No need for me to mention the current kerfuffle over offensive speech. You can’t visit any form of media without hearing someone’s opinion about all that is going wrong with our country. Liberal and conservative sources don’t like it and are not shy in sharing their ire with anyone who reads or listens to their views. It seems the only way to keep from offending someone is to remain silent. That being said, here is an article that is about as sane as any I’ve come across regarding the issue of free speech — speech that was actually bought with a price. The Author is Dave Ficere and his articles and writing have been featured in a wide array of media including radio promotions, devotional publications, websites, magazines and newsletters. This article appeared in the Viewpoint section of the Presidential Prayer Team’s Insight Edition. RMF
Double Standard Rhetoric
By Dave Ficere
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”—Voltaire
The media and pop culture have been abuzz the past several weeks over racist remarks made privately by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and publically by Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy. Both are white. At the same time, the same media was eerily silent over racist remarks hurled at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by black Mississippi Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson during a radio interview.
Is there a double standard in America regarding free speech?
Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh thinks so. “There are at least two speech codes [in America],” Limbaugh said on his April 30, 2014 program, “and if you don’t know which one applies to you, you are going to be the next Donald Sterling.”
Which brings me back to Voltaire. The French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher—famous for his wit and sarcasm—was a strong advocate for freedom of religion and expression. His writings, along with those of his contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau, helped fuel the American Revolution and gave America’s founding fathers important concepts they used to build a new form of government and establish the greatest nation the world has ever known.
But, more than 200 years later, is that freedom of expression disappearing?
“There are certain things minorities can say that you can’t if you’re not a minority,” Limbaugh told his radio audience. “And there’s less and less that the so-called majority can say. Permissible speech is dwindling for those who are said to be non-minority [but] the speech code for minorities is wide open and expanding.”
Which brings the conversation back to Representative Thompson. Discussing the Supreme Court and affirmative action, the Mississippi Congressman referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as an “Uncle Tom,” adding, “it’s almost to the point saying this man doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black.” For bonus points, Thompson called McConnell a racist for his opposition to policies put forth by the nation’s first black president.
Was the media outraged? Did anybody call for Thompson to resign? The answers are “no” and I’m still waiting…
Limbaugh is right. American cultural elites want to have it both ways: Minorities—citing “free speech”—are allowed to say whatever they want without fear of retribution, while non-minorities have their feet held to the fire for public and private utterances that may offend others.
While racially hateful speech should be condemned no matter who utters it, Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and current senior judicial analyst at Fox News, is quick to point out that racially hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment, which was largely written to protect such speech.
“The entire United States of America is a free speech zone,” he writes in an op-ed piece for Fox News, “but hateful and hurtful words have natural and probable consequences where the people are free to counter them.”
But should Sterling be stripped of his valuable NBA team over his remarks? Likewise, why was Mozilla co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich forced to resign because six years ago he donated to California’s Proposition 8 in support of defining marriage as between one man and one woman? Action he took as a private citizen? Where will the political correctness and censorship end?
Apparently, not anytime soon.
In a column this past week in the Huffington Post, liberal commentator Alan Colmes warned against proposed Congressional legislation authorizing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to “analyze” media outlets— including radio—to determine if they’re working to “advocate and encourage” hate crimes.
“Who will define ‘hate speech,’” Colmes asks, adding that “Hate speech can be anything you disagree with. It can be speech directed at a person who is offended. There is no asterisk in the Constitution that says [free speech is protected] except for hate speech.” [emphasis added]
The early Christians defied authority by speaking out about their faith despite efforts to silence them and threats of imprisonment. “We must obey God rather than man,” Peter told the high priests who questioned him.
Today, the cultural high priests sit in judgment of those who speak words that rub others the wrong way or are deemed culturally insensitive.
“I would not invite Bundy or Sterling into my home, nor would I befriend them,” Judge Napolitano concludes. “But I will defend with zeal and diligence their constitutional freedoms.”
Hmm…sounds a lot like Voltaire.