Free Speech

Who in the media have ‘perspective’?

Among the remarks by spokesmen for the Obama administration in its war against Fox News was David Axelrod's observation that Fox was not a news organization because it had a "perspective" on the news.T hat deserves analysis on more than one level. First, there is the political angle. Obviously, Obama’s quarrel with Fox has everything to do with its "perspective." Unlike CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and NPR, Fox is not in the tank for the current occupant of the White House. Nothing like Chris Matthew’s "tingling sensation" up his leg excites Fox journalists.

Second, there is a distinction to be made, of sorts, between straight news people and commentators at Fox, as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged, when he subsequently singled out a couple of Fox time slots for the latter. Fox, like other media, distinguishes news from opinion.

Third, Fox’s slogans are not just marketing ploys. Compared to other media, Fox is "fair and balanced," as there are more presentations of opposing viewpoints there than in the "mainstream media." The other networks give little time to the conservative point of view.

At least one intrepid journalist at a Gibbs press conference did question the wisdom of the President singling out one television network for criticism. One is reminded of the famous quotation from Martin Niemoller, a victim of Nazi oppression, about how "they came for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew, so I didn’t speak up." One hopes that lesson has been learned.

So, although it is thuggish from my "perspective" for a President to condemn one news organization and practically demand that others not follow its example of exposing, for example, ACORN’s corruption or the extremist views of a number of Obama’s "Czars," it looks like he made other journalists uncomfortable.

Although presidents have frequently been critical of media coverage for both good reasons and bad, nothing compares to the current situation so much as Vice President Spiro Agnew’s criticism of the major media in 1969. But then the obvious difference is that Agnew took on the entire New York-Washington media axis, rather than picking on only one network..

Yet there is a great similarity between the media’s hostility to the Nixon Administration 40 years ago and their opposition to George W. Bush up until less than a year ago, and that was both administrations’ prosecution of a war that most leading journalists were opposed to.

All this is interesting stuff, but let’s get back to "perspective." What’s wrong with it? More to the point, how does any journalistic organization succeed without it? Determining what is news is not merely record keeping. Each day someone must decide that some event or development is news, mindful of the fact that if it is determined to be news, it will be on the public agenda.

Years ago U.S. News did a lengthy piece on the New York Times. In their daily conferences, it was pointed out, Times editors, conscious that it was the nation’s leading newspaper which influences the television networks in their own selection of news, were very careful about what they printed, especially on the front page. They understood that more people read the front page more than the editorial page, and they were reluctant to give more publicity to an issue or cause than it deserved.

As shocking as this may sound, this is what all news organizations do, although the smaller the staff the less likely that long deliberations precede their news decisions. If politics, war, commerce, law and entertainment loom large in our media, it is not because of arbitrary editors but because these things matter to most people in a democratic republic.

No less shocking perhaps to many may be the fact that, because journalists are American citizens with opinions, some things are more important to them than others. Without that "perspective," there is no reason for anyone to be in journalism; it is part of politics even if journalists do not hold public office.

Thus, Fox was singled out not because it had a "perspective," but because its "perspective" differs from Obama’s and his friends’ in other media. We need a free media to enable us to know what our leaders are doing and to discuss the wisdom of their policies. Lacking such "perspective," self government is impossible.

No ruler of a free people should condemn any media because they have a "perspective." That is but the prelude to a controlled media and despotic government

Waak owes us an apology

Now that the vandalism at Colorado Dem headquarters is known to come from one of her own, albeit not "a good Democrat" as she lamely puts it, party chairman Pat Waak owes an apology to Republicans, independents, and everyone else opposed to the government medical takeover -- whom she slurred yesterday in reflexively blaming the attack on "an effort on the other side to stir up hate." No awards for bulldog-tough journalism will go to Jessica Fender of the Denver Post for writing today that Waak "tempered her statement" from Tuesday after the perp's political ties came to light. Waak 2.0, claiming that "what I've been saying is there is a lot of rhetoric out there from both sides of the spectrum," isn't a tempering, it's a brazen reversal. Too bad the Post news pages let Chairman Pat get away with it, abetted by Mike Littwin's jokey dismissal of the whole thing in the opinion columns.

It reminds me of the pass given President Obama by most of the media when he claimed his appraisal of Cambridge cop James Crowley was never less than stellar, a couple of days after telling the nation Crowley had "acted stupidly." Being a Democrat means never having to say you're sorry -- unless you are Obama on a world tour, apologizing for 200 years of American greatness.

The media have their story line, which in the case of this faux attack on Dem HQ was dangerous militia tendencies among all those unready to socialize one-sixth of the US economy in a few summer weeks, and even when facts get in the way, they don't readily respond.

The preset story line was illustrated by Solomon Banda's AP story on Tuesday, eagerly connecting the dots from smashed windows in Denver to Obama opponents "carrying guns" in Arizona and New Hampshire, hecklers of a congressman making "veiled threats" in Ohio, and health care protesters across the country creating "angry outbursts."

But now that bike bandit Maurice Schwenkler is in custody and unmasked (literally) for the non-good Democrat that he is, maybe Banda, Littwin, and Fender will help me corner Pat Waak and shame her into the apology rightfully owed.

Public assemblies, American style

The Obama Administration has been the occasion for numerous Tea Parties and Town Hall Meetings, which are different species of the genus public assembly.  How they are seen and understood depends a great deal on one’s point of view. As American government is based on the consent of the governed, it is perfectly appropriate and even necessary that public officials be chosen in periodic elections and that the people be free to express their views publicly. While the design of the Constitution is to avoid rule by the people in their collective capacity, relying rather on elected representatives, the First Amendment explicitly guarantees the right of the people to assemble peacefully for redress of grievances.

In our nation’s history, not a few of those public assemblies have been considerably less than peaceful, whether they were in opposition to taxes on whiskey, Jay’s treaty with Great Britain, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, abolition of slavery, the Civil War draft, industrial lockouts, World War I, racial segregation, the Vietnam War or the Iraq War.

Peaceful protest should always have the full protection of the law, and violent protests should be suppressed. The difficulty is that those rioting invariably see themselves as greater in authority than public officials, and the latter sometimes sympathize with the rioters’ goals, if not their means.

It is not surprising that the widespread Tea Parties that protested the record levels of taxing and spending by the Obama Administration should be viewed favorably by Republicans and unfavorably by Democrats. By the same token, the Town Hall Meetings called by the President and a number of Democratic Congresspersons and Senators are looked upon by Republicans as stage-managed affairs, lacking legitimacy.

So some Democrats supportive of Obama showed up to put a damper on the Tea Parties, and evidently more persons–of both parties–critical of the President, particularly his health care plan, have shown up at the Town Hall Meetings. Both parties clearly seek to establish their viewpoint as the authentic voice of the American people and the opposing view as merely a minority faction.

Although I welcomed the Tea Parties and look upon Democrat Town Hall Meetings with suspicion, I cannot say that I am pleased that more and more citizens are taking their grievances so noisily into public places and meeting halls. A major contributor to this development is the rise of Big Government, which treats opposition to its goals and methods as essentially illegitimate.

Fortunately, this year’s protests lack the violence that characterized the radical left’s opposition to the War in Vietnam, when both public officials and private citizens were targeted for bombs by the likes of the Weathermen, of which Obama friends Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dorn were members.

It is always a challenge for politicians to deal with tumultuous assemblies with a combination of good humor and firmness, granting the legality of the protest but seeking to defuse its passion and restore civil discourse. Politicians slandering citizens angry over the government’s less than candid explanation of its programs are pouring fuel on the fire.

This present situation is not unlike that of medieval Europe, ruled by monarchs and priests, in which ordinary people had no say and whose only form of protest was armed rebellion. It is only when citizens finally won the right to elect their leaders that the frequent resort to mob violence was no longer necessary.

But the longer that large, intrusive and costly bureaucratic structures dominate our lives, and render citizens powerless, the more those otherwise not inclined to angry outbursts will feel compelled to vent their spleen at the persons they chose to make their laws.

Far better, though, that we take advantage of constitutional structures that enable the people to vote for or against those persons they believe do–or do not–have the best interests of the nation at heart.

Democrats have long believed that, just as they have a monopoly on holding public office, they alone have reason to protest, even violently, if they feel strongly enough. Republicans more commonly look upon public office as a temporary calling and reluctantly take part in public protests.

And while leading Democrats have attributed base motives to Republican protestors (special interests, Ku Klux Klan members and even Nazis), the latter have not gone beyond labeling Democrats (accurately) as big taxers and spenders, socialists and petty tyrants.

We have an opportunity to restore government by the people in the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 Presidential election. That’s where the protests will really count.

"Ad hate-a-man" argumentation

Nothing is more vital to a healthy body politic than reasoned debate. But that hardly means it is very welcome, as the side with the least defensible argument has the most to lose. The fallacious argument known as "to the man," or "ad hominem," is the most common weapon resorted to when an advocate can’t win an argument on the merits. It attacks a person rather than his argument. In this era of unprincipled politics, ad hominem argument has long since morphed into what I’m calling "ad hate-a-man," or the claim that arguments disliked are really based on hatred of members of groups rather than on any legitimate points. Since races, genders, "lifestyles" and religions distinct from the presumed white, male, Christian majority in America have become privileged, minions of the far left castigate their critics as racist, sexist, homophobic bigots.

Criticism of racial preference schemes, such as affirmative action or racial diversity, in which members of minority races are given the edge in hiring, college admission and contracting, is invariably put down to racism. The initial and wholly defensible goal of the civil rights movement half a century ago was a color-blind society in which merit rather than race was the basis for distributing jobs, schooling and business. But that was abandoned before the ink was dry on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and honored today only by those who oppose racial preference.

Similarly, if anyone suggests that the natural differences between men and women are of more than passing significance, especially where strength, endurance and decency are relevant, they are dismissed as sexists wanting to keep women "barefoot and pregnant." Nor do the interests of women themselves matter very much to advocates of "liberation" if they are so benighted as to prefer marriage and family to a lifelong career in the marketplace.

The most potent form of "ad hate-a-man" currently concerns the homosexual agenda. Routinely, whenever anyone argues that the natural division of the human race into men and women indicates that homosexuality, lesbianism, etc. are not a basis for marriage, it is often the occasion for screaming and, at times, violence. Homosexuals who keep their relations private but do not support "gay marriage" are not uncommonly "outed" for their apostasy.

There was a time, not long ago, when the Judaeo-Christian tradition in America, which combined government neutrality regarding religious denominations with robust Biblical faith among our people, was a solid basis for both good government and good citizenship. As statesmen from George Washington to George Bush emphasized, morality does not exist in a vacuum and, for us, is the beneficent contribution of Biblical faiths.

Nothing symbolized this tradition more than public ceremonies, such as graduations, where pastors, priests and rabbis alternated in the offering of invocations and benedictions. That this is not unconstitutional is attested to by the fact that our Declaration of Independence teaches that our rights as human beings derive from our Creator, Who is referred to as lawgiver, Divine Providence and Supreme Judge of the World.

The Old and New testaments teach a morality based on piety and emphasizing reverence for parents, self control and respect for the rights of others. The American founders did not need to conjure up some "new morality" that was appropriate to life in the new republic. The morality of the Bible was more than sufficient.

Nothing is more central to the practice of that morality than love. Believers are taught that sin, or falling short of the glory of God, is to be avoided and certainly not to be loved. But nothing in that teaching prescribes or even implies hatred for the sinner. Those who insist otherwise are mistaken.

There is much concern about torture, or alleged torture, these days, which may be seen by some as simply being subjected to something they dislike. Would it be torture for those who believe that Christians and Jews are hateful, particularly those who reject abortion and same-sex marriage, to sit through a service and be subjected to all that alleged hatred?

Or would they be shocked to find out that believers are admonished to "judge not, lest [they] be judged?" Indeed, past critics of Christianity feared that its "nonjudgmental" attitude was inconsistent with the requirements of citizenship. But believers have long appreciated the fact that greater freedom of religion exists in this country than in any other and their patriotism runs deep.

All that "hatred" which some profess to see in those who disagree with them exists only in their imaginations.

Paranoid liberals at Metro State

Tonight on Backbone Radio, campus editor Sean Doherty related the hilarious, but also deeply paranoid, fears of a Metro State staffer who voiced the following chain of spontaneous word associations in regard to a then-proposed (and since launched) campus newspaper called The Constitutional Reporter. "Constitutional... Klan... Republican... hateful... illegal... Nazi... swastika"

Yes, those are direct quotes. This really happened. Doherty's full notes of the phone conversations are given below.

STATEMENT BY SEAN DOHERTY Senior Political Science Major Metropolitan State College of Denver

Here are the minutes from my phone conversation with a representative of Metro State's administration.

Setting: I had previously asked for permission to put my paper on campus. They agreed. When I asked for written permission, the "gatekeeper" said he would get the permission slip to the right people and contact me. So, on the morning of 2/4/09 at 10:23am, I got the following call (I wrote down the following notes immediately after the conversation)

The gentleman on the phone had spoken with the appropriate people in admin who had him tell me the following:

"This is not a reflection on you as an individual but..." (an important distinction. What he is saying is that they don't know who I am but what concerns them is what they do know: the title of my newspaper: The Constitutional Reporter. They have no knowledge of anything except for the title of the paper)

He then goes on to say that the title Constitutional is concerning since the word is sometimes associated with radicals. He goes into rambling mode and lists a few other concerns such as "how do we know you're not part of the Klan?" He asked specifically if this was a Republican newspaper.

I responded that it was nonpartisan.

He then said that they don't want anything that could be considered hateful or illegal on the campus.

Then, he tried to justify their refusal to sign with this number: "we are for freedom of speech, freedom of speech..." and he explained that they understood this was a state institution and state property but that they wanted to "see an outline of the paper, you know, a business plan, to know what its about because they have to be careful before they give approval for something to be placed on campus.

I objected and said they did not need and could not request a business plan- I'm not even associated with the school other than being a student!

He said that was right but they would still need an outline of some sort.

I knew he wasn't the guy responsible for these concerns; he was just speaking for some administrators behind closed doors. I asked if I could meet with these people and address their concerns specifically so they may see that I am a good guy and certainly not a radical Klan member!

He said that they're busy folks (to which I responded that I am too) and he said they're always in meetings. So I asked him, "what about today at 3:30pm? Are they busy today at that time?" He could not give me an answer one way or the other and brushed off the question. He just told me to bring in an outline and we'd go from there. According to him, if I brought in an outline, then he could schedule a meeting with the administrators who could meet me and sign off giving our paper documented approval.

A day later 2/5/09 and around 11:30am, we have another phone conversation:

He reaffirmed that they were concerned and instead of just a Klan reference, he used the whole term in question: Ku Klux Klan. In addition, he added a new one to the list of concerns: that they did not want a Nazi paper on campus. "they did not want to pick up our paper and see a swastika on the cover."

I questioned him about what could be radical about the term Constitutional. To his credit, he said that the Constitutional Convention and other key events and figures in history were not radical (although, technically, in a way they were radical for that time) but he did not state any specific concerns or examples for what could be radical about the word Constitutional in a modern day context.

I asked him to submit his request to me in writing before I submit any outline in writing to them. I said something to the effect of "if the admin sees fit to request a written outline from me, I want a written outline of what their concerns are"

Nothing. He just told me to do an outline. I then said, basically, "well what if I did a news story about this? Would you want to put it in writing so nothing is mis-quoted?" He answered, "Absolutely not."

To contact Sean Doherty 303.263.2281