Some things need to be said over and over again, apparently.
In the wake of the horrific shooting in Tucson, there's been a lot of talk about whether people who engage in intemperate, incendiary, or hyperbolic rhetoric bore some sort of responsibility for the tragedy. Never mind that it's clear that madness was the seed of the shooting, cultivated and grown in the soil of irrational views we can't fully grasp. There is no reliable indication whatsoever that intemperate political rhetoric contributed to the shooting. Yet folks use tragedy as a jumping-off point to discuss whatever talking points they want to discuss, and this week's talking point is incendiary rhetoric, and how terrible it is.
A lot of the incendiary rhetoric people are complaining about is brutish, stupid, and regrettable.
And now the counter-talking-points begin. One of them is that those who have engaged in "robust" rhetoric are now victims of an unfair smear campaign. This may be right as a matter of logic — there's no connection between the rhetoric and the shooting, and the attacks on the rhetoric are opportunistic — but I am not particularly moved when people who trade in bomb-throwing wind up on the business end of a bomb.
From the mouths of flailing, leftist pundits to the bipolar pages of The New York Times, a gang mugging has broken out over the massacre in Tucson. A concerted effort is now underway to lay blame on the ascendant Tea Party, Sarah Palin or anyone without sufficient liberal cred for the senseless shootings carried out by Jared Lee Loughner — a guy described by one former classmate as a "lefty pothead." This is worse than a concerted attack on our democratic principles.
It's fascistic censorship.
Because that's how the fascists rolled. They put up op-eds.
No, you stupid, stupid woman, it is not. Speech is not tyranny. Criticism — even unfair and intemperate criticism — is not censorship. I don't care who tells you it is. It is more speech, the thing we use instead of censorship. The entire premise of our approach to freedom of expression is that we do not censor speech that some find to be hateful, harmful, and wrong because those people can stand up and call it hateful, harmful, and wrong. Cry "censorship" when your speech gets you sued or locked up. Cry "that's a call for censorship" when someone says your speech ought to get you sued or locked up. But when your speech gets you vilified, mocked, condemned, and called out as morally responsible for awful things — however unjustly — that's not censorship, and if you say it is, you're a whiny twit with contempt for the principles underlying the Constitution of the United States. That's a feature, not a bug, of the First Amendment. The marketplace of ideas gets rough. Wear a cup.
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