Free speech and the delusion of grandeurKeith Olbermann responds to Newt Gingrich’s comments about free speech
Here, as promised, a special comment about free speech, failed speakers and the delusion of grandeur.
“This is a serious long-term war,” the man at the podium cried, “and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country.”
Some in the audience must have thought they were hearing an arsonist give the keynote address at a convention of firefighters.
This was the annual Loeb First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, N.H. — a public cherishing of freedom of speech — in the state with the two-fisted motto “Live Free Or Die.”
And the arsonist at the microphone, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was insisting that we must attach an “on-off button” to free speech.
He offered the time-tested excuse trotted out by our demagogues since even before the Republic was founded: widespread death, of Americans, in America, possibly at the hands of Americans.
But updated, now, to include terrorists using the Internet for recruitment. End result — “losing a city.”
The colonial English defended their repression with words like these.
And so did the slave states.
And so did the policemen who shot strikers.
And so did Lindbergh’s America First crowd.
And so did those who interned Japanese-Americans.
And so did those behind the Red Scare.
And so did Nixon’s plumbers.
The genuine proportion of the threat is always irrelevant.
The fear the threat is exploited to create becomes the only reality.
“We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find,” Mr. Gingrich continued about terrorists, formerly communists, formerly hippies, formerly Fifth Columnists, formerly anarchists, formerly Redcoats, “to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech.”
Mr. Gingrich, the British “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1770s.
The pro-slavery leaders “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1850s.
The FBI and CIA “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1960s.
It is in those groups where you would have found your kindred spirits, Mr. Gingrich.
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