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Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

Camille Paglia, an honest left-of-center commenter on all things political, takes Obama to task:

There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama’s aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.

You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you’re happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

And on the dubious condemnation of angry American citizens, she adds:

And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the “mob” — a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.

But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration’s outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable “casual conversations” to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.

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I’ve almost always been opposed to any limits on campaign spending, campaign contributions, or spending by single-issue advocacy groups, nor am I fond of most of the other power-preservation techniques the media-coastal elite promote as “campaign finance reform.”  That said, having lived in Illinois, I do know that it matters if the few guys that contribute to the campaign of a senator or governor miraculously also get all kinds of government contracts, sinecure power-sharing jobs, and the like.  In other words, some disclosure of spending to politicians may be warranted to detect corruption associated certain kinds of lobbying.

I would make distinctions between spending tied to personal financial gain and those tied to the concerns of the broader community.  Surely, political action and spending activity is on a bit of a continuum.  On one extreme, are purely ideological groups like the NRA and the ACLU.  On the other are the Aluminum Manufacturers Association or the National Association of Home Builders.   Perhaps a third group would be groups like AIPAC or the Serbian Unity Congress that have formal and informal ties with foreign powers.   More middling groups would be organizations like the AMA or the AARP.  The latter seek goods for their members, but those members are sufficiently disbursed among the community to have at least some arguable claim on the public interest.

One problem with reporting political donations is that groups fighting for purely ideological goods are lumped in with groups engaged in naked rent-seeking.  In California, this reporting requirement has led to particularly ugly outcomes, as otherwise anonymous opponents of gay marriage have been harassed, boycotted, and unable quietly to support a cause they believe in.  A website has even popped up to show anyone and everyone the opponents’ home addresses.

Those who contribute to political causes are a distinct minority in society.  They exercise disproportionate power.  It’s appropriate that corruption be detected and avoided, and thus ordinary political donations above a certain amount probably should be reported, but beyond this requirement most of the the campaign finance rules are noxious, tending to empower incumbents and the mainstream media above organized pluralities of decentralized citizens.  Even distinguishing one lobbying from another carries with it certain risks, as groups on the margins like AIPAC or the AARP are clearly in the middle of the spectrum of rent-seeking and purely ideological political activity, and any set of rules should probably err on the side of nondisclosure.

In no sensible world, however, should Americans be required to condition their First Amendment right to anonymous speech, including the “speech” of supporting political causes, on the risks of harassment by violent opponents, such as certain cadres of gay marriage supporters in the counter-cultural cesspool that is California.  Far from ending corruption, this leads to a new kind of corruption, the corruption of private violence against those with popular or at least defensible views from organized and recalcitrant factions.

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Barack Obama, like so many demagogues with a surrounding cult of personality, is now taking things surprisingly far, particularly as he has not yet won this election. He has enlisted law enforcement in Missouri to create a Barack Obama truth squad who will prosecute anyone who “lies” about Obama. The civil law of defamation and slander is apparently not enough for him, nor is it enough apparently for the Missouri law enforcement folks to at least give themselves a neutral label.

Obama is already in a bit of hot water for having his associates inundate news and radio outlets that host critics of Obama on the air, as if news is obligated not to criticize him.

This guy’s arrogance nearly cost him the primary. Middle of the road, working class, and elderly voters seem less impressed than young people and educated white liberals by his smooth talking schtick, seeing instead a guy with few accomplishments and a very exaggerrated sense of entitlement. (By way of example, in his debates with McCain, he said “As President” several times, rather than “if I’m given the privilege to be President . . .”)

This is actually scary stuff. Liberals have spent the last four years making both reasonable and unreasonable criticisms of the expansion of presidential power through items such as the Patriot Act and the Total Information Awareness project. Coupled with McCain-Feingold, Presidential power can easily be abused to alter an election. It’s something Bush has not done, to his credit. But can the Chicago machine politician wrapped up in the labeling of an ethical reformer promise the same? It’s hard to imagine this cynical guy who attached himself to some of the most unsavory people around–Tony Rezko, Jeremiath Wright, Bill Ayers–in a city famous for its corruption would not abuse presidential power in the form of various degrees of censorship for the narrow purpose of helping himself and his associates.

Political speech is at the core of First Amendment protections. It has long been safe from “prior restraint” and surrounded with broad protections, particularly in debatable questions of opinion and mixed questions of opinion and fact. It appears some overzelaous law enforcement perssonnel are going to shield Obama from the most anodyne criticisms under the rubric of combatting lies. Historically, the good sense of the American people, the news media, and the campaigns themselves performed this function.

What now will happen when people say Obama has associated with terrorists (he has) or visited Pakistan as a young man (he did) or went to a church that spewed anti-American hatred for twenty years (he did that too). Will these facts be labeled lies? Will the zealousness of his enthralled supporters undermine one of the most important American rights in the name of combatting hate and rumors? Obama’s rhetoric is the language of censorship nearly everywhere: it’s always cited as necessary to stop corruption and agitation. It’s the language of Huge Chavez and Valdimir Lenin alike.

Bush’s exercises of power are subject to a great deal of skepticism and media criticism, as well as resistance from his own party. This is overall a good thing. Who, however, will resist Obama when his favorite charge–racism–will be levied so promiscuously at those frail creatures of the media and the cultural elite, and elite which is easily stopped in its tracks by the very suggestion?

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In Canada, Europe, and elsewhere there is a steady decline in free speech.  Like many other assaults on freedom–the welfare state, affirmative action–this is an assault perpetrated in the name of equality.  In the Jena Six incident in Louisiana, it was disturbing to hear so many Americans, black and white, calling for criminal investigations of young boys for a mischievous, if tasteless, presentation of nooses in school.  The new face of oppression, like the old one, will come with smiles, it will be here “for our own good,” and its functionaries will remind us they’re doing this only so that we can all get along.

Without getting into all the nuances, all conservatives should agree that the “hate speech” trend is one that will suffocate the crown jewel of European and North American civilization:  free debate, free inquiry, idiosyncratic individualism, and a commitment to truth.  The exchange below is chilling, not least because the inquisitor is so bland, like a human resources specialist that can also throw you in jail. 

Some Canadian Muslims complained about the publication of satirical cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed.  Canada obligingly has investigated the publisher.  Ezra Levant, the freedom-loving publisher of a Canadian newspaper, explains what should be obvious to the politically correct functionary with all of the passion that this issue deserves.

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