What do you believe? Who do you believe? And what is the foundation for your beliefs? Those questions were overwhelmed in the noise but were underlined by the rage in the public square this week, on issues from sequestration to the Onion’s infamous tweet during the Academy Awards.
Defended as free speech and satire, whose firestorm of response by many was evidence of its success, the Onion’s 140-character post was never covered by the cover it claimed, of being the occasional moment in a society that cherishes free speech, when a good intent to poke fun goes awry.
It was, instead, the perfect example of irresponsible speech, an imitated form of liar’s rage, a flawed imitation of the disdain that has marked the political language of Republicans, especially, and dominates the airwaves and the internet. This mock and real rage is often packed with lies, to avoid responsibility and to deny its purpose by claiming: look, it’s absurd. This liar’s rage is engaged in; denigrating the President and others, often not for their views, but simply because hate is seen as a constitutionally protected act. The Onion poster falls into using liar’s rage as a mock model. So it’s okay to call a nine-year old a sexually explicit name. No different than other daily online fare. As long as it’s just words, and they are not used to incite, the Bill of Rights says speech is free, and restrictions can’t be imposed.
The folk who make that argument miss the point: the outrage about the Onion post wasn’t over a narrow legal view of whether it violated free speech or whether it was misinterpreted, or as I suggest, it’s evidence of a cultural faux pas, or whether the rest of us didn’t get it. The reaction was a collective, strong-willed assertion that the comment was wrong. Not all free speech is right, and the right to speak or tweet freely doesn’t guarantee that what is said will have an equal place in the public square, which also has the right to shout it down.
The short tweet combined the worst of Rush Limbaugh and Mitt Romney with Donald Trump. It was uncomfortably sexually explicit without the redemption or condemnation found in the best satire. It applied a smear with the full force of scatological misogyny. My daughter tells me it’s a frat boy word. Mis-gauging its impact channels Romney, who repeatedly put forth a worldview that took away the humanity of others. Its crudeness and bullying attack was pure La Donald.
By closer reading, the poster was also a male. (Read it, you’ll agree.) As it was defended, it revealed a large subculture who skip the who and cite their belief in the what; in this case, free speech, its foundation in the constitution.
I agree that the post didn’t “cross the line.” It was wrong. Murder doesn’t “cross the line.” It’s wrong. A country can’t maintain a dual morality, one for crimes of property and persons, and another that says if legal penalties aren’t at stake, anything goes. Gun owners are now citing the right to “constitutional carry,” without restriction or concealment permits (repeal!). A constitutional right doesn’t guarantee approval of every position (guns or free speech) that attempts to be derived from that right. The constitution also guarantees the equal right to be wrong under its authority.
Long before appeals to law, a society decides in dynamic ways its limits and order, its boundaries of behavior, its conscience and sense of embarrassment and shame, its priorities and patterns of care. The Constitution should not be cited to excuse bad taste at best, to conceal honest error, or to be the enabling document for the erosion of the full humanity of others who are diverse and different.
I see the post as a thoughtless and harmful example of how the decency of words has degenerated into a culture that sets no limits on impropriety, including using a sexually explicit, denigrating word against a prepubescence girl in the harsh light on the internet’s public square. Retreating to free speech was something that even the Onion CEO didn’t do. He says in a Facebook the post was “crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”
It should remind us that such an ill-advised attack is not by “rights” exempt from being wrong, and by its irresponsibility undermines the protections it cites.
It wasn’t that the rest of us “were afraid to say it.” We knew better. Continue reading What Do You Believe?
ABC’s “This Week” will feature White House senior adviser David Plouffe and Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie in a discussion of the final days of the race, as well as the latest ABC poll numbers. The . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/4/12
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Capitol police have called for a hostage negotiator to respond to an ongoing situation in the Capitol building in which House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have barricaded themselves in a conference room, demanding that they be joined there by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell along with President Obama and the Obama family dog Bo. Authorities have confirmed that the eight Republican House members appointed by the ‘Cincinnati Cinnamon Stick’ to the conference committee which he was expecting to negotiate the pending tax holiday legislation with Senate Democrats are with the Speaker and Majority Leader, but it is not certain if they are there voluntarily or have been taken hostage like the rest of the country.
The standoff began early this afternoon when Boehner returned to the Capitol shortly after extricating himself from the bus Sen. McConnell had just thrown him under. First he summoned Cantor and the others into the conference room, and shortly after all were assembled he and Cantor began contacting various press outlets and communicating their demands.
Newton Toomey, a Capitol police official familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as a precaution, authorities are acting based on the assumption that the top two ranking House Republicans are armed. Toomey also indicated there is a suspicion among many at the scene that ‘The Bronze Clod’ may be suffering from a condition he described as “tanning booth stroke” which might be impairing his judgment. “With him you can’t always tell,” he noted. Continue reading BREAKING: Boehner, Cantor in Standoff with Capitol Police
New York (DBI) – As if their depiction by GOP Presidential hopeful Herman Cain wasn’t already hard enough to swallow, scores of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors were rushed to area hospitals today after falling ill from what sources believe was a tainted delivery — ironically, it is presumed, — from Godfather’s Pizza, Cain’s former company.
“When we arrived at the scene, we observed perhaps a hundred or more people in various stages of gastrointestinal distress,” EMS Captain Christopher Toomey told reporters. “We were able to confirm that most of them had consumed various food items that had been delivered earlier in the day. But I must say, there were several really queasy looking ones I spoke with personally who had not eaten at all, but did report they had been watching YouTube videos of Mr. Cain’s weekend television appearances.”
Toomey added that none of the cases appeared to be life threatening.
When told of the incident – and its positive prognosis — Mr. Cain is reported to have responded to an aide, “Of course it’s not life threatening – none of those a******s have lives.”
Federal authorities promised a full investigation. They have jurisdiction as the alleged tainted delivery came into New York from New Jersey because in recent years, Famous Famiglia (Donald Trump’s cheese pie of choice) has managed to muscle Godfather’s completely out of the City’s five boroughs, though rumors persist that a lone holdout Godfather’s franchise is still secretly operating somewhere on Staten Island.
But while the New York City FBI office claims they are already looking into the matter, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has vowed to block any form of Federal probe until House Democrats agree to spending cuts that will offset the cost of any investigation to taxpayers. Continue reading Scores of Protestors Sickened by Godfather’s Pizza
No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor prides himself on being consistent. Before all of the missing had been found earlier this year after a category five tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri, the Virginia Republican announced that he would not support funding for emergency aid without concurrent cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Again, earlier this week, while some were still missing and none of the dead yet buried in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Cantor appeared on Fox News to reiterate the same position, telling anchor Martha MacCallum that Congress “will find the money” but “like any family with a sick loved one” will have to decide what otherwise planned spending will have to be cut first. While Democrats as well as some Republicans take the position that, “… a family with credit won’t hesitate, in an emergency, to charge the expenses immediately and rework their budget after the crisis has passed…” many fear that Cantor’s insistence on cuts being agreed upon before emergency aid is appropriated could have catastrophic and perhaps life-threatening consequences.
But while the current Congress inevitably will fail to reach an accord in time to help many of Irene’s victims, Cantor nonetheless proudly announced yesterday that an agreement on cuts to allow for emergency relief had been reached regarding a matter which is much more personal to him.
Upon learning of college tuition increases affecting his two oldest children – an unexpected misfortune which followed closely on the heels of his youngest child’s well-publicized Xbox tragedy – the six-term conservative and former Minority Whip called a family meeting and announced that the extra tuition could not be paid nor the Xbox replaced without spending cuts elsewhere to offset the expense. Continue reading Cantor Strikes Deal on Cuts to Allow Emergency Spending
Two weeks ago, it seemed like a routine crime.
On the evening of June 17, an alert security guard notified Cleveland police when he realized someone had used duct tape to obscure two security cameras in the North Pointe Apartments office occupied by the conservative lobbying organization ‘Americans for Tax Reform’. Police responding to the scene arrested five men attempting to flee the scene, two of whom were carrying boxes containing documents.
But while the men were detained in a local jail, police discovered that the identifications they carried that night were fake. Fingerprint records indicated that all five live in the Los Angeles area. All have ties to the CIA and two are Venezuelan nationals connected with anti-Chavez organizations. The individual authorities believe was the ring-leader was once a high level intelligence operative rumored to have been involved in the failed 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He is currently a real estate broker in Los Angeles who, according to business records, employs the other four men.
And according to Newton Toomey, an anonymous source who was present during the interrogations, the alleged ring-leader — identified as Venezuelan-born Leonard B. Larker, 55 — indicated that those responsible for planning the break-in may have connections that reach to “the very top” of the Republican party.
“The suspect indicated that he was hired to retrieve documents bearing the signatures of various individuals who are experiencing misgivings about having signed them,” Toomey told a reporter from Locksmith’s Weekly magazine. “Ironically, these weren’t the most gifted of burglars – the boxes they were absconding with contained no signed documents whatsoever. All we found in them was a bunch of blank Kenyan birth certificates.”
Tea Party activist Wilford Dumfuq expressed a view shared by many on the right when he told anyone who would listen about his belief that, “sinister forces are at work in the Republican party,” explaining, “All but 14 Republican members of Congress have signed a pledge written by ATR founder Grover Norquist in which they promise the voters that they will never, under any circumstances, vote for any tax increase. If someone is now attempting to steal signed documents from those offices, it’s logical to assume that they are about renege on that pledge.” Continue reading Bungled Burglary May Signal Shift in GOP Tax Policy
Claiming the mantle of ‘The Party of Personal Responsibility’ and in an effort to correct what they characterize as ‘senseless government intrusion into every day life’, House Republicans today voted to open debate on a measure that would repeal all current drunk driving statutes.
The measure, introduced by freshman Rep. Jackson Daniels (R-TN) and titled “Repeal of the Intrusive Job and Buzz Killing Laws Act of 2011″ immediately drew fire from House Democrats, several of whom offered to buy the first round for any Senator who votes to block the measure in that chamber – as passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is virtually assured.
House Speaker John Boehner praised Rep. Daniels while expressing his support for the bill:
“Not only do these laws represent the sort of senseless overregulation long espoused by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle insofar as they impose government mandates on personal behavior, but as with all other forms of regulation, they result in needless expenditure of public funds and more importantly, they cost jobs. What my good friend Jack has done in drafting this historic piece of legislation is bring us a step closer to returning our country to a better time and place – a time where citizens have ownership over their own conduct without some bureaucracy dictating their personal behavior.” Continue reading GOP Proposal Would Repeal Drunk Driving Laws