Thursday, April 20, 2006

"It would not be possible for Noah to do in our day what he was permitted to do in his own...The inspector would come and examine the Ark, and make all sorts of objections." - Mark Twain

The Euston Manifesto

I highly recommend reading the Euston Manifesto. It’s a website for a new alliance of liberals who oppose the extremism that has developed on the left in recent years. A great site for any of you who believe in a realistic liberal political philosophy. I personally do not agree to every tenant of their manifesto, but I think the basic concept is dead on.
Who says no one cares what bloggers think?

Malkin vs. SAW

Michelle Malkin is at it again. She has recently come under fire for posting the contact information for the ‘Students Against War’ (SAW) organizers who kicked military recruiters off the UCSC campus a week or so ago. SAW’s actions at this career fair, which consisted of about 100 protestors stopping anyone from talking with the military, appears to be the biggest news in SC Indymedia history. They can’t get enough of it; there are a good 10 articles about it up on their site at this moment. Of course, any honest discussion about the objectives and actions of SAW is censored, but this is Indymedia so that is to be expected.

SAW had released their personal contact information on a press release, so it was not exactly private information. In fact, I can effortlessly find all of the information posted on Malkin’s site on a slew of others endorsed by SAW itself. Because of Malkin’s blog post, the SAW organizers have received a slew of unsavory phone calls and emails. The discussion now taking place is whether or not Malkin was unethical in posting that contact information.

I personally feel a bit torn on this issue. Press releases often contain contact information; how else would the press be able to contact the organization? SAW has all of this information available online. If someone wanted to give SAW a piece of their mind, a quick google search would produce the required information. Malkin on the other hand, posted their numbers specifically so that her readers would bomb the organization with angry calls. Malkin often complains about receiving hate mail and having her opponents give out her personal contact info, so it seems a bit hypocritical that she would then turn around and condone the same behavior.

On the other hand, SAW did not plan their actions accordingly. I have yet to see a protest conducted by the group that was anything but symbolic and press-centered. They did not stop the military from recruiting on campus; they just made a big fuss at a career fair. The organization is interested in media coverage, and these types of stunts get them that. I would even wager that SAW hurts that anti-war movement with its extreme rhetoric. None the less, with the increased media coverage and criticism the group is facing, I am sure its organizers will think twice about giving their personal contact information on a press release again.

None of this excuses anyone who called and left death threats. I think it is reasonable to contact SAW and explain why you found their actions reprehensible, but if the best you can muster is personal threats, then you need to just shut up. The world needs fewer bullies who result to that kind of behavior every time things don’t go their way. Write letters, debate, protest the group if you like, but keep it civil. SAW needs to have these types of threats and confrontations. It is what feeds the ego’s of its members. They can now walk away from this career fair ordeal feeling like young Che Guevaras.

Let us confront SAW from a practical and liberal standpoint, and not engage in the very behavior they routinely practice.

Monday, April 17, 2006

South Park = #1 Infidels

Churchill: "I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. it is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet."

Over at Dean’s World, there is a hot debate raging about the Muhammad incident on South Park last week. In case you missed it, South Park was going to have a representation of the prophet Muhammad on the show, but was censored by Comedy Central. The last minute of the program, which was deemed suitable by Comedy Central however, depicted Jesus and George Bush crapping on the American flag and each other. It exposed a great hypocrisy as to what is allowed on television and what is not in this new world we live in. Better yet, it offered us an opportunity to discuss what an independent broadcaster's responsibility is to free speech and the public safety.

I found this whole ordeal completely ridiculous. I consider myself a Christian and a patriot, but I honestly did not have a problem with South Park using Jesus Christ and the flag to make their point. Even if they were not making a point, and just wanted to stir up the pot a bit, I likely would have been ambivalent.

I have issues with folks who feel the need to constantly stick their thumb in the eye of organized religion. But the right to free speech morally trumps someone’s hurt feelings. If you find a show/art exhibit/ book offensive, avoid it. Protest it even; but having your feelings hurt is not a legitimate reason for the suppression of our most cherished right.

I find it hard to believe that there would have been any serious financial problems created for Comedy Central upon showing Muhammad in a South Park episode. Something tells me that hardcore Islamic militants probably don’t tune in to catch Stan, Kyle, and Cartman’s latest escapades. The only reason I can envision for censoring such a thing is the hurt feelings of an extreme minority of people. The hurt feelings of certain right wing Christians obviously was permissible however.

I should not say that some extremists’ hurt feelings are the only reason they censored the cartoon. With the recent violent riots throughout the world over the Danish Muhammad cartoons, it is clear that some folks may have used this episode of South Park to bring more chaos upon those who they find blasphemous.

I pray that this is not the new face of free speech in the west. That if someone threatens violence against us for the things we allow folks to say and believe, an effort is made to appease such browbeats. If this is the path we have elected to take in the west, then our most cherished liberties is as good as dead.

I think every American has to ask themselves this: do we want to censor something as trivial as a cartoon because a small group of people threaten violence? Forget cartoons, do we want intolerant bullies to dictate what we can and can not say? Now that we have a real free speech issue to defend, will we stand up and preserve it?