New attacks on free speech

February 24, 2012


Pat Buchanan might have seen the end of the line coming at MSNBC when last month network president Phil Griffin commented on his latest book, “Suicide of a Superpower,” by saying, “I don’t think the ideas that (Buchanan) put forth are appropriate for the national dialogue, much less on MSNBC.”

When Buchanan was let go last week after 10 years as a commentator on the network, no one was surprised.

I don’t agree with some of Buchanan’s ideas, but he has every right to his ideas, as we all have the right to our own. It’s called free speech.

The approach to free speech should be like the one taken by the ACLU in 1977 when neo-Nazis made plans to march through the Jewish suburb of Skokie, Ill. While deploring their views, the ACLU defended the group’s right to express itself.

Today, is censorship the new pluralism?

Actor Ben Jones, who starred as “Cooter” on the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” wrote to tell me about a decision by NASCAR to ban the car known as the “General Lee” from appearing at the Sprint Cup series race at Phoenix next month. The image of the Confederate flag on the car’s roof, said NASCAR spokesman David Higdon, “...is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive.”

Jones said in a recent statement, “At a time when tens of millions of Americans are honoring their Union and Confederate ancestors during this Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, NASCAR has chosen to dishonor those Southerners who fought and died in that terrible conflict by caving to ‘political correctness’ and the uninformed concerns of corporate sponsors.”

Is conformity the new diversity?

Jones is not only an actor, but a former Democratic member of Congress from Georgia and a strong civil rights proponent.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the burning of the American flag as free speech, while the free exercise of religion is being curtailed at many levels, is this not censoring a particular category of expression? Censorship is also moving beyond its classic definition into a new and even more dangerous area.

As The Daily Caller, a 24-hour news site founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and former Cheney aide Neil Patel, has reported, a liberal group known as Media Matters has not only fed talking points to some reporters and opinion columnists, it has been campaigning to get people fired when they hold ideas with which the left disagrees. According to the Caller, Media Matters hired people to investigate the lives of Fox News employees and compiled an “enemies list.” Media Matters didn’t respond directly to the charges; its founder, David Brock, instead pointed to Reuters’ criticism of the Caller’s “bad journalism” and “lame propaganda” as the reason for Media Matters’ silence.

These and many other attempts to suppress speech and force people into a universal and “acceptable” belief system harm freedom. Suppressing speech changes not a single mind. The freedom to debate ideas and present arguments in support of a position is what separates the United States from most other nations.

Do we want to become like countries that have the equivalent of “thought police,” smothering speech and penalizing anyone who refuses to toe the party line? Should I be prevented from asking this question?

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services


Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

"Should I be prevented from asking this question?"

No, you can say anything you want. Here in Kansas we all know all about a very well known small fringe group that loudly proclaims ideas that most Americans don't care to hear.

jaywalker 6 years ago

Talk about grasping at straws. Buchanan is a pundit on a talk show; firing a talking head is not "censorship." He'll be on Fox tomorrow and I'm bettin' money he's already made the rounds on all the popular conservative radio shows.

And good ol' Cooter's ridiculous opinion aside, the bozo-esque exaggeration that " tens of millions of Americans are honoring their Union and Confederate ancestors during this Sesquicentennial of the Civil War" couldn't be more ludicrous. 'Scuse me, but has anyone heard of or even give a shiitake mushroom about an impending Civil War anniversary celebration?! I mean, a party's a party, I'll bring the dip. But I live in the Deep South where one might expect most of these "tens of million" of reverential honorers would reside, and I ain't heard a whisper.

And stating in essence that Southerners have been dishonored because an inanimate TV icon wasn't going to be displayed in Phoenix isn't a stretch. It's a chasm.

It blows me away this guy has this job. Peeyoo.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

Trivia Time!

There wasn't just one General Lee as the article just about suggests, instead there were hundreds of General Lees!

(Although anyone that ever watched the show would know that!)

Although the estimated number of General Lees used varies from different sources, according to Ben Jones ("Cooter" in the show), as well as builders involved with the show, 256 General Lees were used to film the series. Others claim about 321 were used in the series. Approximately 17 still exist in various states of repair. On average, more than one General Lee was used up per show.

The above was ripped off from Wikipedia.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

So, Cal, does this mean that you think Fox News should be required to hire Michael Moore as a regular commentator? Or maybe Noam Chomsky?

And would it be alright if someone wanted to put a swastika on a car in a NASCAR event?

usnsnp 6 years ago

We have all the free speech in the United States that any country in the world has. Just look at cable, there are plenty of news channels covering every side of a question. The only thing that is wrong is that people can make any statement they want and not back them up, they can only tell the side of the story that favors their side of the argument, and last of all some of them will not take any responsibility for what they are saying if it is wrong. There are no problems with free speach in the United States.

jafs 6 years ago

The obvious difference between "free speech" as a guaranteed right and the right of private businesses to hire whomever they want should be noted.

Also, the attempt to "force people into a universal and 'acceptable' belief system" seems to be what Mr. Thomas and many other right wing Christians are engaged in.

The ACLU is often denigrated as a "left wing" organization by those on the right.

Terry Sexton 6 years ago

I liked watching Pat on 'Morning Joe.' Does he still do 'The McLaughlin Group?'

cummingshawk 6 years ago

Buchanan is not being denied his right to speak by MSNBC, they have just stopped providing him a soapbox for his views.

Cait McKnelly 6 years ago

Actually, I live a mere 8 miles from the Chickamauga Battlefield (less than that from the Lookout Mountain Battleground). All kinna chit going on there this summer; re-enactments and partee's galore. However, refusing to let a car run with a Confederate flag on it is NASCAR's right. Same with Unca Pat getting the heave ho from MSNBC. What is this, it's only a "private business decision and should be respected" when you want it to be? If either of the examples given were government units and the gummint signed his paycheck, he'd have a leg to stand on. Neither of them are and neither does Cal OR Pat. Nice try covering for your ol' buddy, Cal. Sorry it was such a wash.

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