Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Congressional ethics’ Category

 

The image “http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/rids/20070104/i/r103871889.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I must admit, my knowledge of Representative Keith Ellison continues to be somewhat limited at this point. In essence, I don’t feel that I am competently educated about the man to create a cogent or informed opinion of who he is. However, since this is not the New York Times, but in fact a blog, I will endeavour to do my best.

I know about as much concerning Ellison as Ellison knew of the Symbionese Liberation Army when, back in 2000, he was passionately defending convicted terrorist and former SLA member, Kathleen Soliah, more mundanely known as Sarah Jane Olsen. From the proceeding article…

Before finishing his speech, Ellison admitted his knowledge of the SLA was deficient.

My point is that I remember the SLA. I was 12 years old when it hit the news in 1974. I remember the name, I remember the made-for-TV movie with Patty Hearst, who was ‘taken away by the SLA’ and by this black guy named Cinque, who strutted around and was real scary. And clearly these people were ‘bad to the bone.’ And as I began to read about the SLA, they were talking about rights for poor people. … I mean I’m not trying to say the SLA is – I don’t even know enough about the SLA to tell you about the SLA, but I can tell you what they stated … they were in favor of: It had to do with fighting poverty and fighting racism and stuff like that. I’m not even here to tell you how they did it, because I don’t know.”

Is this what Minnesota can expect from its congressman–a man who conducts no research into the subjects with whom he is championing? If I didn’t know better, I’d get the impression that Ellison supported what the SLA did; if I didn’t know better. Of course, what’s even more depressing is the fact that Ellison is simply more of the same in regards to America’s politicians–uninformed and uninterested.

The image “http://www.courttv.com/graphics/trials/soliah/soliah_headgraphic.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Muslim congressman called for terrorist’s release in 2000
Ellison spoke at fund-raiser for woman from group that tried to kill Feinstein


Posted: January 21, 2007
7:00 p.m. Eastern
By Jay Baggett
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Minnesota freshman Rep. Keith Ellison for his recent swearing-in ceremony, the controversy over his taking the oath of office on the Quran overshadowed his earlier role in supporting a terrorist whose group tried to kill policemen and allegedly twice tried to murder Pelosi’s fellow San Francisco lawmaker Sen. Dianne Feinstein. On Feb.12, 2000, Ellison joined Bernadine Dohrn, one of the founders of the 1960s radical group the Weather Underground, and several other speakers at a fundraiser for recently arrested Kathleen Soliah, a.k.a. Sara Jane Olson.


Kathleen Soliah, a.k.a. Sara Jane Olson

Soliah – who along with a small band of Bay Area radicals took in Bill and Emily Harris and Patty Hearst, the last surviving members of the Symbionese Liberation Army following the May 17, 1974, shootout in Los Angeles – had been on the run since the three SLA “soldiers” were captured in September 1975.

Initially charged with planting pipe bombs under two police cars in Los Angeles in August 1975, Soliah was later charged in Sacramento for the murder of a bank customer killed in an April 1975 holdup after the victim’s son exerted pressure through the media to reopen the case. Hearst, in her 1981 book, “Every Secret Thing,” described the bungled robbery as an SLA operation in which she, Soliah, the Harrises and several others participated.

Soliah, arrested in St. Paul, Minn., in June 1999 and living under the name Sara Jane Olson, initially denied being Soliah or a member of the SLA. The upper-middle class doctor’s wife was described by friends – several of whom were members of the state legislature – as an actress in community theater, a gourmet cook and a soccer mom who read books to the blind. People Magazine even did an article on her, featuring her well-appointed Highland Park home, and casting her as a Martha Stewart-type homemaker.

But as the long-forgotten story of the SLA was resurrected in the media and as the Los Angeles district attorney began to present the voluminous evidence, stored for over 25 years, Soliah-Olson shed the Martha Stewart image and presented herself as the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and surrounded herself with SLA attorneys, ’60s radicals and their sympathizers.

On Feb. 12, 2000, Soliah-Olson and her supporters held a forum and auction fundraiser for her defense in St. Paul. Among the speakers was Keith Ellison, a local criminal defense attorney, activist and radio talk-show host.

His speech is still preserved on an archived copy of the now-defunct Soliah-Olson defense website.

Ellison, who frequently defended black gang members in his practice, linked the prosecution of Soliah-Olson to notable radicals Geronimo Pratt and Mumia Abu Jamal.

“For the people who want to incarcerate Sara Jane Olson, ain’t nothing changed,” said Ellison. “As a matter of fact, they want to settle scores with Sara Jane Olson and others who were fighting for freedom in the ’60s and ’70s.

“… And like many of my clients, Sara Jane Olson has a public defender. Do you understand what I’m saying? Because she cannot afford to pay for her defense all by herself. Do you understand what I’m saying? I mean, the reality is, Sara Jane Olson, basically – is a black gang member – as far as I can see.

“… I think, just like the people who want to come together and lock up Sara, we need to come together and free Sara. And all the Saras, because she’s not the only one.”

Ellison, crediting the speech given by Dohrn earlier that evening, continued.

“This is not about justice,” he said. “This is not about accountability, this is not about public safety. This is about symbolism. This is about making a point. This is about saying to you and to me that we are going to get you if you ever try to stand against what we’re about. We’re going to get you. And we’re going to lock you up and we don’t care how long it takes, we’re going to get you.”

Before finishing his speech, Ellison admitted his knowledge of the SLA was deficient:

“My point is that I remember the SLA. I was 12 years old when it hit the news in 1974. I remember the name, I remember the made-for-TV movie with Patty Hearst, who was ‘taken away by the SLA’ and by this black guy named Cinque, who strutted around and was real scary. And clearly these people were ‘bad to the bone.’ And as I began to read about the SLA, they were talking about rights for poor people. … I mean I’m not trying to say the SLA is – I don’t even know enough about the SLA to tell you about the SLA, but I can tell you what they stated … they were in favor of: It had to do with fighting poverty and fighting racism and stuff like that. I’m not even here to tell you how they did it, because I don’t know.

“… And so, I just want to welcome you for your contribution to the struggle and thank those of you who have been maintaining the struggle over the years, and say, “Hey, free Sara!”

Thirty-three months after Ellison’s call for Soliah-Olson’s release, she, the Harrises, and Michael Bortin, pleaded guilty to the shotgun murder of Myrna Opsahl, the bank customer killed in the SLA robbery. Soliah-Olson also pleaded guilty to placing pipe bombs under LAPD police cars. A fifth member, James Kilgore, was later captured in South Africa and sentenced for bomb possession and Opsahl’s murder.

The focus on the SLA in Soliah-Olson’s trial distracted attention from her own violent history before and after coming into contact with the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst. Over a year before the SLA came into existence, Soliah, her brother, Bortin and Kilgore were questioned in connection with a bomb factory discovered in a Berkeley garage. Bortin and a second man were arrested in connection with the bomb lab and convicted and sentenced for possessing an ammonium-nitrate bomb. Based on information developed by the Alameda County district attorney, the pair was suspected of 10 bombings in 1971 and one in 1972, the latter involving a tack-grenade bomb – housed in a beer can – tossed into a bar across the street from the San Francisco Hall of Justice frequented by police officers and court personnel.

During the latter half of 1974, when the Harrises and Hearst were hiding out on a Pennsylvania farm, Kathleen Soliah, her brother, Kilgore and Bortin were setting off bombs in the Bay Area under the banner of the New World Liberation Front, a name announced in the first SLA communique after the Harrises and Hearst came under the protection of Soliah in June 1974.

Vin McLellan and Paul Avery, in their 1977 book “The Voices of Guns,” documented more than 10 Bay Area bombings by Soliah’s NWLF in late 1974 and 1975:

  • Aug. 6, 1974: Bomb failed to explode at Burlingame office of General Motors Acceptable Corporation;

  • Sept. 3, 1974: Bomb exploded in the San Francisco office of Dean Witter and Company;

  • Sept. 13, 1974: Bomb exploded at the Palo Alto office of Dean Witter and Company;

  • Sept. 28, 1974: Bomb exploded in a warehouse of an ITT subsidiary in San Leandro;

  • Oct. 2, 1974: Bomb exploded in a women’s restroom of the ITT-owned Sheraton-Palace Hotel in San Francisco;

  • Oct. 30, 1974: Bomb exploded at the Los Altos Hills home of retired ITT president Robert Halleck;

  • Nov. 6, 1974: Seven meter maid three-wheeled motorcycles blown up in a Berkeley parking lot;

  • Dec. 19, 1974: Bomb exploded in the San Francisco office of General Motors Corporation;

  • Feb. 3, 1975: Bomb exploded at the San Jose office of General Motors Corporation;

  • Feb. 4, 1975: Double bombing at Pillar Point Air Force Radar Station near Half Moon Bay and the Vulcan Foundry in Oakland;

  • Feb. 6, 1975: Pipe bomb exploded at KRON-TV station in San Francisco;

  • Aug. 4, 1975: Three NWLF fire bombs exploded in the carport of the Woodside home of Charles de Brettville, chairman of the Bank of California, a director of Pacific Gas and Electric, Shell Oil, Western Union and Safeway Stores, Inc;

  • Aug. 14, 1975: The NWLF claimed credit for bombing of an Emeryville police cruiser.

By February 1975, the Bay Area was averaging one bombing every 16 days. The NWLF was linked to more than 70 bombings by authorities, mostly in Northern California.


FBI wanted poster

McLellan and Avery wrote:

“The NWLF messages had a standing invitation to other groups to adopt the name, and there were apparently one or more independent ‘NWLF’ units that became active in bombings – but according to Hearst’s FBI confessions, it was Bill Harris and the ‘second team’ who were behind most of the two dozen NWLF bombings over the following nine months. (‘The Harrises were the g*****n NWLF!’ said one Patty-briefed source, mixing admiration and exasperation.)”

After the FBI dragnet that caught Hearst and the Harrises failed to capture Soliah in September 1975, she and Kilgore continued setting off bombs under the name of the NWLF. On Feb 12, 1976, 24 years to the day before Ellison’s plea to “free Sara,” authorities say Soliah and Kilgore set off a bomb at the historic Hearst Castle on California’s central coast, causing $1 million in damage. The pair were identified from photographs by tourists who escaped the blast. The NWLF communique that followed demanded the Hearst family contribute $250,000 to the defense of the Harrises.

The following night, a deputy sheriff patrolling near Woodside in the south Bay Area was shot by two gunmen as he investigated suspicious activity beneath an electric transmission tower adjacent to the freeway. The officer interrupted the pair’s efforts before the bomb they were setting could be exploded. The NWLF took credit for shooting the officer.

One of the NWLF’s better-known targets in 1976 was then-San Francisco Supervisor Dianne Feinstein.

In 1995, Feinstein, by now a U.S. senator, testified at Senate hearings on terrorism where she explained why she carried a concealed weapon:

“Because less than 20 years ago I was the target of a terrorist group. It was the New World Liberation Front. They blew up power stations and put a bomb at my home when my husband was dying of cancer. And the bomb didn’t detonate. … I was very lucky. But, I thought of what might have happened. Later the same group shot out all the windows of my home. “And, I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself, because that’s what I did. I was trained in firearms. I’d walk to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me.”

Last week, Ellison was named to the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over civil liberties, immigration and the courts. He said he would like to see a ban on racial profiling and will work to restore civil liberties he says have been rolled back by the Bush administration, Associated Press reported.

Jon Opsahl, son of the woman killed by the SLA, told WND: “It does seem to confirm that, unfortunately, intelligence and integrity are not prerequisites for political office in this country in general and in Minnesota in particular.”

http://monopolis.chez-alice.fr/images/Patty-Hearst-hold.jpg

Read Full Post »

Photo

“Politicians are dumb everywhere. There are very few smart, well-meaning politicians.”
– Hecubus

That is a quote from little old me from this story concerning Chicago’s ban on The Nativity Story advertising. As much as I believe that statement, little did I predict that a politician would emerge this quickly and demonstrate so thoroughly his lack of knowledge in matters he had better well have a near-expert understanding. Please meet your new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat from Texas, a man who possesses an obvious flair for the obtuse.

Below is an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for the Congressional Quarterly. In his time with the incoming HIC Chairman, Stein asked some fairly basic, and fairly simple questions concerning Islam, Iraq, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Reyes’ mental acuity is shocking–not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t (but certainly should) know.

[Of course, Republicans prooved just as moronic in a previous interview under similar circumstances, but they don't head the House Intelligence Committee either. ]

Now you may say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know all the answers,” or “those are some pretty tough questions.” That’s fine. But your job doesn’t likely require you to know all of the answers to the questions posed by Stein. It’s disturbing that the soon to be leader of the House Intelligence Committee, whose job it is to be intimately familiar with subjects and issues such as Islam, Iraq, Shiites vs. Sunnis, and al-Qaeda, has barely a clue as to what those concepts and entities entail. Reyes doesn’t even do a passable job stumbling his way through the interview with the typical politicized pat answers that all politicians practice religiously when standing in front of a mirror.

But in all honesty, the questions in the interview are not difficult to anyone who keeps up with current world events, and I found myself becoming very angry with Reyes and the intellectual vacuum in which he resides . This man has no clue, and he has no right to sit as Chairman for a committee whose expertise lies in the areas in which he was queried.

Oh well, Nancy Pelosi picks another winner to lead the nation. She would have been much better off choosing Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), who does have the understanding and expertise necessary for the Chairman post, but Pelosi’s personal issues with Harman prevented her from making the right choice. Way to go, Pelosi.

The image “http://veterans.house.gov/images/hearings/4-21-99ben/reyes.JPG” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt.
Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep.
Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and
Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.

Haunting

The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Queries Vex New Chair of Intelligence

Reuters
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A07

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda‘s Islamic roots in a recent interview.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), whom incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named earlier this month to chair the panel, formally known as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter from Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” Reyes replied.

From Osama bin Laden down, al-Qaeda’s leadership is comprehensively Sunni and subscribes to a form of Sunni Islam known for not tolerating theological deviation.

In fact, U.S. officials blame al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the surge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Asked to describe the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a story published online Friday, Reyes responded “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah” and then said, “Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?”

The Texas congressman later added: “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes, a former Border Patrol agent and an opponent of the Iraq war, was chosen for the intelligence committee post over the panel’s two top-ranking Democrats, Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).

Reyes’s office issued a statement yesterday noting that the interview covered a wide range of topics.

“As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al-Qaeda’s desire to harm Americans. The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us,” Reyes said in the statement.

Read Full Post »

http://infowars.net/pictures/news_files/Oct05/311005freespeech.jpg

I don’t know whether lives have been placed in jeopordy as a result of a decision made by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal to publish reports of a CIA/Treasury program that investigated financial records for possible terrorists and terrorist threats.  Bush and the Republican led Congress have only indicated that yes, lives probably have been placed at risk.

What does that mean to me?  Nothing.  Mainly because Bush and his crew have done little to instill within me any sense of their own culpability in just about every issue addressed by them for the past six years.

Taking this into account, with any lack of true fore-sight into what might happen as a result of that story being published by news outlets, I believe it was their duty as members of the free-press to reveal the story to the public.

In the wake of Bush’s tirade against the newspapers (and to be fair his own people for having leaked the story in the first place) congress is now drafting a strongly worded resolution lambasting the New York Times in particular for making the decision to publish the bank records piece.  Many members of congress are even suggesting that members of the press, namely the NY Times, should have their White House credentials revoked, prohibiting them from covering any news within the that building.

Might I say, what a bunch of fucking retards.  This has got to be the biggest do-nothing congress in the history of the country, failing even to push through the most inane bills, and they have the gall to draft a resolution damning the press–the very community they should be protecting since they’re the torchbearers of the first amendment’s most embraced, basic, and easily understood concept:  freedom of speech.

In keeping with this idea, here’s another thoughtful piece from one of SFGate’s resident OpEd writers, Cinnamon Stillwell concerning hate speech, political correctness, and free speech.

When Speech Becomes a Crime
Cinnamon Stillwell
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

  • Roman Catholic Robert Smith is fired from an appointment on the Washington Metro transit authority board by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich for the crime of saying that he doesn’t approve of homosexuality.
  • Journalist and author Oriana Fallaci cannot visit her native country of Italy for fear of being thrown in prison because of a lawsuit brought against her by the Italian Muslim Union for the crime of “defaming Islam.”
  • British neo-Nazi David Irving is sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for a 1989 speech in which he committed the crime of Holocaust denial.
  • College Republican Steve Hinkle is found guilty by California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) for “disruption” for the crime of putting up a flyer advertising a black conservative speaker.

What do the above examples have in common?  They are the logical outgrowth of a dangerous trend sweeping the Western world: the criminalization and censorship of speech.

Outright censorship and draconian speech codes have long been a staple of Third World authoritarian regimes. But Western democracies and in particular the United States (where the First Amendment is supposed to reign supreme) have always prided themselves on protecting free speech. Yet because of the creeping reach of political correctness, one can now be put in prison, lose a job, be kicked out of school or be otherwise censored simply for uttering an unpopular opinion.

It’s called hate speech. If there ever were a more Orwellian concept, it would be difficult to find. For much like the concept of  “thought crimes” in George Orwell’s novel “1984,” hate crimes and hate speech suppose intent on the part of the “perpetrator” that may or may not have any basis in reality. What is often mere criticism or disapproval is labeled “hatred” and thus made worthy of punishment. Such a perspective demands that one think only nice thoughts about others. But when it did it become law that we have to like everyone?

While bigotry is indeed unpleasant, it is not in and of itself a crime. Whether one acts on that bigotry or incites others to violence in accordance is another matter. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” comes to mind.

Creating Revisionist Martyrs

Even highly objectionable speech such as Holocaust denial should not be criminalized. Such speech would be better fought on the battlefield of ideas than in the courtroom. The academic frauds and conspiracists pushing Holocaust denial should have their work thoroughly discredited and challenged, not censored.

Furthermore, throwing Holocaust deniers in prison merely creates martyrs, which is quite obvious upon perusing any one of the many Web sites that push such views. David Irving, for instance, was turned into a folk hero by his fellow neo-Nazis after being sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for Holocaust denial. While Irving has a long history of promoting Nazism, anti-Semitism, and, yes, Holocaust denial, whether such beliefs constitute criminal acts is questionable.

Author and Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt agrees. Lipstadt knows David Irving well, having gone head to head with him in a libel suit that dragged on for years. In the end, Irving lost the suit against Lipstadt for accusing him of Holocaust denial, yet she too is opposed to the sort of speech codes that sent him to prison. As Lipstadt told the BBC: “I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don’t believe in winning battles via censorship. … The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth.”

Far from protecting those on the receiving end, in this case Jews, such restrictions on speech may actually provide succor to worldwide anti-Semitism. It has certainly given anti-Semites within the Muslim world yet another “Jewish conspiracy” to focus on. Instead of accepting responsibility for the intolerance and backwardness demonstrated in the reaction to the manufactured Danish cartoon “controversy,” such Muslims instead point to the hypocrisy of Jews in Western countries who promote free speech in some cases while advocating the imprisonment of Holocaust deniers.

Protecting Islamists From Criticism

Meanwhile, the push to silence what’s been labeled “Islamophobia” is giving rise to further restrictions on speech. In the United States and Canada, groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations have instigated numerous lawsuits and brought pressure to bear on writers, radio talk-show hosts and anyone else guilty of criticizing Islam or Islamic culture in any way, shape or form.

Talk-show host Michael Graham was fired by Washington radio station WMAL for calling Islam a “terrorist organization” on his show, after CAIR instituted a letter-writing campaign and demanded an apology. CAIR has used a series of libel or defamation suits to go after those who dare bring to light some of the group’s own unsavory ties.

On an international level, the specter of speech codes governing “Islamophobia” has grown exponentially. The United Nations has become the repository for international laws banning the publication of anything deemed insulting to religion and, more specifically, Islam.

Born out of the flap over the Danish cartoons, a series of investigations by the United Nations at the urging of Muslim leaders has led to a slew of resolutions aimed at controlling speech. European and other Western newspapers that dare to publish images of Mohammed in the future or to simply criticize or question aspects of Islamic religion and culture could find themselves on the receiving end of U.N.-sanctioned censorship. Were the United States to adopt such international laws, as some have urged, Americans too could be bound by such restrictions.

Prison for ‘Homophobes’?

Gays are another group included in the growing ranks of the “protected classes,” as columnist John Leo has noted on several occasions. While one can be sued, fired or expelled from school in the United States for expressing disapproval of homosexuality or what’s come to be known as “homophobia,” in Canada one just might be thrown in prison.

In 2004, Canadian “genocide and hate crimes” legislation was amended to make it illegal under certain circumstances to “incite hatred” against gays, bisexuals or anyone else based on their sexual orientation. Although the law allows an exemption for religious expression, Christians in particular fear that they will incur the bulk of such offenses, with the citing of biblical passages forbidding homosexuality being the most common “crime.” Indeed, even before the amended law went into effect, job loss, fines, censures and visits by the police were part of the repressive political landscape. One need only turn to the European Union, where clergy find themselves the targets of speech code laws intended to protect gays.

But as in other cases meant to shield one group from offense, the freedom of all is compromised in the process. It’s no coincidence that Canada’s and Europe’s descent into speech-code mania began with restrictions on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Even leftists are not immune. University of British Columbia professor Sunera Thobani, a self-described Marxist feminist and multiculturalism activist, was hit with a hate crimes investigation several years ago for a lecture in which she harshly criticized Americans and American foreign policy.

The PC Left

Here in the United States, leftists often decry what they see as censorship emanating from the right, when in fact most of the true silencing of speech has come from within their own ranks. These days, liberal-dominated universities and colleges are one of the major promulgators of speech codes and draconian punishments for hate speech. Beginning in the 1980s, campus speech codes took on a life of their own, leading to countless trumped-up cases based on misunderstandings, perceived insensitivity or the ever-elusive crime of committing offense.

All too often, those on the receiving end are conservative or Christian students who are falsely accused of hate speech when they exercise their rights to free speech. It seems that putting forward a political or religious viewpoint on campus that is considered politically incorrect is now grounds for persecution and possible expulsion. Students have found themselves so beleaguered by what often appear to be politically motivated witch hunts that they have felt the need to turn to organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for legal assistance.

In what may be a good sign, the group has been highly successful in protecting students’ rights to free speech and religious freedom. At least one judge has barred the implementation of such draconian campus speech codes in the interest of protecting students’ First Amendment rights. In a 2003 lawsuit brought by a conservative student at Shippensburg University in Philadelphia and supported by FIRE, federal judge John E. Jones III ruled against enforcement of student code provisions that prohibited racist, sexist and homophobic speech. As he wrote at the time, the speech code may have been a well-intentioned means of achieving “a utopian community,” but it “prohibit[ed] a considerable amount of speech” in the process.

It is indeed the pursuit of a utopian society from which such speech codes emanate. For when George Orwell wrote “1984,” his dystopian vision of a future society governed by totalitarianism, it was the excesses of communism he had in mind. Orwell’s novel foreshadowed the current movement toward thought control. Except that today’s “thought crimes” are called hate speech and hate crimes.

Currently reading:
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
By Steve Coll
Release date: By 28 December, 2004

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.