Beaton: Is anyone listening?
The Aspen beat
Comedian and commentator Bill Maher donated $1 million to the Obama campaign in 2012. He made that kind of money in the art of mockery.
He’s good at his job. The more sacred the subject, the more biting is his mockery. He reserves some of his best for religion. In that, his liberal fans delight (as do I, occasionally).
So you might think he’d be welcomed by the liberals at Berkeley, where he has been invited to give the commencement address next spring. You’d think wrong.
Berkeley liberals are demanding that he be uninvited because, you see, the target of Maher’s most recent religion-mocking routine was Islam.
The judgment of the Berkeley liberals (who are not Muslims but claim to speak for them) is that Muslims are offended. And so Maher’s commencement invitation must be revoked. He must be silenced. He must be “shut up.”
In the old days before liberals became illiberal, one of the great thinkers, jurists and liberals of the day, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, stated that the remedy for erroneous speech is not less speech in order to suppress the error but “more speech” to correct it.
How quaint. That was back in the day that “free speech” was not limited to viewpoints with which self-appointed censors agree.
An opinion column in this newspaper recently opined that the complex science of global warming is uncertain. In a counter-column, a local big corporation (let’s call it “BigCo”) opined the opposite — or at least pretended to, in order to inoculate itself from criticism for selling more and more carbon-spewing trips on its winter amusement rides that spiderweb the local mountains.
Disagreement is good. It is in the spirit of Brandeis’ admonition. But BigCo’s opinion column did more than disagree with the substance of the first opinion column. It reserved its biggest criticism for the column’s existence.
BigCo opined that because the first opinion column was “wrong” (according to the scientists who happen to share its own opinion but not according to those who don’t), it should have been censored from the newspaper.
To prevent further the publication of any more “wrong” opinions, BigCo suggested to the newspaper (if you can characterize a communication by a major advertiser as a “suggestion”) that future opinions be “fact checked” before publication. The “fact checking” would be by BigCo, of course, or by the particular people it endorses.
In short, those who wish to publish in the newspaper an opinion with which BigCo disagrees (or even pretends to disagree) must be “shut up.”
In national politics, the competence of the current presidential administration has been questioned. From Ebola to Benghazi to the IRS to the NSA to Obamacare, the administration often resembles arthritic Keystone Kops on tricycles. The image is comical, but the criticism is not, and it deserves debate.
But debate was not the goal of Dems in the election last week. They instead published images of racial segregation and lynchings (conducted back in the days when Dems like George Wallace controlled the South) to suggest that their opponents are racists (even as their opponents elected the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction) in an election in which the supposed target of that alleged racism was not even on the ballot.
In short, to win an election, they told their critics to “shut up.”
In a liberal enclave in California on Halloween, a man costumed as a Fox News reporter was beaten by a liberal screaming, “I hate Fox News!”
That’s right — liberals are so consumed with hatred for a television network that delivers news they dislike that they beat someone dressed in a Halloween costume intended to mock the network.
“Shut up” has devolved to “Shut up or I’ll kill you and anyone who reminds me of you while they’re mocking you.”
A Dem member of the Federal Election Commission wants to impose onerous reporting rules on opinions posted on the Internet. She’d like to regulate Facebook postings if they’re political. (She would of course be the one to decide what’s political.) What next? Will she go after cat videos if they show cats of certain colors behaving badly?
As Maher is learning, you’d better object when the totalitarians come for your enemies. Because next they’ll come for your friends and then you. And then the cat.
It might be too late anyway. Last spring, Brandeis’ namesake, Brandeis University, bowed to pressure to rescind an invitation for a former Muslim woman to speak at a commencement after learning that she’d condemned the treatment of women in Islam. “Shut up,” they explained.
In the election last week, the people refused to shut up. They spoke. We’ll soon see if anyone was listening.
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