Addendum: More On Free Speech

A recent article at the execrable online magazine Jezebel (one of the arms of Gawker – the sleaziest “news” outlet on the internet) is instructive in showing what leftists really think in regards to free speech. Long story short, they unapologetically announce that if you engage in speech they don’t like, they will do everything they can within the limits of the law to destroy you, including attempting to deprive you of your livelihood and ruin you economically. This works in two ways – first by actually destroying those who say things they don’t like (a la Paula Deen), and second by producing a chilling effect designed to terrify other potential critics into silence. Though this won’t shut down all opposition, it doesn’t really have to – to destroy effective opposition, it only has to work enough of the time. And it will – most people who don’t have a taste for martyrdom or penury (that is to say, most people) will keep their heads down, grumble to themselves, and say nothing.

I will, for the benefit of my readers, intentionally fall into the trap of believing that the leftist position here is sincere, and respond to it with sincerity. So here it is: free speech is not just a law; it’s a principle. The law (in this case, the First Amendment) merely codifies the principle. The principle is that society benefits most when all ideas – no matter how sane or crazy, orthodox or heretical, popular or scandalous, sacred or obscene – are given their chance to be presented in the marketplace of ideas so that they can be fairly received and evaluated, and then accepted or rejected by the citizens. For you to say – and it is what you’re saying – that you will do everything you possibly can do, with your only limits being the restraints imposed on you by the law, to intimidate people who oppose you into silence, or to harm them as much as you possibly can if they do choose to risk speaking out, shows that you have no understanding of nor respect for the principle of free speech whatsoever.

Of course, I don’t believe in absolute, untrammeled free speech either, for reasons I shall go into in more detail in a future column. But – and this what separates me from the liars and hypocrites of the left – I also haven’t, as they have, spent the last couple of centuries shouting from the rooftops that free speech was one of my most deeply-held, non-negotiable core principles. And that is the point of the exercise: to demonstrate once again that the left has no principles, only ideology. Any time that a leftist tells you that they have any core principles (with the sole possible exception of limitless sexual freedom), they are lying. Things like this prove why you should never give them the benefit of the doubt.

P. S. As a monarchist, I can assure you that no King with any self-confidence, self-respect, or dignity would sink so low as to seek to devote time and resources to finding and punishing a rodeo clown in a rural province for engaging in a few minutes of mild lampooning at the His Majesty’s expense. And he wouldn’t do it even if he wanted to – he’d know that it would make him a genuine laughingstock, as it would cause the nobles and people to see him as an insecure, petulent, overgrown child.

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Jon Stewart = Idiocracy

For many years, I heard people – intellectuals, media critics, activists – complaining about the “infotainmentization” of news. The news, we were told, was not like the old Murrow/Cronkite days of hard-hitting journalism, but was increasingly becoming an entertainment product – dumbed down, more concerned with stirring emotions than presenting facts, less and less serious and adult. I should point out that most of these critics were on the left, politically – and also that I have long agreed with them.

Ladies and gentlemen, I assert that “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are the living embodiment of everything that these people had complained about for decades, and the perfect reflection of our current state of Idiocracy. I further assert that the fact that these shows lean left politically has indemnified them from the full brunt of criticism to which these critics would otherwise have subjected them, and which they richly deserve.

We now have millions of Americans who get their news and political commentary from the Comedy Network – and who consider themselves knowledgeable and sophisticated for it. Am I really the only one who sees a problem with this? Am I really the only one who thinks that Jon Stewart’s middlebrow know-it-all routine is a shit substitute for actual news or sober, informed, in-depth commentary? Sure, Stewart is a smart guy. So was Mark Russell, and yet if I said that I got my serious news and commentary from him, people would tell me I was a damn fool. But these days, people will look at you as if you’re a mouth-breathing rube for not knowing what Jon Stewart said last night – i.e., for refusing to get your news from a standup comedian on Comedy Central.

To those who claim that it is simply a meaningless comedy show, and I should not take it seriously at all, I say this: If Stewart and Colbert wanted to do a pure comedy that spoofs the news, they could do a 30 minute version of the news segment of Saturday Night Live, or of Jay Leno’s nightly monologue. But that’s not what they do – they talk about serious politics in at least some depth, and with very serious points to be made behind it. And occasional disclaimers in interviews aside, neither of them have done anything serious to discourage people from using their shows as serious news and commentary. Why would they? They wouldn’t want to drive their audience away.

Actual news can be found plenty of places. Al Jazeera streaming is free on the internet. BBC, RTE, CBC, NHK English, and PBS produce multiple daily news podcasts, which are also free. If you go to the CNN International website (as opposed to the US-focused website), you’ll find real news. Smart, well-informed columnists abound on all sides of the political spectrum, from the liberals of Counterpunch to the conservatives of Taki’s Magazine to the libertarians of lewrockwell.com to unclassifiables like Fred Reed. All are better options than getting your news and views from the Comedy channel.

So, everyone, I beg you: Stop going to comedians to get your news and commentary! Or at least, stop doing that and acting like you’re an intellectual for doing so. People who get their news from comedians aren’t well-informed. Why does anyone even have to point that out? It’s like what Orwell said about, in crazy times, it being the increasingly the duty of sane people to point out the obvious.