McCarthy still provides convenient coverBy Jim Trageser
This article was rejected by several publications; I wrote it the second week of May 2003.
From the Dixie Chicks to Sean Penn to locals you've never heard of (and are probably glad for it), the anti-war protestors are not only refusing to accept defeat, but are now waging a new war of their own.
Against Joe McCarthy.
Which is undoubtedly easier than continuing to battle against George W. Bush in present circumstances.
You might think that in light of the fact that U.S. and British troops were in fact greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people, that the anti-war crowd might have the sense of decency to apologize for having been so very wrong. Or absent that, to simply shut up.
Instead, we get more self-righteousness, more whining this time about their "rights" being violated.
And what rights are these?
Their overused right to free speech.
Has anyone a single person been arrested for protesting the war? Been targeted by the IRS? Hauled in front of Congress to justify their beliefs?
Not a one.
And yet when broadcasters exercised their own free speech rights in response to their listeners' outrage by no longer playing songs by the Dixie Chicks after one of the band's members publicly blasted the president, the Chicks responded by predictably condemning the lack of free radio airplay as "censorship."
The same thing happened when the Baseball Hall of Fame uninvited Hollywood mediocrities Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins from an event there for two days after, the national media was abuzz with stories of Sarandon and Robbins being "censored."
Does Bill Maher not see the delectable irony in appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" to lament his being censored?
If tens of millions of people are hearing your message, you can hardly claim you're being censored.
Sure, Joe McCarthy knew of censorship his government-backed blacklist kept a lot of people from being able to get their opinion aired in public (or find employment, for that matter).
Saddam Hussein knows censorship. Cut someone's tongue out, they're not likely to criticize you again. Fidel Castro knows censorship lock your critics up in prison with no visitation rights, and who cares if they criticize you.
Bill Maher loses his TV show because he offends half the nation, and somehow thinks he's the moral equal of Hussein's victims.
Besides, Maher was never targeted by the government a key ingredient in censorship. Only a government can censor. Only a government can punish you for your views.
Sure, it can be a challenge to hold controversial opinions. Others may choose not to associate with you, or to take their business elsewhere.
But that's not censorship, it's the price of conscience and no law can, or should, prevent that.
If a newspaper refuses to run an article or cartoon its editors find offensive, that's not censorship it's a free press. And if tens of millions of citizens choose not to spend their hard-earned cash on the new Dixie Chicks album, that's not censorship it's a free market.
The same First Amendment that lets me stand up and speak my mind also protects necessarily anyone else's right to not listen to me.
And yet, those who opposed the war against the Iraqi dictatorship now see a great conspiracy against their freedom of speech in the fact that the rest of us have grown tired of their pitiful narcissism and have chosen to tune them out.
This recent conceit that free speech should not only be defined as a lack of government harassment, but also immunity from any disagreement from one's fellow citizens is a curious thing and one that isn't even applied evenly.
For instance, many of the same politically correct types now sniffling about "corporate America" censoring the Dixie Chicks and Maher were just a few months ago sanctimoniously demanding that MSNBC cancel Michael Savage's new talk show before a single episode aired! And they were successful in getting corporate America to pull its advertisements from Dr. Laura's short-lived TV show.
When the do-gooders engage in grassroots activism it's a matter of free speech; when their opponents engage in the exact same behavior, suddenly it's McCarthyism?
It seems that the anti-war protestors don't think the rest of us should be allowed to publicly disagree with them. To criticize their message, their tactics. To boycott them or in any way infringe on their right to make millions of dollars from us.
To, well, protest their protests.
And that hardly sounds like free speech at all.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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