It was one of the most condescending and hypocritical spectacles in recent memory. No, I’m not talking about the Academy Awards. As usual, I’m referring to the New York Times op-ed page.
In an anti-war editorial last Wednesday, the Times‘ editorialists indulged their prejudice of the pro-war crowd as mindless brutes:
“People who have supported Mr. Bush all along may feel tempted to try to silence those who voice dissent. It will be necessary to remind them that we are in this fight to bring freedom of speech to Iraq, not to smother it back home.”
I’m sure the folks who support President Bush must be saying “One of the goals is bringing liberty to Iraq? How quickly we forget! Thanks, Mr. Raines.”
Conservatives do not need reminding of the importance of free speech: most are acutely aware of the silencing effect that political correctness has had on conservative voices at our nation’s campuses over the last fifteen years. That the editorialists think that we need this scolding reveals nothing about the political right in this country but reveals plenty about the Times‘ own sense of moral superiority.
It also ignores recent history. Most of the silencing has come from the political left, specifically the anti-war movement. Just last month, Iraqi exiles were prevented from speaking at a London anti-war rally by organizers including Jesse Jackson. The Rabbi Michael Lerner was prevented from speaking at a San Francisco rally because he had panned International ANSWER for its criticism of Israel. If the Times‘ editorialists are really concerned about free speech, they should scan the ranks of their ideological brethren.
Or perhaps they should scan their own paper. Consider the Bob Herbert column which appeared on the same page on the same day. As the war began, Herbert admonished:
“We should get rid of one canard immediately, and that’s the notion that criticism of the Bush administration and opposition tose a lack of support or concern for the men and women who are under arms.
“The names of too many of my friends are recorded on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial for me to tolerate that kind of nonsense.”
In other words, Herbert hopes to silence any cries of “unpatriotic” by invoking the memory of our war dead. Apparently a reminder about the importance of free speech needs to be extended to war supporters but not war critics.
This is not the only example of the Times‘ rank hypocrisy regarding free speech. Last December, the paper tried to kill two columns by sportswriters Dave Anderson and Harvey Araton. Their thought-crime? Disagreeing with the editorial page position that Tiger Woods shouldn’t play in the Masters. Ultimately, under pressure the Times relented and ran the columns.
The Times‘ presumptuous scolding of conservatives is little more than an insult. It is so insulting that I feel the urge to tell the Times to shut up. But then I might be guilty of trying to “silence dissent.”