Free Speech and "Different Standards"

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

When you think of “questionable tactics” and “over-the-top rhetoric” regarding the healthcare debate, are you outraged by the prospect of getting unsolicited emails from the White House?  Are you scandalized by Congressmen demanding to know how much insurance executives are paid? Are you offended when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls unruly hecklers seeking to block other people’s speech at healthcare town halls “un-American?”

Or when you think of “over-the-top” and “questionable,” does your mind tend to linger on the posters of swastikas, the images of Hitler, the hateful chants and the guns being waved around outside town halls – not to mention the open death threats to the president and his family?

I found it interesting that in the Aug. 25 editorial ”Over-the-Top Tactics Stifle Free Speech,” the Journal attempts to judge those offenses – and finds the first category clearly more grievous than the second.

It’s also quite dismaying to see the convolutions that the Journal editorial board goes through to avoid specifically and vigorously condemning the racist, anti-Semitic and nakedly violent nature of the latter.

Why does the Journal think the first category is so much worse than the second?

“Different standards,” the lofty editorial tells us.

“While it is correct that some on the right have been over the top and certainly guilty of bad manners, they don’t have the power of the United States government behind them.

There are, indeed, different standards. When Limbaugh rails, it’s a gasbag erupting.

When the government seeks to compel information to control the message or to suppress dissent it is un-Democratic as well as offensive.”

Let’s leave aside the fact that millions of those on the right consider Limbaugh their supreme leader and defacto head of the Republican Party.  Limbaugh’s “dittoheads” listen to every bad-mannered word he and other conservative “gasbags” say on television and radio, and they think and act accordingly.

Journal editors reserve their most passionate language for Rep. Henry Waxman’s “apparent McCarthyian witch hunt to try to plumb the depths of the opposing insurance industry.” Waxman, D-Calif. and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants insurance companies to reveal how much they pay top executives and has written letters to 52 of them asking for answers.

Not surprisingly, Journal editors make it very clear which side they are on in the battle over curbing healthcare premiums and making insurance companies more responsible to their customers.

It’s kind of an odd direction for a piece that’s ostensibly supposed to be all about preserving free speech.

So I guess I’m still in the dark about what the Journal really thinks chills free speech more – letters, emails and name calling – or people walking around outside town halls waving racist signs and carrying guns on their hips.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Vern Rodriguez

    Here is the note I sent to the Journal editorial writer on Tuesday after reading it:

    To:shendrix@abqjournal.com

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009
    Over-the-Top Tactics Stifle Free Speech

    “Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., unleashes the newest weapon in an apparent McCarthyian witch hunt to try to plumb the depths of the opposing insurance industry. As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, Waxman sends letters to 52 of the nation’s largest companies demanding records relating to how much executives are paid and other business practices. There’s talk of subpoenas and hearings if they don’t. The message: Don’t mess with our bill if you know what’s good for you. ”

    Aren’t the letters seeking information to show that administrative fees for private companies are exorbitant?

  • Tracy Dingmann

    Thanks for sending that along, Vern.

  • Rodney

    “When the government seeks to compel information to control the message or to suppress dissent it is un-Democratic as well as offensive.”

    But, only when Democrats are in the majority and in the White House? Were they asleep for from January 2001 until this year?

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