Saturday, December 03, 2005

 

Speaking Freely



"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." --Amendment I, United States Constitution , Adopted 1791

One of the most powerful and important freedoms we enjoy as American citizens is freedom of speech. The right to engage in open dialog, debate and discussion is a true cornerstone of American democracy. Over the past 214 years, the boundaries and protection of the First Amendment has been challenged numerous times, especially concerning issues of freedom of speech and the press. Of course, our Founding Fathers never envisioned the tremendous innovations in communication that we now take for granted and use daily. Changes in social and cul
tural conditions have also effected not only the method, but the methodology in which we communicate freely.


Freedom of speech requires responsibility, good judgment and accountability. Even as a kid, I was taught the basic "ground rules" of speaking freely from my parents and teachers. Taught in grade school Social Studies* class, the timeless "You can't yell fire in a movie theater", was an example of the potential danger of reckless free speech. Using good judgment when speaking to authority figures was also taught. Suggesting that the school principal "go fuck himself" or telling your Dad to "pound sand old man" are free speech examples that were usually discouraged. (*By the way, in Social Studies class we were taught about the equal branches of government, checks and balances, liberty and justice for all, and the concept "We the people." They still teach this to kids in America...right?).

A wise soul once proclaimed, "Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one." And so do I. Some columnists and media personalities are increasingly presenting their political opinions as if they were indisputable facts. I disagree with some of these views, as well as the manner in which they are delivered. However, I recognize that these individuals also have the right to freely express their viewpoints. To quote Voltaire: "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." An easy exit is simply to change the channel, turn the page, click to another website, or shut out the "offending messages" completely. But I'm more than occasionally drawn back in - observing, listening, and reading while keeping detailed notes. I also believe it is important to be aware and informed on opposing views and positions, in order to make a more compelling and intelligent argument.

Take Sean Hannity for example. He often repeats discredited, debunked talking points, frequently distorts facts and seems to advocate for a one-party, dictatorial type of government. His "debate" style basically consists of talking loudly over anyone who disagrees with him or offers an alternate point of view. He then smugly smirks at the camera as if he "won" the debate, when in fact all he did was talk louder than other person. And good luck getting any humane treatment if you happen to have a "D" following your name. Hannity can be infuriating, and he's well paid to cause division and peddle right-wing propaganda. It would be interesting to see if Hannity would abandon his conservative fanaticism if offered enough cash.

Now I could call Hannity a loudmouth, anti-American, goose-stepping, neo-con, zombie fascist chickenhawk liar.
But I'm
not going to do that.

And how about Ann Coulter? Have you ever experienced such insight, such depth, such a complete disconnect with reality? She seems to be completely consumed with hate, is openly racist, and has advocated violence against non-Christians. Recently a Conservative Christian Group launched a website and began production on a documentary denouncing her behavior. Coulter defines a traitor as: 1) all Democrats, 2) any American who doesn't support Bush, and 3) any American who dares to disagree with her anti-American twisted ideology. Coulter also has a nasty habit of insulting and disparaging the service of military veterans. In 1996, Coulter was fired from MSNBC for insulting disabled Vietnam vet Bobby Muller. In 2004, Coulter targeted Max Cleland and most recently John Murtha. Why? Because both Cleland and Murtha are Democrats who have been critical of the Bush administration. Coulter is also obsessed with Bill Clinton and (like Hannity) resorts to blaming Clinton when confronted with facts about Bush administration failures. She hates Democrats, wants them silenced, and blames them from every ill in America. Her favorite curse word apparently is "liberal". (My favorite curse word begins with the letter "c" and rhymes with 'punt". The fact that I mention this while I'm discussing Ann Coulter is probably just a coincidence.)

Like her cohort Hannity, Ann Coulter is the worst kind of media whore. One who blindly follows their political party with no regard for ethics, national security, the will and wish of the people, facts, and the pursuit of truth. She truly hates Democracy, and seems to disdain Americans who use intellect, reason, and actually think before they speak - and before they vote. But to be fair to Coulter, she also has the right to speak her mind and express her views and opinions, and she makes an awful lot of money posing as a patriot .while peddling her version of reality.

Now I could call Coulter an obnoxious, anti-American, skanky, neo-nazi cultist, lying, attention whore.
But I'm
not going to do that.

Hannity and Coulter are simply two well paid "entertainers" who are hired to infuriate, titillate and spin for ratings and revenue. As long as they can attract an audience, they will be in demand. They have their radio and TV shows, book deals, and syndicated columns. I simply have a blog, an RSS feed, reason, passion, and an ability to express my views in the manner that I choose. The U.S. Constitution continues to grant me the right to exercise that freedom. And I am definitely going to do that.

Comments:
I totally agree. I made some much needed upgrades to the Sean Hannity article at www.wikipedia.com, exposing his role in promoting racism and homophobia. I also wrote a little ditty on my own blog that recasts Coulter as the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia.
 
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