Skip to comments.Why the Helen Thomas Case Makes Me Nervous
Posted on 06/09/2010 12:51:56 PM PDT by Kaslin
A few months ago, a picture appeared in The Denver Post. On a local college campus -- an alleged stronghold of free inquiry and debate -- a leftist student, protesting some perceived injustice, was holding a sign that argued:
"Hate speech is not free speech!"
Perhaps this earnest 20-something had not fully thought through her illiberal position on "tolerable" political speech. Perhaps she was part of that broader movement that sees "hate" everywhere among its ideological opponents. Either way, it's tragic that so many young people misunderstand the idea of open debate -- or simply devalue liberty.
Some people accept that certain things cannot -- rather than should not -- be said. Beyond the worrisome assaults on free speech (fairness doctrines, higher education, etc.) there is a slipperier concern. Which brings me to Helen Thomas' now infamous and career-ending comment, in which she helpfully suggested that the Jews get "the hell out of Palestine."
True, I find some comfort in knowing that this unprofessional crackpot never will haunt a president, common sense or the public again. But I wince at the rapidity of her demise. And I feel a nagging anxiety about a journalist's losing her job over nothing more than a controversial statement.
"She should lose her job over this," former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said before Thomas gave in to a forced retirement. "As someone who is Jewish and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling."
Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former roving reporter for Hearst (which syndicated Thomas' column), in a letter urged the company "strenuously" to "cut all ties" with Thomas "as quickly as possible."
It seems an odd reaction, especially for conservatives, who are accused regularly of thought crimes and hate speech by outfits like Media Matters, which are in the business of smearing and discrediting those who disagree with them.
But an opinion -- in Thomas' case, an ugly opinion that in all probability is more common than some people might believe -- is no more than the strength of the logic behind it. As a regular defender of the moral right of Israel to fight the theocrats and fascists whom Thomas embraces, I never thought she was very credible or articulate on the topic, and she is unworthy of the over-the-top reactions of critics.
Nevertheless, at this point in her career, the 89-year-old was still a columnist for Hearst newspapers. A columnist offers provocative views. You don't have to like Thomas, and you don't have to read her columns, but having a disdain for Jews in general or Israel in particular is hardly the most offensive thought that's kicking around.
Though I don't hold an earthly stake in debates over God, Bill Maher's ludicrous anti-Catholic rants or a tome from a polemist like Christopher Hitchens (who condemns all religion as a dangerous farce) might be "appalling" to rather large swaths of the public. Are certain topics off the table?
Of course, I am not suggesting that Thomas has a birthright to sit in the front row at a White House news conference (a situation that hasn't made sense for at least three decades) or that anyone has an inalienable right to pontificate about the world for a newspaper chain or anyone else.
And no, I can't mourn the loss of Helen Thomas' detestable opinions. But at the same time, I can't help but feel some trepidation about the ease in which some voices -- in this case, one voice that is probably more honest than others of similar ideological disposition -- can be expelled from the conversation simply for offending.
She is/was, unfortunately, a cog in the machine. Very useful for dispensing biased news in her day.
"Well, you know, the Egyptians used to breed the strongest Jewish males with the most beautiful and strongest Jewish females to make stronger Jewish slaves to build their pyramids.
Did Congress make a law, Dave? No? Then STFU and worry about something important. Free speech doesn’t mean there are no consequences for your actions.
There was no ‘official’ dismissal of Helen Thomas. There was a public outcry which she could not withstand. If she were in the right, it would all die down.
Conservatives should always protect speech, all speech. That’s how you find out who the enemy is. Even back in the 60’s the mantra was, “I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to the death to say it.”
The trick is to not have the definition of right and wrong become ‘mixed’.
She was a columnist I heard. Free speech doesn't mean free of the repercussions.
There is no issue that she said it, afterall she has was not shot on site, nor has she received a show trial and execution date; therefore we have free speech. With that being said, I also enjoy free speech and have every right to mock her, protest her, and call for her firing. That is my right. And if my memory is correct, she decided to retire rather than endure the criticism. Hate speech is free speech but peopel have to remember it goes both ways. Word
The standards at Townhall have really slipped.
Gee, that never happened before. Ask Don Imus or Jimmy the Greek. Limbaugh got tossed from football play-by-play for his comment about McNab. When you make a controversial statement that puts the heat on your employer, you get the boot.
Here’s what’s great about the Helen Thomas debacle: It’s one of their guys for a change.
People on the Right are ALWAYS being destroyed for this sort of thing.
The only way to rid ourselves of this PC crap is to use it against the Left when we are able...
She does not have a right to continued employment, at the discretion of her employer.
Hint. It does not.
It is not like we need Helen Thomas to hear the (as Tony Snow put it MHRIP) “the Hezbollah view”.
Sedition, treason, espionage, libel, slander, perjury, and inciting a riot (including by yelling FIRE in a crowded theater) are all examples of speech that is not protected by the first amendment.
That said, "hate" speech is free speech. Within certain parameters.
There was nothing illegal about Helen's bigoted statement. However she was not guaranteed White House press credentials "by law". She was not guaranteed employment "in spite of ugly comments she may make".
Rush Limbaugh was libeled with bogus "racist quotes" on wikiquotes and denied the right to bid on a football franchise by the NFL. THAT was an illegal offense against Mr. Limbaugh.
Shoe is on the other foot now and the Left makes excuses and offers defense for the indefensible. Their wise old queen has been exposed as a hateful bigot who was supposed to be an "objective reporter" of the day's events.
I wonder if ADA covers writers with dementia.
Because a business is paying her for her words and she is therefore a representative of said company.
When her words damage their business, particularly when they are extreme, they have every right to dump her post-haste.
Free speech does not come at someone elses expense.
A society’s first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. These behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word-of-mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct.
Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. This failure to fully transmit value norms to subsequent generations represents another failing of the greatest generation.
- Walter Williams, Nov. 21, 2007
The hubris that let her guard down after such a ‘grand’ career let loose her bias. Free speech is free speech, no argument. Twisting international news for decades because you are a hate filled bigoted b****. Well, that is a little bit bit different.
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