I am a big fan of blogger Michelle Malkin. She mastered the incisive internet takedown years before anyone else and remains one of the best in the game. But today she got it wrong in her response to an offensive tweet from comedian Stephen Colbert. Well, partially wrong.
It started when someone using the offical Twitter handle for Colbert’s program, @ColbertReport, sent out a decidedly tasteless tweet. The tweet in question read “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” The joke–or perhaps “joke,” to be more accurate–is a play on the actions of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. You may have seen Snyder’s business enterprise referred to as “the professional football team from Washington D.C.” in more sensitive and enlightened outlets than my humble blog space. Earlier this week, Snyder announced that he does not plan to change the name of the team, which many have suggested is racially insensitive. Instead, he opted to establish the “Redskins Original Americans Foundation,” which will do improvement projects on reservations. The unsurprising liberal take is that Snyder should have instead changed the team’s name, donated a hefty chunk of the profits to Native Americans, and jumped out the nearest window. Colbert’s tweet toyed with the notion that Snyder’s actions were disingenuous and that Snyder is, at core, a racist and wealthy white man.
Malkin, herself an Asian American, took to Twitter to chastise Colbert and to point out, rightly so, that a conservative would not be given a free pass for such a racially charged joke. Through her personal account, and via Twitchy, her entertaining site which chronicles the ins and outs of Twitter, Michelle promoted the hashtag #CancelColbert, which was created by Suey Park. Ms. Park is an activist and writer who has taken to Twitter of late to protest stereotyping of Asian Americans.
Malkin and Park are doubtless correct in their assertions that Colbert’s tweet would be held as offensive to many, and would not be tolerated if it had been written in regards to other racial groups. And they have both been unfairly subjected to disgusting, invective responses from fans of Colbert’s program. But their position on the issue is wrong. Either all of us should have free speech, or none of us. Of course this is the juncture in this sort of discussion where someone helpfully explains that the freedom of speech is meant to protect against government infringement, not private citizens who wish to protest.
But here are the types of people you align yourself with when you attempt to privately chill offensive speech. Twitter user @Aisha6Salaam responded to a liberal fan of Colbert’s by saying “You’re a living example of why hate speech should not be considered free speech, and in a sane society would land you in prison.” According to her Twitter profile, Ms. Salaam is “Queer, Radical feminist, gender studies student, proud sex worker, and anti racist.” She is one square away from filling out her grievance-based identity politics bingo card. Presumably Ms. Salaam is too busy with critical gender theory and sex work to read any useful political philosophy. Suffice it to say that she would quickly sour on her regressive ideas about speech if she found out she wasn’t the one who gets to define “hateful.” Lest one accuse me of cherrypicking, you will find that Ms. Salaam is representative of the multitudes on Twitter prattling on about the danger of something called a “white cis male.”
In no way do I wish to equate Michelle Malkin with such dangerously stupid ideas. But I am disappointed that she rhetorically aligned herself with the typical liberal tactic of trying to suppress disagreeable speech. This is not unlike the ongoing pressure campaign to remove Rush Limbaugh from the air. If enough people find Limbaugh’s words upsetting, they will stop listening and he will be canned anyhow. But I’d wager that most of those who wish to see him fired don’t listen to his show in the first place. Malkin was right to point out that Colbert was protected by a double standard. But she should have criticized his silly tweet with her own unique brand of wit, without invoking the specter of taking the guy’s livelihood. The people she has allied with on this issue are not friends of liberty. Many of them aren’t even rational.