Why Defend Andrew Breitbart?

Because of the reason his enemies are attacking him.

They are not attacking him because they believe he unfairly accused Shirley Sherrod of racism. They are attacking him because his opinions challenge leftist orthodoxy. The left has embraced demonization of those who disagree with them as a tactic for promoting their world view. In addition to this real reason for demonization, there is always a “good reason” offered to rationalize it, usually based on the claim that their opponent has violated some moral rule.

The specious nature of these “good reasons” is always obvious because of the double standard with which they are applied. More egregious violations of the same rules by those not perceived as enemies are ignored. For example, as noted above, Breitbart is being demonized for “race-baiting.” If the left held its own to a similar standard, few would be found in its ranks less guilty than Breitbart. In his case, it is not clear that he was deliberately making a false accusation of racism, or that Sherrod was even the main target of his attack. Whatever her intent when she made her remarks about discriminating against a white farmer because of the color of his skin, the approving reaction of the NAACP audience, which didn’t know at the time where she was going with her remarks, can certainly be plausibly described as racist. Regardless, the furious attacks on Breitbart continue, with all the usual faux virtuous indignation.

By way of contrast, consider the left’s response to a far more reprehensible justification of deliberate race baiting by one of its own. In an e-mail to his Journolist cohorts, Spencer Ackerman, who currently writes for Wired magazine and the Washington Independent, openly promoted false charges of racism as a political tactic. As noted by the Daily Caller,

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Needless to say, this blatant advocacy of racism, providing only that it be exploited to promote a “good cause,” has not provoked the same contrived outrage on the left. The “good reason” for the attacks on Breitbart doesn’t apply to Ackerman, or anyone else the left considers one of its own.

All this is easily understandable in terms of human nature. We are wired to apply different standards to “us” than we apply to “them.”  The left’s attempts to demonize the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Andrew Breitbart, and the rest of its pantheon of evil are perfectly natural. They are also irrational and self-destructive.

UPDATE: Who do you think David Letterman is picking on?

a.  Spencer Ackerman

b.  Andrew Breitbart

“Right Wing Terror” vs. the Real Thing

Remember the recent hysteria on the left about imminent right wing terror and insurrection promoted by subversive institutions such as freedom of speech?  Here’s what the real thing looks like, but I doubt that the “right wing” was involved in an attack on an oil company executive.  It doesn’t fit the narrative.

“Hate Speech” and the Liquidation of Free Speech

Bruce Bawer comments on another of the “hate speech” laws that have recently been used so effectively to dismantle freedom of speech in Canada. Bruce describes the Norwegian version:

Then there’s Norway, where I live, and where the last few days have seen yet another dark development. By way of background, permit me to begin by quoting myself. On pages 230-31 of my book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom I sum up the more alarming aspects of Norway’s Discrimination Law, passed in 2005:

It forbids “harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs,” and, in turn, defines harassment as “actions, omissions, or utterances [my emphasis] that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating.”

In other words, it’s illegal just to say certain things.

Defendants may be accused not only by the individuals whom they’ve supposedly offended but also by semiofficial organs such as the Anti-Racist Center and the Center against Ethnic Discrimination (both of which helped formulate the law, and both of which exist less to oppose real racism and discrimination than to oppose political incorrectness generally) or by the government’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud.

Which means that a handful of far-left organizations have been given enormous power to silence those they disagree with.

Violations of the law by individuals are punishable by fine; violations by individuals in concert with at least two other persons (such as a writer conspiring with an editor and publisher, perhaps?) can be punished by up to three years’ imprisonment — this in a country where murderers often get off with less. Moreover, the burden of proof is on the accused: you’re guilty until proven innocent.

And this in a supposedly free country.

One would think that the adherents of a religion who actually believe in it themselves would not fear criticism.  If they are convinced that what they believe is true, why would they not welcome challenges to that truth as opportunities to embarrass and confute unbelievers, and to enlighten others?  If, on the other hand, they fear that belief in a God who threatens to burn the majority of human beings in hell for millions and billions of years, and, in fact eternally, for the paltry sins they commit during their short stay on earth may not be quite rational, on can understand why they would be sensitive to criticism.   

Liberty is not a ground state. You have to keep fighting for it, or it disappears.

The LGF Pot Calls the Geller Kettle Black

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs adds his two cents worth to the Pam Geller/PayPal kerfluffle:

The fact is that there are plenty of good reasons to make the judgment that Pamela Geller promotes crazy hate speech, racist groups, and conspiracy theories; her main targets are Muslims, but many of these reasons have nothing to do with Islam, radical or otherwise.

Far be it for him to promote “crazy hate speech” on his own blog. Some recent examples of his philosophical detachment and spirit of moderation:

Congratulations, Glenn (Beck). You’ve now succeeded in being even more of a gratuitous race-baiter than Rush Limbaugh.

Some days it seems as if the right wing blogosphere has become possessed by the Demons of Utter Stupidity.

In his feverish rush to smear LGF by any means possible, wingnut hateblogger Ace of Spades makes an accusation. (Amid a whole bunch of outright lies.)

This is the kind of person who represents the right wing blogosphere: a rank hypocrite, who accuses others of the unethical acts he performs himself.

World Net Daily’s source for their latest insane Birther article is James Edwards — an open white supremacist who runs the vile “Political Cesspool” radio show in Tennessee: Hawaii elections clerk: Obama not born here.

I haven’t been paying much attention to raving Birther kook Orly Taitz’s campaign for the GOP nomination for secretary of state, but amazingly, there’s actually a chance she might win today

Fox News Hitler pimp Glenn Beck has a new favorite author:

Nothing new about any of this, Blair, you freaking brain-dead right wing moron. Try harder next time.

Today’s disgusting right wing racist is South Carolina Republican Senator Jake Knotts.

It’s a good thing he doesn’t, you know, hate anybody. That could really get ugly.

“Peace Activist” Photoshopping at Reuters

The Lid has the goods on them: In a photo released by Reuters, an Israeli commando is shown lying on the deck of the “aid” ship, surrounded by activists. The uncut photo released by the Turkish group that staged the propaganda stunt shows the hand of an unidentified activist holding a knife. In the Reuters photo, the hand is visible but the knife has been cropped out. Reuters is “shocked, shocked” that it was caught in the act that its “layers of editors and fact checkers” didn’t catch the mistake.

Update: LGF takes note of another “inadvertent mistake” at the top of his blog.

The German Left Turns on Obama

Mirroring a similar phenomenon in the U.S., the political Left in Germany has become increasingly strident in it’s criticism of Obama of late. The latest example of the trend appeared at the top of Der Spiegel’s website this morning in the form of an article on the Wikileaks affair entitled, “Obama Hunts the Scandal Hunters.” Written by Marc Pitzke, whose contributions are usually limited to the one-sided hit pieces Spiegel still posts occasionally to keep its legions of Amerika-hating readers happy, the article leads with the byline,

He wanted to do everything completely differently from George W. Bush: Barack Obama promised transparency in dealing with government information. In fact, he persecutes insiders who blab about embarrassing incidents far more severely than his predecessor. The arrest in the Wikileaks Scandal is only the most well known example.

and includes such bits as:

  • The dramatic case shows how quickly a moral pitfall can become a judicial pitfall.  Beyond that, it illustrates a phenomenon that rights activists in the U.S. have been viewing with unease for some time – the increasingly aggressive action Washington has been taking against “whistle blowers,” or government insiders who reveal malfeasance and state scandals.
  • Liberals and leftists in the US are particularly enraged at the fact that, during the 2008 election campaign, it was just in this area that President Barack Obama promised a clean break with the politics of his predecessor, George W. Bush.  M.’s arrest confirms an “increasingly poisonous trend,” writes Jesselyn Radack of the activist group, Government Accountability Project (GAP):  “Bush bullied whistle blowers mercilessly, but Obama sets the law on them and puts them in prison,”  Obama is “much harder than Bush.”
  • One of the most prominent Obama critics in this case is Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the ultimate whistle blower.  Ellsberg passed the “Pentagon Papers” to the press in 1971 – internal memos that revealed that the government had already concluded the Vietnam War was a lost cause.  Ellsberg suffered persecution for years as a result.
  • “Obama is continuing the worst of the Bush Administration,” said Ellsberg in an interview with Spiegel Online about the persecution of whistle blowers.  “This continuing assault on citizen’s rights is inexcusable.”  Obama has “made a 180 degree turn.”

…and so on and so on.  I think we can safely say the honeymoon is over.

The Real Face of “Hate Speech”

Apropos “hate speech,” it’s interesting that none of those who are so active in promoting censorship as a means of fighting it even noticed the most extreme and potentially dangerous outburst of it in recent memory.  I refer to the obsessive hatred of the United States promoted in the mass media of any number of countries around the world.  It reached extreme levels in the final years of the Clinton and first years of the Bush adminstrations before apparently finally choking on its own excess.  I speak German, and followed the development of the phenomenon there with interest and dismay.  It became so extreme that it occasionally became difficult to find any news about Germany among the rants about the evils of the United States on the websites of such “news” outlets as that of Spiegel magazine.

We humans are characterized by “moral” behavior that distinguishes between “good” in-groups, and “evil” out-groups, a trait that I have elsewhere referred to as the Amity/Enmity Complex.  No aspect of our nature could be so mind-bogglingly obvious, yet the neuroscientists and other experts who specialize in the workings of the human mind have yet to “discover” it.  It happens to be in conflict with ideological myths, particularly prevalent in academia, about the universal brotherhood of mankind.  Earlier generations of so-called experts willfully ignored the abundant evidence regarding the profound influence of innate, “hard-wired” predispositions on human behavior for decades on account of similar myths, until their faces were literally rubbed in the truth by advances in brain imaging techniques and other diagnostic tools.  As long as research in the field is not suppressed, their faces will eventually be rubbed in the truth of the Amity/Enmity Complex as well.  When that happens, I suspect they will see the question of hate speech in a rather different light.

Among other things, they are likely to notice that “hate speech” is only recognized as such when directed at an in-group.  At the time when expressions of anti-American hate reached their most extreme levels in Germany and elsewhere, those who were most active in spewing that hate characterized their vicious diatribes as “objective criticism.”  As one on the receiving end of their hate speech, I found their rationalizations absurd, and yet I don’t doubt they actually believed their own cant.  Americans were an out-group, and therefore, at least in their minds, incapable of being victims of hate speech. 

It is for that reason that attempts by government to censor hate speech, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the “international organization” favored by French foreign minister Kouchner, as noted in an earlier post, are futile.  As intrinsically political organizations they must inevitably be blind to hate speech directed at their political foes, or “out-groups.”  I know of not a single instance of such an organization raising the least objection to the mindless demonization and villification of the United States, even when it was at its most extreme.  The only real antidote to hate speech is free speech.

Free Speech and “Tolerance” on the Internet

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner had an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday entitled, “The Battle for the Internet.” (hattip Volokh Conspiracy)  Apparently it was conceived as a call for freedom of expression on the Internet, which Kouchner describes as the medium of an unprecedented “revolution in freedom of communication and freedom of expression.”  In fact, Kouchner’s notion of “freedom of expression” is somewhat constrained.  It doesn’t apply to people whose opinions do not bear a sufficient resemblance to his own. 

Kouchner does not keep us guessing about the type of people whose freedom of expression should be the subject of our particular solicitude.  In his own words,

For the oppressed peoples of the world, the Internet provides power beyond their wildest hopes. It is increasingly difficult to hide a public protest, an act of repression or a violation of human rights. In authoritarian and repressive countries, mobile telephones and the Internet have given citizens a critical means of expression, despite all the restrictions.

We should provide support to cyber-dissidents — the same support as other victims of political repression.

For those not familiar with current French political thought regarding the categories of people one can legitimately view as “victims of political repression,” I note in passing that they do not include Jews living in predominantly Moslem countries, Serbs in Kosovo, or Russians in Latvia.  But I digress.  Let us allow Mr. Kouchner to give a more comprehensive definition of those who, we must assume, are not so victimized.  In his words,

Extremist, racist and defamatory Web sites and blogs disseminate odious opinions in real time. They have made the Internet a weapon of war and hate. Web sites are attacked. Violent movements spread propaganda and false information.

I am not talking about absolute freedom, which opens the door to all sorts of abuses. Nobody is promoting that. I’m talking about real freedom, based on the principle of respecting human dignity and rights.

The battle of ideas has started between the advocates of a universal and open Internet — based on freedom of expression, tolerance and respect for privacy — against those who want to transform the Internet into a multitude of closed-off spaces that serve the purposes of repressive regimes, propaganda and fanaticism.

In other words, “freedom of expression” should not be extended to propagandists, fanatics, and promoters of “hate.”  That would be to embrace “absolute freedom of expression,” as opposed to “real freedom of expression,” which should only be extended to those who are sufficiently “tolerant” to agree with Mr. Kouchner.  And how does one go about defending “real freedom of expression?”  Why, by invoking the aid of “international instruments,” presumably after the fashion of the UN.  Again, in Mr. Kouchner’s words,

We should create an international instrument for monitoring such commitments and for calling governments to task when they fail to live up to them.

No fewer than 180 countries meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society have acknowledged that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies fully to the Internet, especially Article 19, which establishes freedom of expression and opinion. And yet, some 50 countries fail to live up to their commitments.

We should create an international instrument for monitoring such commitments and for calling governments to task when they fail to live up to them.

In a word, then, we are to leave defense of “freedom of expression” to more or less the same people who entrusted defense of “women’s rights” to the theocratic rulers of Iran.  Good luck with that.

In response to Mr. Kouchner’s impassioned plea for “real” freedom of expression, I suggest that he take note of the fact that it has already been tried, with rather disheartening results.  Our Canadian neighbors implemented a version of it complete with a national version of his “international instrument for monitoring such commitments,” in the form of what they called the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), throwing in a batch of clones at the provincial level for good measure.  It turned out that defense of “human rights” in Canada required the suppression of opinions that diverged from the prevailing “progressive” orthodoxy. 

Started back in the 1970’s, these organizations long had the good sense to limit their censorship to obscure conservatives, religious groups, unpopular and extreme political groups, and similar “violators of human rights” who lacked the name recognition and the wherewithal to fight back.  The CHRC prided itself on a 100% conviction rate in its vendettas against such malefactors, achieved via such dubious means as debarring truth as a defense, allowing hearsay evidence, and funding accusers but not defendants.  Eventually, however, they became “dizzy with success,” and started launching attacks on people who could actually defend themselves, such as conservative talk show host Mark Steyn, who occasionally sits in for Rush Limbaugh, the editors of Canada’s flagship Maclean’s magazine, and Ezra Levant, editor of the Western Standard.   Defend themselves they did, as can be seen, for example, here, here and here.  The mainstream media in Canada took note, belatedly realizing that their own collective freedom of expression was threatened, and not just that of the nameless small fry whose rights had been a matter of such singular indifference to them for 30 years and more.  They, too, began pushing back, and a host of Internet sites joined the fray, examples of which can be found here, here, here, and here.  Finally, assured that their backs were covered, even Canadian politicians rediscovered the value of freedom of speech.

Finally, confronted by forces it couldn’t intimidate, the CHRC backed down, in the familiar style of bullies whose bluff has been called.  The victory was a pyrrhic one, however.  It and its sub-bullies live on, and their existence will surely continue to have a dampening effect on the public discourse of anyone who might dare to disagree with them.  As Stefan Braun of the Winnipeg Free Press puts it,

Maclean’s, more mainstream and better-resourced than the niche Western Standard, survived its accusers. But to see any of this as a victory misses the point. If such wrongful accusations can be legally levelled to harass, hound and hurt even established media and renowned authors, can anyone really feel safe from rapacious censors, who may think to challenge popular wisdom or powerful censorship interests defending it?

What message is sent to malicious, or simply misguided, thought-accusers who think to silence them?

Thought persecution, not legal vindication, is the point. Legal vindication is evidence not of the absence of public harm from wrongful hate-speech complaints, but proof of its existence.

Steyn and Levant signify only the visible tip of a much larger chilling iceberg of public self-censorship lurking unspoken and unheard beneath…

The effects of Mr. Kouchner’s “real” freedom of expression are quite visible in Europe as well.  In the Netherlands, a major political party is threatened with blanket censorship in the trial of its leader, Geert Wilders, for daring to criticize Islam.  In the UK, high-handed bureaucrats banned popular US talk show host Michael Savage from entering the country, citing the now-familiar trumped up charges of “provoking criminal acts” and “inciting hatred.”  Once upon a time the country’s Independent Television Commission (ITC) even considered banning Foxnews for being “too opinionated.”  Apparently the commissioners failed to detect the irony of such a charge in the homeland of the BBC.

Europeans commonly refer to the First Amendment right to freedom of expression guaranteed to citizens of the United States as “radical” in comparison to their own “real” freedom.  How long we will remain “radical” in this respect is anybody’s guess.  Our latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, has been quoted as saying, “Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.”  Predictably, one form of freedom of expression she feels bears an unacceptably high “societal cost” is “hate speech.”  Rest assured that “hate speech” will never include the torrent of obscene and violent abuse Sarah Palin has been subjected to since her candidacy for the Vice Presidency was announced.  Nevertheless, it is a highly flexible term, and can easily be construed to include any form of opposition to the prevailing orthodoxies.  Just ask the Canadians.