I really don’t like getting caught up in the faux-controversies like the two I’m about to get caught up in. The way I understand it, controversies are supposed to involve two opposing positions, both of which are intellectually defensible by well-informed adults. These do not qualify by that definition, but the hypocrisy is just so glaringly obvious that it really needs to be pointed out. Here’s what I’m talking about:
- The construction of an Islamic cultural center two-ish blocks from Ground Zero by a Muslim group, the leader of which worked with the Bush administration as an example of moderate Islam, and
- A person named Laura Schlessinger on some primitive invention called “radio” said some very racist things to one of her callers.
The right wing’s reaction to the cultural center has largely been that it shouldn’t be built because it might hurt the feelings of New Yorkers and 9/11 victims’ families. There are some notable exceptions, like the Libertarian-style economist Grover Norquist and NYC mayor/billionaire media bigshot Michael Bloomberg. But for the most part the line has been that this offends some people and is opposed by popular opinion. Here is one example. Here is CNN making a big deal of poll numbers. And Twitter user Sarah Palin used the Twitter to explain why the “mosque” (which isn’t a mosque, actually) is very offensive and not at all politically correct and must be stopped somehow:
In other words, rights (and bills which outline them) have to be subordinate to popular opinion and political correctness. That’s what the opposition to this is all about. If it weren’t, then there’d be no need to continue the conversation beyond agreeing that they have the right to build it, because whether or not they should is completely irrelevant.
What’s weird about this is that whenever someone casually refers to America as a democracy, it’s always these same people – Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and people like that – who nitpick the point by correcting them. America’s not a democracy, they say, because democracy means everything is decided by a majority vote. And if you really want to get that pedantic about it, then it’s a fair point, because America’s a republic. We make some decisions by majority vote, some are made by elected representatives, but some issues – rights, for instance – aren’t open to debate or discussion. It’s the job of the government to insure those rights for the citizenry. If this were a strict democracy, then a majority could vote to take away the rights of minorities (although, to be fair usually when someone says that we’re a democratic country, they mean by that that we have elections and free access to information and stuff like that, unlike totalitarian dictatorships).
There’s another inconsistency here, too. They don’t actually come out and use the term “politically correct,” but that’s the perspective they’re defending when they talk about how a cultural center at a former Burlington Coat Factory will offend people and therefore plans to build it should be halted. So you would think that when it came to another issue where the shoe is on the other foot, we should expect some consistency from Republicans on the question of rights v. political correctness.
But of course that’s not the case. When Laura Schlessinger went off on a crazy racist rant about how black (or “buhhh-LACK,” as she puts it) people are overly sensitive and lack a sense of humor, Twitter user Sarah Palin used the Twitter to defend the radio host:
And this is almost verbatim what Schlessinger herself had to say about her situation. Apparently her First Amendment rights were taken away because her bosses decided to can her for being an ignorant hick. Also, none of her critics even said anything about government involvement inre: Schlessinger’s right to free speech as far as I know.
But even if we were to be generous and pretend that Schlessinger’s First Amendment rights were taken away (she said so on Larry King’s show, apparently without anyone in the government stopping her from doing so, but whatever), this is still a very clear double standard. You’d have to be blind not to notice it. In one case First Amendment rights need to be subjugated to the “will of the people” and cater to hurt feelings; and in the other First Amendment rights are precious and need to be defended regardless of how offended someone might be by someone else using them.
Here’s the best way to illustrate how obvious the double standard is: take any of the statements Gingrich, Palin, Limbaugh, or anyone like that made about Park 51. Then do a quick find/replace so that it’s appropriate to the Schlessinger story. And vice versa. This is what I got:
Schlessinger’s employers were teaching her a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.
In that case, Krauthammer would actually be correct if he said that. The airwaves Schlessinger broadcasted on actually were owned by others: her employers. But he was making an analogy with Park 51 in the original quote and there he’s wrong. The Cordoba Initiative purchased the property completely legally and followed every step of due process in approving the construction of the building with the local authorities. It doesn’t “belong to others” – it belongs to them.
Or how about this one:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc his 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)
That would probably go over well, right? If Palin or literally anybody else tweeted to Rauf to “reload” and fight against the activists taking away his rights, what kind of reaction would you expect from Fox News? Is there any chance in hell they wouldn’t throw a gigantic week-long hissy fit over it?
Whether the Republicans want to be either the people who value hurt feelings and political correctness over Constitutional rights or the reverse, that’s up to them. It would just be nice to have a little consistency. At the very least they could try not to take such extreme and opposite ideological positions on the First Amendment in the span of a few days.