The Gentlemen Revolutionaries

Dedicated to the Preservation of the First Amendment

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Attack On America

When it was born this blog led an unfocused existence, mostly targeting things that pissed me off or I found ridiculous. Then life came in and this blog led no existence at all.

But now, I have a mission for this blog. It is to lead a focused, principled existence speaking aggressively about the eroding of free speech in this country.

First lets begin by reading the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Specifically, the First Amendment addresses Congress, and gives instructions to their behavior. However, over time the interpretation that we have given the First Amendment is that it is unacceptable for any party to restrict the speech of any other party. The common rallying call of those of us with this opinion is the famous quote by Beatrice Hall (though commonly, through Ms. Hall's own actions, it is incorrectly attributed to Voltaire).

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Today, Free Speech is under assault by both law makers and the public. Of course I am making reference to the Don Imus situation.

What Imus said could easily have been offensive to those basketball players... if they had the emotions of a five year old. The only reason it was considered to be offensive by them was because they were told to be offended. Plain and simple, it was a bad joke. Yet Imus is being attacked as if he is the reincarnation of Hitler. He took nothing away from anyone, yet people want to take away his lively hood (and more offensive to me they want to take away any possibility for him to help children with cancer). What he said was wrong, but it was not the end of the world. Had it not been approached in the way it was those three, apparently, offensive words would not be uttered at the top of every news broadcast.

To be clear I cannot criticize CBS's decision to suspend him, it was a valid business decision (based on invalid reasons I note below). I will criticize MSNBC for taking him off the air during his pledge drive to help children with cancer (no matter your opinion of Imus, please consider any pledge to the foundation, children should not suffer due to the problems of adults. Give at 1-877-877-6464), but will not criticize them for firing him, as, once again it may be a valid business decision (though a poor one).

The troubling part of this situation is multifaceted. The first troubling part is that people have become so sensitive that an off color remark can be characterized as being offensive. Being offended is, in a sense, a personal choice. The words I say do not offend, they are words. It is your decision to react or not that causes you to be offended. All too often being offended is expected and, in a sense, is becoming a social requirement. By this I mean if you are insulted (or your group is insulted) instead of just writing the person off that said it, you are expected to be outraged. This is not the sign of a healthy society.

More troubling though, is the reaction of some government officials, illustrated in the following statement.

I've never been asked to go on his show and I've never wanted to go on his show and I certainly don't ever intend to go on his show. I felt that way before his latest, outrageous, hateful, hurtful comments. And they just reaffirmed my belief that there really shouldn't be a place for that kind of outrageous commentary on the public airwaves. - Hillary Clinton.

Senator Clinton, this is one of the most troubling statements I have ever heard from a politician (including what we have been told by the Bush administration). You are advocating the CENSORSHIP of PUBLIC airwaves? Not only is that unconstitutional but it is immoral (I am almost considering being offended by it). Are you really that gutless Senator?

Where is the politician that stands up and says I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it? Unfortunately... I do not believe they exist.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.