with them and their first reaction is to try to silence their critics.
In the case of Williams, a long-time National Public Radio (NPR) personality, there are three other factors at play: the political correctness inherent in every left-of-centre media outlet, pressure from Muslim special interest groups, and Williams’ sideline employment (now full-time employment) with Fox News. These three – coupled with built-in liberal intolerance – created the perfect mix that lead to Williams’ sacking.
You doubt that liberals are intolerant? You buy their self-publicity about how open-minded they are and welcoming of divergent views?
Consider their reaction to efforts to launch Sun TV, an all-news channel that would have a right-of-centre tilt. Liberals have filed complaints with the CRTC, signed petitions and demanded that the channel they have dubbed “Fox News North” not be allowed to compete. Indeed, they have insisted it not even be permitted to go on air.
Margaret Atwood, once one of Canada’s leading champions of free speech, proved David Frum’s point completely in her reaction to Sun TV. Atwood called on the CRTC to ban Sun TV because, she said, it would “mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics.” So the new channel could be disallowed without infringing on free speech because propaganda isn’t speech, it’s hatred, and so constitutional protections don’t apply.
How neat and convenient; claim to be in favour of free speech, then whenever you encounter views that differ from your own, define those as hateful propaganda, not speech, so you don’t have to defend them. You can even call for them to be outlawed without feeling a pang of hypocritical remorse.
In the Williams’ case, NPR used similar tactics.
The organization’s commitment to political correctness caused it to feign being aghast when Williams admitted what a lot of people think – “When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” Its sensitivity to complaints from Muslim lobby groups contributed, too.
But check out how NPR CEO Vivian Schiller sought, indirectly (even subconsciously) to define away Williams’ very natural reaction, so she wouldn’t have to explain why NPR’s political correctness and lib-left bias trumps its purported commitment to free speech. After Williams made his comments on the Fox News Channel, Schiller said Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and “his psychiatrist or his publicist.”
This is an effort to chalk his comments up to mental illness, to suggest they are not the comments of a man in his right mind. If they are not fair comment, but instead are lunatic ravings, they aren’t worthy of being defended.
We see this again and again from liberals and leftists: Their own views are fact, while everyone else’s are dangerous misinformation that must be kept from a credulous public. Were the public allowed to hear or read the dissenting views, they might fight liberal-left policy prescriptions, which, of course, are only ever intended for the public’s good. So censorship isn’t censorship when it’s in the public interest, either.
For instance, lib-lefties label as “deniers” those scientists and pundits who disagree with the prevailing thinking on climate change and global warming. That label is not intended to advance debate, it is meant to stifle it, to cut debate short by convincing the public to pay no attention to dissenting views. So it equates those views with efforts by white supremacists and Islamic radicals to deny the systematic extermination of Jews by the Nazis. Define opposing views as something other than free speech, then sweep it speedily under the rug.
When I first became a columnist at the Edmonton Journal in 1995, my editor was an old liberal who was, nonetheless, a fine, professional journalist. Being right-of-centre, I was out of character for the Journal, which was, is and always has been a proudly liberal paper. My early efforts for the paper provoked strong reaction. Right-of-centre readers hailed the fact that, finally, they had a voice in the paper, while lib-left readers demanded I be fired. They didn’t want their tranquil liberal haven challenged by opposing views.
My editor said it was one of the saddest moments of his career when he realized people who felt as he did on so many issues had such a thin commitment to real free expression. He was most disconcerted when their letters demanding my sacking began “I am all for freedom of speech, but Lorne Gunter should be fired.”
Mark Twain once said “There is nothing so weak as a virtue untested.” When it comes to free speech, most liberals find it an easy virtue to trumpet – until it is put to the test. Then they most often fold like a cheap shirt.