Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quote of the Day

Jonah Goldberg, writing on National Review Online, notes this sequence of events: Person A makes an indefensible or controversial statement; Person B criticizes the statement; Person A responds not by defending the statement, but by arguing that his (or her) "right to speak" had been questioned. This is, he wrote, particularly prominent when Person A is a liberal and Person B is a conservative.

Goldberg continues:
The great irony is that the people who resort to such "arguments" (they're really just insults) are the ones questioning free-speech rights, because they are suggesting the criticism was inappropriate and, in some vague and stupid way, unconstitutional. Right? That is the upshot of what they're saying. I mean, if you immediately assert that someone has the right to say something as a way to rebut criticism, aren't you implying that such criticism violated their rights — which is, by definition, unconstitutional.

The paranoia enters into it when you consider the nature of the accusation. If you immediately assume that criticism from the political Right is tantamount to questioning someone's constitutional right to speak in the first place, what you are really saying . . . is that if you scratch a conservative you'll find a Storm Trooper just under the surface. We knuckle draggers may say we're just offering criticism, but what we really mean is that anyone we disagree with has no right to say so. That so many on the Left seem to believe this, says a lot about the intellectual and psychological state of Lefties while saying nothing of interest about conservatives. I don't think it's always a matter of projection — assuming your enemy sees things the same you do — but I do think this knee-jerkery illuminates in a small way the bad faith of the Left. Not only does the "I have the right to speak" tantrum dodge the merits of specific criticisms, it starts from the assumption that as a matter of first principles left-wing protest should never be questioned.

Indeed, that's the reason the Left has rallied so fiercely behind Cindy Sheehan. Wedded to a form of identity-politics logic which says some "authentic" voices cannot be questioned and inauthentic voices need not be listened to, these hardcore left-wing activists love Cindy Sheehan because they think she's above reproach. They immediately resort to the argument "How dare you question a woman who lost her child!" Sheehan's loss is obviously a terrible one. But the death of her son does not make her anymore qualified to rant about Israel and oil tycoons controlling American foreign policy than it would be if her son was alive. But her backers do not care, indeed they don't think anyone has the right to even point this out.


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