Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another Suggestion to Reduce our Rights

Another prime example of conservatives' disregard for our rights. Newt Gingrich opens his mouth and freedom of speech is disavowed.

-- Joe Conason

The flimsy philosophizing of Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and aspiring Presidential candidate, isn't designed to bear any great weight. For many years, he has been willing to say anything that would win him the public attention and political power he still craves. Yet in the mainstream media and among Republicans, his intellectual pretensions are often taken seriously -- and when he promotes authoritarian "solutions" to national problems, that must be taken seriously too.

His latest insight is that America can only survive if we impose severe curbs on freedom of speech.

At a recent event in New Hampshire -- where he shows up often these days -- Mr. Gingrich explained why he believes that the First Amendment must be reconsidered in these trying times. He chose to deliver these remarks at an annual dinner held in memory of the late publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader, honoring individuals who stand up for free speech.
He told the stunned audience that we are facing a "long-term war," or what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called "the Long War," which requires new strategies and tactics to thwart Islamic jihadism. We confront an existential threat "that will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country, that will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear or biological weapons."
He went on to advocate measures that "use every technology we can find to break up [the terrorists'] capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us, to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us."

Such vague prescriptions sound sensible enough. Certainly no sane person wants terrorists using the Internet, and nobody wants them recruiting young suicide bombers on the Internet, either.

The problem is in the details. Exactly how the former Speaker would deter the enemies of freedom from using free speech was anything but clear.

About a week after his New Hampshire speech, he expanded on his remarks in an article for the ultraconservative Union-Leader newspaper. "The fact is that not all speech is permitted under the Constitution," he wrote. He noted the ominous remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outreach by Hezbollah to sympathizers in Latin America, and the stated determination of Islamist militants to "use the Internet for the sake of jihad." He suggested that the government be empowered to shut down Web sites that recruit suicide bombers and urged "an expeditious review of current domestic law to see what changes can be made within the protections of the 1st Amendment to ensure that free speech protection claims are not used to protect the advocacy of terrorism, violent conduct or the killing of innocents."

That's only a sample of the many big mouthfuls of rhetoric emanating from Mr. Gingrich on this topic, but you get the idea.

When he appeared on Meet the Press on Dec. 17, host Tim Russert asked him how his fantasy would work. Who would define such murky offenses as "advocacy of terrorism" or "violent conduct"?

Mr. Gingrich seemed to be annoyed by the question. His answer was not only unimpressive but also unintentionally funny.

"You close down any Web site that is jihadist," he said.

"But who makes that judgment?" insisted Mr. Russert.

"Look, I -- you can appoint three federal judges if you want to and say, 'Review this stuff and tell us which ones to close down.' I would just like to have them be federal judges who've served in combat," replied Mr. Gingrich.

Considering the source, that was a remarkably weird response. A panel of three judges who've served in combat? As a qualification for making crucial decisions about combating terrorists, combat service would surely eliminate Mr. Gingrich -- a certified chicken-hawk who loves war but successfully avoided the Vietnam draft -- from running for President.
Logic aside, he has offered at least one example of how he would apply his new set of speech standards. He believes that the six Muslim scholars who were removed from a plane in Minneapolis last month for such suspicious behavior as praying in the airport "should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists."

That ridiculous assertion could only have thrilled the leadership of Al Qaeda. Nothing they can ever put on a Web site or videotape will be nearly as effective in encouraging young Muslims to hate America and reject freedom as Mr. Gingrich's cloddish demagogy.

Some moron out there will acuse the media of being biased for asking tough querstions of Newty. I'm not feeling nice ... tough shit.

6 Swings of the bat:

Dad29 said...

Uhhhnnnhhh...yeah. There were a number of (real) Conservatives who were also in shock after those remarks.

Of course, the Left is not without stain. HRC refers to anti-abortion protesters as "terrorists," (without discriminating between those who ARE and those who merely pray.)

I note that neither Newt nor the Hildebeeste have retracted, really.

Other Side said...

I'm pleased that you are able to determine there are anti-choice protesters who ARE terrorists. Too bad that Paddy-Mac doesn't have the same intuitive sense as you ... i.e. Matt Trewhella ... a totalitarian wannabe (insert right-wing type here) if ever there was one.

Though ... I met one of his kids. He has his own landscaping business and was emplyed next door. I spoke with him and while he did not shy away entirely from his father's nonsense (he is his dad), he also did not appear to support it ... apparently the arrow can become its own entity once it leaves the quiver.

Hildebeeste (that's good) ... not all libs are behind her, though I think her less the monster than most neocons do.

multitudinal said...

I agree with you entirely. Freedom of speech should be absolute and unchallenged or america cannot call itself a free nation. I have written posts on the subject you may find interesting. Find me at;

Dad29 said...

Personally, I'm inclined to apply the label "terrorist" only AFTER someone has engaged in violence-with-intent-to-kill or maim people.

T. hasn't gone that far, and I don't think he will. He's more comfy with rhetorical bombs. While I'm sympathetic with individuals who are "extreme" in defense of life (shouldn't all of us be so?), I'm not sure that his methods are long-term effective.

Inronically, Dennis Miller has some thoughts about the Left's capacity for brutality. See my blog of today.

Other Side said...

"T" has explicity supported and encouraged those who have committed violence (Paul Hill, etc.). He's too much of a coward to do it himself, so he prods others.

He is extreme ... period, and it's not in defense of life.

Dad29 said...

Well, Paul Hill murdered someone and that's simply wrong.

Didn't know T was praising him for it. Too bad.