Thursday, September 03, 2009

Beck, Letterman and Censorship

It appears that Fox News host Glenn Beck has gotten himself into some trouble of late. According to the New York Daily News, he referred to President Barack Obama as racist:
The combustable Beck ignited a firestorm when, during a Tuesday morning appearance on FNC's freewheeling "Fox and Friends," he said the President's reaction to the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest situation in Cambridge, Mass., suggested a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

To his credit, "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade — who recently had to apologize for comments he made about racial issues — immediately responded, saying that most of the faces people see of the Obama administration are white, such as spokesman Robert Gibbs or chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

"I'm not saying he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem," Beck responded. "This guy is, I believe, a racist."

Around the Internet, this comment seems to have outraged a number of people, to the point where there is a Facebook poll asking if Beck should be fired. Funny how the same people calling for beck to be fired for suggesting that Obama is racist were silent when late-night host Dave Letterman suggested that baseball player Alex Rodriguez had sex with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's 14-year old daughter. As reported by the Hollywood Grind,
On Tuesday’s show, David Letterman joked in his opening monologue that the Alaska Governor Sarah Palin visited Yankee Stadium, sitting in "far, far right field" with Rudy Giuliani. "They had a wonderful time," he continued. "The toughest part of her visit was keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter." Letterman also said that Alex Rodriquez knocked up Palin’s daughter at the game, except the daughter at the game was not 18 year-old Bristol Palin, it was Palin’s 14 year-old daughter.

Neither Beck's nor Letterman's comments are useful additions to political discourse in this country, and both are despicable. However, I disagreed with the campaign to ask CBS to fire Letterman and I also disagree with the campaign to have Fox fire Beck. What both these campaigns are trying to accomplish is pure censorship, albeit in the name of decency. I ask those calling for him to be fired - do you agree with censorship? Because that is what you are proposing. By all means show your disapproval and refute his statements. But to try to get him fired for speech with which you disagree is censorship, which is anathema to me. Censorship makes totalitarian governments like Cuba and Communist China possible.

As far as Beck and Letterman and all the other commentators making extreme statements - and yes, this definitely includes the many on the Left who used Nazi terminology to refer to former President Bush for the last eight years - should they face some sort of discipline? Maybe, but that is up to their employers. As far as we consumers, we can choose not to watch their shows. But we should never risk employing the whip of censorship. The power of censorship, once granted to a government authority, can never be revoked and can easily be employed against any subject. Censorship is the weapon most desired by totalitarian governments, and we should be exceedingly wary in its use here. Censorship in a war zone to protect troops? Absolutely. Censorship for two brainless commentators? Both needless and dangerous. The First Amendment was written for a reason and that reason has everything to do with political speech.

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