“From the mind-bending idea that four guys dressed as pizza delivery men were going to out-gun all the soldiers at Fort Dix…” –Keith Olbermann (MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, June 4, 2007)
There was a time when I watched Keith Olbermann with information-starved objectivity. Now, after having a several-years long change of personal and political belief systems (for the better I might add), I’ve discovered that Olbermann is just as iniquitous in his approach to “informing” the public as his nemesis, Bill O’Reilly whom he accuses almost daily of crimes against humanity (hyperbole) and general immorality. There have been moments when O’Reilly has been more than deserving of such public derision, and I have yet to see the degree of inaccuracies in Olbermann’s reporting as egregious and reckless as sometimes espoused by Bill in the “No Spin Zone.” But Keith is far from innocent, particularly when it comes to his ignorance of global jihadism and the serious threat that philosophy brings with it.
One only needs read the quote above from last nights’ Countdown program to fully appreciate Olbermann’s lack of understanding concerning Islamic extremism. The Fort Dix jihadist had no realistic interest in “out-gunning” the forces at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. Islamic militants simply don’t think that way. But reference their efforts beginning with the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980’s and up through present day. In almost every case of suicide bombings specifically and Islamic terrorism generally, those directly involved on the frontlines of such operations do not attempt or even want to out-gun the larger force. They simply wish to hurt them. And they go on hurting them until they feel a change has been made as a result of their deeds. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, also in the 80’s, is a fairly pertinent example of what jihadists hope to accomplish, and what they can actually achieve.
Simply, Olbermann prefers to downplay (much like The New York Times) many of the major terrorist threats against the west as hoaxes, and possible wag-the-dog style machinations, that only receives unjustifiable newsworthy exposure by the “right-wing” media. Those involved in said terrorist plots, usually of the home-grown variety, are usually characterized by Olbermann as ineffective dolts, isolated from any real jihadist organization (i.e. al Qaeda) and monetary support–they never would have succeeded anyway (though you can be sure if they did succeed, Keith would be one of the first on the airwaves to lambaste the administration for not doing enough to prevent said terrorist attack.)
Over at Hot Air, Michelle Malkin’s fiery blog, they have rightly called Olbermann out on his ineptitude and lack of logical thinking concerning this issue. For a man who derides Bill O’Reilly so often and so ferociously, Mr. Olbermann might be transforming into that which he hates the most.
And to think, some people believe the left doesn’t take terrorism seriously.
You’ll note, I hope, that even Olby recognizes how dishonest he’s being. That’s why he feels obliged to mention not once but twice that coincidences do happen and, in his words, “we could probably construct a similar timeline of terror events and their relationship to the haircuts of popular politicians.” Why do it, then? Because, as the Truthers are wont to say, he’s “just asking questions.” Just “airing it,” Sullivan style. Make up your own mind.
What he doesn’t note is that 9 of the 13 terror alerts he cites were issued prior to Katrina’s assault on New Orleans, widely accepted as the beginning of the steep decline of the Bush presidency. It stands to reason that if terror warnings were deliberately timed to “distract,” we’d find them congregated around the administration’s true crisis moments. Instead, Olby’s forced to link the JFK plot to the U.S. Attorneys scandal, which had long since reached critical mass. Where were the terror alerts during the battle over Iraq funding? When Bush first announced the surge? After the Hamdan decision? Even by his own absurd non-logic, it makes more sense to claim that the JFK plot was timed to distract from the amnesty uproar. But Olby can’t claim that because Bush is on the left’s side on that one, so he’s forced to feebly tie it back to Gonzalesgate and the Democratic debate.
He also doesn’t seem to grasp that just because the pipeline plot wasn’t feasible doesn’t mean no attack would have occurred. You’ve got a group of men with homicidal intent willing to travel internationally to bring off their plan. If they’re game for that, they’re probably game for walking into a crowd of people and opening up with automatic weapons and grenades. It won’t take out an airport, but you might very well top the body count from the London bombings two years ago.
Newsbusters has the full transcript; the clip here is just a mishmash of lowlights, although I did include both times he went out of his way to note that one of the officials who announced the JFK plot was the father of a Fox News reporter. That official: Ray Kelly … commissioner of the NYPD. What would he be doing at a presser related to a major terror bust in New York City? We’ll have to wonder, I guess. Finally, pay attention to how Olby treats the biggest bust in his roundup, the UK airline plot from last year. Once again we’re treated to the dark nutroots insinuation that somehow it was sparked by Ned Lamont’s primary victory over Lieberman. If Olby’s genuinely curious as to why U.S. counterterrorist agents wanted to move faster than the Brits did, he need only look to his own network for answers:
Another U.S. official, however, acknowledges there was disagreement over timing. Analysts say that in recent years, American security officials have become edgier than the British in such cases because of missed opportunities leading up to 9/11.
Which is another way of saying that if they didn’t move quickly enough and the plot came off, people like Keith Olbermann would be on TV accusing them of having deliberately let it happen. That’s Murrow journalism, baby. Trutherism, the whole Trutherism, and nothing but the Trutherism.
Update: Just curious. Does the left even have a workable theory as to how, precisely, terror alerts “distract” the public? Has anyone forgotten about the amnesty bill or the Democratic debate since the JFK story broke? A truly enormous terror plot could be such a big story that it would push everything else off the front page for days, but this clearly wasn’t on that scale. (Not to mention the fact that it was announced on a Saturday.) So where does the distraction enter in?
I have a few catch-up items for everyone today in honor of Al Gore’s appearance yesterday before the House Committee on Global Warming (hasn’t congress heard it’s called ‘Global Climate Change’ now? ‘Global Warming’ is so last year.)
The VP has been recently dubbed “The Goracle” by his army of the faithful. [Because let’s be clear, despite varying evidence for and in opposition to global climate change/warming, it is a matter of faith. Just as Christians have faith that Jesus is God and he will return to judge the quick and the dead, and just like Buddhists have faith they can work to expunge all bad vibes in order to obtain enlightenment, and just as Muslims believe they can subjugate the entire world and establish sharia law throughout the land, the global climate change religionists believe man is primarily responsible for global warming and the fate of the planet due to our actions and/or inactions–science can often be another form of provable and improvable doctrinal creed.] The faithful seem to overlook The Goracle’s obvious and environmentally damaging hypocrisies, most recently evidenced in his egregiously wasteful personal energy policies at his own mansion in Tennessee, and including the plane zips from state to state, country to country in a private jet delivering his Academy Award winning slide show to the eco-zombies of the world, when he could just as easily travel commercially much of the time.
But oh, as he claimed in yesterday’s hearings, and as he’s previously self-extolled, he’s living a ‘carbon neutral’ lifestyle through the purchase of ‘carbon offsets,’ or credits, from an enviro-friendly company that specializes in that sort of nonsensical diddle.
But even an organization that specializes in carbon offsets has no clue how they actually function to reduce specific amounts of carbon dioxide (human only I assume despite that fact that humans are not the leading cause of CO2 production.) Dan Skopec, Undersecretary for California Environmental Protection Agency, is a man who represents the cheerleading effort behind carbon footprint reduction, while ensuring that Arnold Swarzenegger’s and Dianne Feinstein’s environmentally unfriendly lifestyles are made to look much less horrific than they actually. Recently interviewed for the John and Ken Show on KFI 640 in Los Angeles, Skopec confessed, after repeatedly dodging the question, that he, and the scientific community as a whole (at least the tree-hugger variety), have no idea how many trees it would take, and how long they would need to remain standing, in order to offset the billions of tons of C02 we produce. The concept of Swarzenegger and Feinstein and The Goracle spending $10 to buy the right for a single tree to offset the gobs of carbon dioxide they produce in just one private jet trip is comedy. The fact that they obviously spend more (probably) for multiple trees with no clue as to what is officially necessary in order to actually reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ is an absurdity to the point of tragedy.
So send me $10 and I’ll nail the bill right to the tree in my back yard (if I did in my front yard, someone might steal the money and you wouldn’t gain anything)–you’ve just purchased the right for my tree to reduce your CO2 emissions. How much? Like Mr. Skopec above, I have no clue. But it can’t hurt can it? Yet that’s how most scams seem to function, and stating that global warming is the major emergency of our time as Gore claimed yesterday lends more credence to those who do not question what they’re told and their willingness to buy into a scam without thinking for themselves.
But all this matters little to the mindless legions who follow The Goracle. Like an apoplectic discharge, they punish those who don’t exactly buy into the global warming theory, while choosing to ignore billions of years of undocumented, unrecorded evolutionary earth history–ice core samples, yeah–that has shown the earth transforming, evolving, metamorphosing, and arguably transmogrifying (yes, Mother Nature, you can be an ugly bitch sometimes) throughout the eons, warming and cooling.
Of course, what all of this really boils down to here are new taxe increases for everyone courtesy of the Al Gore global warming conspiracy and his next bid for President of the United States in 2008. Still, I’d vote for him over George W. Bush any day of the week (of course, I’m kidding. I would simply abstain.)
Anyway, here’s a fantastic documentary produced by the UK Channel 4 titled The Great Global Warming Swindle. Proceed further down the page for more news stories.
Here’s a NYTimes piece from a week ago. Though a little old, it’s interesting.
Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.
But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”
Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made “the most important and salient points” about climate change, if not “some nuances and distinctions” scientists might want. “The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger,” he said, adding, “I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.”
Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.
Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.
Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for “getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”
Typically, the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming. The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence.
“He’s a very polarizing figure in the science community,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr. Vranes at the University of Colorado center. “Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.”
“An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, was released last May and took in more than $46 million, making it one of the top-grossing documentaries ever. The companion book by Mr. Gore quickly became a best seller, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times list.
Mr. Gore depicted a future in which temperatures soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise, hurricanes batter the coasts and people die en masse. “Unless we act boldly,” he wrote, “our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.”
He clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. In December, he spoke in San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a rock star from thousands of attendees.
“He has credibility in this community,” said Tim Killeen, the group’s president and director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a top group studying climate change. “There’s no question he’s read a lot and is able to respond in a very effective way.”
Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see them as reasonable for a politician. James E. Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top adviser to Mr. Gore, said, “Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,” adding that Mr. Gore often did so “better than scientists.”
Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president’s work may hold “imperfections” and “technical flaws.” He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.
“We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. “On the other hand,” Dr. Hansen said, “he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.”
In his e-mail message, Mr. Gore defended his work as fundamentally accurate. “Of course,” he said, “there will always be questions around the edges of the science, and we have to rely upon the scientific community to continue to ask and to challenge and to answer those questions.”
He said “not every single adviser” agreed with him on every point, “but we do agree on the fundamentals” — that warming is real and caused by humans.
Mr. Gore added that he perceived no general backlash among scientists against his work. “I have received a great deal of positive feedback,” he said. “I have also received comments about items that should be changed, and I have updated the book and slideshow to reflect these comments.” He gave no specifics on which points he had revised.
He said that after 30 years of trying to communicate the dangers of global warming, “I think that I’m finally getting a little better at it.”
While reviewers tended to praise the book and movie, vocal skeptics of global warming protested almost immediately. Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed skepticism about dire climate predictions, accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of “shrill alarmism.”
Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe’s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.
It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches — down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.
Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. “Climate change is a real and serious problem” that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. “The cacophony of screaming,” he added, “does not help.”
So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.
Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June report, he added, shows “that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”
Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim that the energy industry ran a “disinformation campaign” that produced false discord on global warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social anthropologist in Britain who runs the Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an Internet newsletter on climate change and natural disasters, challenged the claim of scientific consensus with examples of pointed disagreement.
“Hardly a week goes by,” Dr. Peiser said, “without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory,” including some reports that offer alternatives to human activity for global warming.
Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.
“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”
In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim that “our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.
Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”
Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook told the group. “And I’m not a Republican.”
Biologists, too, have gotten into the act. In January, Paul Reiter, an active skeptic of global warming’s effects and director of the insects and infectious diseases unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, faulted Mr. Gore for his portrayal of global warming as spreading malaria.
“For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested against the unsubstantiated claims,” Dr. Reiter wrote in The International Herald Tribune. “We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts.”
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.
“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”
Gore brings his message on global warming — and a reincarnated image — to the Capitol.
By Faye Fiore and Richard Simon, Times Staff Writers
March 22, 2007
WASHINGTON — The doors swung open and he made his entrance with cameras clicking, the wooden politician denied the presidency and derided as “Ozone Man” was coming home to the Capitol. But this time they called him a movie star and likened him to a prophet.
Al Gore left Washington seven years ago bowed by the 2000 presidential election and a little disgraced in the eyes of his party — couldn’t he at least have won his home state?
But he returned Wednesday reincarnated: the subject of an Academy Award-winning film, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, a 58-year-old guy who, slightly grayed and a little puffy, can share a stage with Leonardo DiCaprio and still manage to be the center of attention.
The onetime congressman, senator and vice president was back, this time to testify about global warming. The Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth” — the documentary about his traveling slide show on the ravages of climate change — doesn’t even belong to him; it’s the director’s. But it has pushed Gore into another orbit in Washington’s universe. People started lining up as early as 7 a.m. to get a glimpse of him.
“This is the most dangerous crisis we have ever faced,” Gore told a joint meeting of two House panels in an impassioned appeal for bold action. (He later repeated his case on the Senate side.) “This problem is burning a hole in the top of the world…. We need to turn the thermostat back down before that melts.”
Gore, who arrived in a new hybrid Mercury, sat beside a stack of brown boxes filled with 516,000 messages — collected over the last few days on AlGore.com — urging “real action.”
“There is a sense of hope in the country that this United States Congress will rise to the occasion and present meaningful solutions to this crisis,” he said. “Congress is a repository of hopes and dreams of people all across this Earth.”
As the morning hearing convened on the House side, the repository of hopes and dreams spent several minutes bickering about where the committee members should sit and how much time they had to speak.
They appeared to divide pretty much along party lines. Democrats hailed the “Goracle,” who saw this coming 30 years ago, and Republicans dismissed him as an alarmist.
Among Gore’s ideas: a pollution tax, an immediate freeze on carbon dioxide emissions with sharp reductions in future years, stricter vehicle miles-per-gallon rules, a moratorium on construction of highly polluting coal-fired power plants, a strong global climate-change treaty and the creation of a federally operated “carbon-neutral” mortgage association that would serve as incentive for building energy-efficient homes.
“I listen to you sometimes in wonderment,” said Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), predicting that Gore’s proposals would cost “tens of thousands of jobs and more empty factories.”
Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas) complained of an “all-out assault” on energy sources that are crucial to economic and national security.
In the confrontational camaraderie for which Washington is famous, Hall and Gore happily reminisced about the time they went to a meeting on Hall’s boat, then Hall accused Gore of “flirting with the death of the energy industry.”
Gore acknowledged his proposals faced serious obstacles.
In calling for a pollution tax, he said, “I fully understand this is considered politically impossible, but part of our challenge is to expand the limits of what’s possible.” He urged his former colleagues to “walk through that fire.”
The day will come, he said, when future generations either ask, “Did they think it was perfectly all right to keep dumping 70 million tons every single day of global-warming pollution into this Earth’s atmosphere?” or “How did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics?”
Gore spoke mostly without notes and seemed more comfortable in his skin than when he was as a presidential candidate, even with a clot of photographers squatting in front of him. A notorious policy wonk, he touched on subjects such as light bulbs and the Arctic ice cap, which, he said, is melting even faster than previously thought and could “completely disappear in as little as 34 years.”
“If it goes, it won’t come back in any time scale relevant to the human condition,” he warned as his wife, Tipper, nodded in agreement behind him.
Members of both parties, who generally poke at their BlackBerrys during long committee hearings, appeared to pay attention.
The exchanges were sometimes confrontational, especially at the Senate hearing, where Gore dueled with one of the chief congressional skeptics on global warming, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.).”It seems that everything is blamed on global warming,” Inhofe said. “Last summer we had a heat wave and everyone said, ‘Oh, that’s proof it’s global warming.’ Then we had a mild December. ‘Oh, that’s proof that global warming is taking place.’ … How come you guys never seem to notice it when it gets cold?”
But Gore held firm, noting that a manatee showed up off Memphis last summer.
“First time ever,” he said. “It got too hot in southern Florida. I’m not making this up. Another one showed up off of Cape Cod, first time ever. Nature is on the run.”
Later, Gore invited Inhofe to breakfast to discuss the issue “without the cameras, without the lights.”
Much as he did in “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore reduced the science to simple metaphors.
When asked whether the United States should be taking drastic action when China and India were greater polluters, Gore explained that the U.S. accounted for 23% of carbon emissions and “like a bucket with a hole in it, you can still use the bucket, but it’s a lot more efficient if the hole is plugged.”
Outside the House hearing room where Gore spoke, a crowd waited for him to emerge. Three high school girls from New Jersey snapped his picture for their school newspaper, saying that he looked taller, older and more confident than they expected.
Gore left through a side door, missing an impromptu ditty by what sounded like a Dixieland band and members of the antiwar group Code Pink, attired in boas and assorted hats. He was nonetheless mobbed by photographers and squeezed into an elevator to escape.
“Run for president!” somebody hollered, just as the doors closed.
At the end of the day, after Gore finished his testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman, called Gore a “role model for us all.”
Gore thanked her and asked, “Now, you don’t give out any kind of statue or anything?”
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.
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.”
Jill discovers these are hardcore Islamic militants who follow Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
By Jill Carroll and Peter Grier| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
(J.C.) One afternoon in the first week after I’d been taken – and been moved to yet another house near Abu Ghraib – Abu Ali called me into a big sitting room with green velveteen couches. On the far wall, above the TV, was a gigantic poster of waterfalls and rocks and trees.
It was beautiful. I could stare at it and get lost. I thought, I wish I was there, I wish I was there.
AL QAEDA IN IRAQ: About a week into her captivity, Jill was shown videos of attacks like this one on July 21, 2003 in Baghdad. MANISH SWARUP/AP
But my captors wanted me to look at something very different: DVDs of them waging war.
By their count, they were killing dozens or even hundreds of soldiers a day. They estimated that Al Qaeda in Iraq had killed at least 40,000 US soldiers. They could prove it, they said, with videos of their operations showing Humvees and tanks blowing up and snipers shooting soldiers.
So Abu Ali – the captor with a stubbly beard – sat me down and showed me the videos. They were in Arabic and were stamped with the symbols of various insurgent groups, and included audio overlays of mujahideen chanting in low, somber tones.
One video showed all these men who were going to be suicide car bombers. They interviewed them, and then showed a field, with cars lined up, and each man getting into a car – waving, just euphoric – and then driving off.
Others had pictures of an American Humvee driving along – and then it would blow up, and they’d cut to a graphic of a lightning flash, and thunder clapping.
Abu Ali would glance over at me as I watched the videos, asking me what I thought of them. I couldn’t say anything good, but I tried to say things that were true, like “Oh, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this. I didn’t know this was out there.”
To Abu Ali, though, this was their mission, a righteous path; this was their work for God.
While I sat there watching them, I felt the insurgents were sending me a message: They hate Americans so much, they’re proud of these attacks. It’s normal to them.
Surely they were going to kill me. How could they not?
(P.G.) The first set of phone-recording equipment that the FBI brought to Jim Carroll‘s North Carolina home didn’t work. A second set, shipped in from the Charlotte office, didn’t work either. Eventually, agents assigned to the Jill Carroll case got the standard wiretap electronics in place.
From the beginning, the FBI identified Jim as someone who could handle hostage negotiations. He received rudimentary training in what to do if contacted: Keep talking, keep them on the phone, try to set a time for a call back.
But no one was sure which numbers Jill would remember and pass along to her jailers. So taps were readied for a number of phones. If the kidnappers called, the FBI would use the recording to try to identify them and their location.
In Baghdad, Monitor staff writer Scott Peterson put a piece of climbing tape on one of his phones, and drew on it a green eye, to remind him which line the government was watching. He and staff writer Dan Murphy were pursuing their own leads with Iraqi sources and seeking the help of Sunni politicians known to have insurgent contacts.
Between them, Messrs. Peterson and Murphy could draw on decades of experience working in dangerous environments. As a reporter and photographer, Peterson’s hot-spot assignments stretched from Angola to Afghanistan. In 1993, he took a machete blow to the head from a mob that killed four journalists in Somalia. Later, he was one of the very few correspondents to enter the Rwandan capital, Kigali, when the genocide began.
Murphy lived for 10 years in Indonesia, where he covered sectarian violence and became one of the world’s experts on Al Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia. In Baghdad, he’d been one of Jill’s mentors.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the Monitor enlisted the help of Faye Bowers, a recently retired Washington correspondent with extensive contacts in the dark world of intelligence. She had been instrumental in the negotiations to release Monitor reporter David Rohde, who was jailed by Bosnian Serbs for 10 days in 1995 and won a Pulitzer for stories revealing the first evidence of the Srebrenica massacre.
At Ms. Bowers’s request, US officials also contacted important Sunnis in Iraq, and pushed them to do all they could to secure Jill’s release. Jordanian and European officials, particularly the Germans, provided context about their own efforts to free hostages in Iraq. And an army of Bowers’s contacts, many of them ex-spies, scrolled through their memories, searching for old friends and contacts in the Arab world who might help.
(J.C.) At the beginning of my ordeal, I had hoped my kidnappers were amateurs who wouldn’t really know what to do with me and would start to get very nervous after a few days. Then they’d let me go.
ZARQAWI: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi spoke in a rare video of him posted on the Web on April 25, 2006. REUTERS
I knew they were Iraqis, which was good. It was the foreign-born insurgents – such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who beheaded hostages.
They seemed a small group, and they told me they had come together and forged their identity fighting the US military for control of the restive city of Fallujah in a Sunni- dominated area west of Baghdad.
But after about a week in captivity – about the time of the showing of the jihadi videos – it became increasingly clear to me that they were the real deal.
During the precious few hours when the electricity worked, they would sometimes plug in a cassette player, and an angry voice would blare in classical Arabic from the room across the hall, where the guards slept.
I usually only understood a few words, like “America,” “Israel,” and “occupation,” but the point was clear.
“Do you know who that is?” one of the guards asked me at one point. “That is Sheikh Abu Musab. Is he a good man? What is your opinion of Zarqawi?”
I dodged the question. But inside, I felt the fear welling up. These were Zarqawi people! I was an American. I thought again, there was no way I was getting out of this alive.
(P.G.) Perhaps the knowledge of what would happen to Khalid if he disappeared into the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior was what did it. Sitting on a bed in the Monitor’s Baghdad apartment, he finally broke down.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth!” he sobbed.
KEEPING TRACK: The white board used by editors at the Christian Science Monitor to track their efforts to release hostage Jill Carroll. JOHN NORDELL – STAFF
By this point, Khalid (not his real name) had worked for the Monitor and other media organizations as an interpreter, on and off, for a year-and-a-half. He was a gentle soul, thin and nervous in a birdlike way. He’d come via recommendation from someone in the Coalition Provisional Authority, back when that still existed, and Murphy liked working with him. He was interested in the way that religion and politics fit together, as was Murphy himself.
And for days now, Khalid had said he had a source – two separate sources, actually – who knew where Jill was.
The information – revealed in dribs and drabs over time – was detailed in a way that made it sound credible. It even jibed with other leads coming in. She was being held, allegedly, in Al Adl – the same neighborhood where she was kidnapped and a part of the city known to be rife with insurgents. There were two teams that took turns guarding her, each composed of three men. The house was detached, and the opening in its surrounding wall was a white metal gate – sheet metal, not bars, and streaked with dirt. Behind the gate sat the Monitor driver’s maroon Toyota with a broken window and bullet holes in the side.
The Monitor’s Baghdad team had passed this information along, and the Hereford, England-based security firm hired by the newspaper sent an Iraqi employee into the neighborhood to eyeball possible houses. He found four or five.
But then one of Khalid’s sources went out of town. And his story began to change. Maybe the gate was … black.
What was going on? Late one night, a colonel from the Iraqi Interior Ministry arrived to interview Khalid in Arabic. The colonel was a busy man; he talked to the interpreter a bit, then left on other business. But he made himself clear: At this point, if Khalid didn’t name his source, Khalid would have to come in to the ministry.
He didn’t have to say that bad things happened at the ministry, even to good people.
Khalid was shaken. Murphy, too, was concerned. He sat beside him, and gently asked, again, for the real story. And finally it came out.
His wife had visions, said Khalid. They’re painful and difficult for her, he said, but it’s a gift. She’d warned him not to get involved, but he’d wanted to help. He’d given his wife one of Jill’s cherry-tinted hairs from a hair band which he’d secretly taken from the office. She’d been the one who “saw” where Jill was. Khalid believed her. But he knew Murphy and Peterson wouldn’t.
The reporters were stunned. For weeks now, they’d been pursuing this lead. Now, it seemed, they had been sending people into dangerous neighborhoods based on the musings of a clairvoyant.
From the beginning, investigative tracks dealing with Jill’s possible whereabouts gave the family and her employers a sense of hope and momentum.
Excerpts from readers’ letters
ORIGAMI: Fourth graders at St. Anthony Catholic School in Boston folded 246 paper cranes for Jill Carroll. ASHLEY TWIGGS
What they didn’t provide, in the end, was Jill. Leads dried up. Sources disappeared. Demands for ransom turned out to be attempts at extortion.
The curious case of the clairvoyant was perhaps the most extreme example of where tracks went. But it wasn’t unique. Other sources claimed to have a video taken on a cellphone – and described her in detail.
Notes scribbled daily on legal pads by managing editor Marshall Ingwerson give a sense of the rise and fall of these efforts.
From 1/11/06: “New lead. HWG [the US Embassy’s Hostage Working Group] onworking. Source is someone we’ve worked with before … contradictory to [The New York Times’s Dexter] Filkins lead….”
From 1/14/06: “2 tracks still in play. Filkins update: By chance his sources – guard at racetrack saw her yesterday while she was being transferred….”
From 1/19/06: “No more on Dexter’s track. Contradictory info on [Scott Peterson’s] track.”
From 1/20/06: “Dexter track definitely dead….”
One morning, the British security man under contract to the Monitor told Murphy and Peterson that the body of a Western woman had been found in Baghdad. Police were checking the morgue. The two reporters kept the information to themselves, tensely awaiting verification. The report proved untrue.
While the leads were thin, the public support poured in. The Monitor would post on its website a daily selection of e-mails and letters from Jill Carroll supporters of all faiths, and all walks of life. During some of the darkest nights, Mary Beth Carroll would go to her computer and draw some comfort from the strangers’ missives.
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.
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.