Monday, April 21, 2008


Freedom of speech is not going away in the United States of America . It’s gone -- Ben Stein.

If you enjoy diaries and are unfamiliar with Ben Stein’s, you will find it in The American Spectator, monthly. Bright, light, and fun—but not the latest, which he entitles “Outraged Sadness.” It is in the April issue.

Stein is an actor, writer, lawyer, and son of esteemed economist Herb Stein. He and his make-up artist were chatting while he waited for his turn before the camera. He told a joke in which Barack Obama figured. Unbeknownst to them, someone was taping them. Next day he was summoned to the front office. The executives were scandalized at his “racism.” A fighter against racism even from childhood, he was outraged.

“Can’t talk about that.” There are already many things we no longer are free to talk about. Examples:

Stein gives the example of Global Warming. “The debate is over. The issue is settled.” Gore gave the message to the eager media. The media passed the message to a receptive public. Scientists who disagree like Dr. S. Fred Singer are “corporate lackeys [trying] to convince the general public we are not facing the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe sent a You-Just-Don’t-Get-It letter to ExxonMobil for publishing ads arguing that global warming is rubbish. Their gag order urged ExxonMobil to stop funding anti-GW ads and start funding pro-GW ads. (Has anyone challenged the pro-GW advocates on whether the grants they receive, influence their views?)

Remarks Stein, “You can show the most extreme violence and pornography imaginable to anyone with a computer, to any ten year old, but you cannot even talk about global warming or evolution or racial political correctness without being branded a criminal.”

Stein mentions Don Imus, who lost a radio job after making fun of a black women’s athletic team. Geraldine Ferraro had to resign from Hillary Clinton’s campaign when she implied that Barack Obama’s experience and credentials were too thin ever to be acceptable if from a white candidate. Was Vince Foster’s suicide, his body found under peculiar circumstances in Fort Marcy Park, a suicide or a murder? It can no longer be discussed. Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, was mentioned once on radio. Never again.

When the women’s movement changed women’s titles from Mrs. and Miss to Ms., every letter-writer quickly fell into line. Only one dissenter, a writer for National Review, “Miss” Florence King, has come to our attention. She never misses a chance to broadcast her disagreement to the reader.

You can’t criticize Mohammed. Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh made an uncomplimentary documentary of Mohammed and was knifed to death in broad daylight on a street in Amsterdam . Pinned to his stomach was the Muslim assassin’s message, held in place by the assassin’s knife. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a young Somali woman, a Member of the Dutch Parliament, wrote the script for Van Gogh’s documentary. She had to flee to the U.S. or risk a similar fate. In Britain for years, Salmon Rushdie had to keep moving from one safe house to another to escape assassination in retaliation for his book about Muslims. The same fate afflicts a professor in France who published an inoffensive scholarly article about Muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg lecture quoted from a 14th century Byzantine Emperor on the Qur’an: “Just show me what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Muslim jihadists called for the Pope’s assassination.

You can’t even refer to Muslims. PBS documentary “Islam vs. Islamists, Voices from the Muslim Center ” is a prize-winning documentary which PBS selected and paid for but then refused to show. Its theme is the struggle of moderate Muslims against Muslim extremists.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott at the 100th birthday and retirement celebration of Senator Strom Thurmond, praised him in words no longer used in polite society. In 1948, Thurmond was a segregationist running for president in the Dixiecrat Party. If the Dixiecrats had won, observed Lott, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Lott was quickly removed as Senate Majority Leader.

In England , a Saudi billionaire slapped author Rachel Ehrenfeld with a libel suit for her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It. The book was published in the U.S. A British judge ruled she must apologize, pay the Saudi $225,000, and destroy her book. (A U.S. court has held that the British court has no jurisdiction.)

“Can you let us know if there are any references to Saudis and terrorist[s] in the book [by Andrew McCarthy],” the British distributor of Encounter books asked of Encounter’s president. “We are just concerned . . . [with] libel lawsuits as it could offend Saudis living in England .” (McCarthy prosecuted the case that put the Blind Sheikh and nine accomplices in prison for their role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and in the plotting to attack New York City landmarks.)

“The West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism,” in Ben Stein’s judgment. He concludes:

"We have reached a stage where political correctness has totally beaten free speech to a pulp. You can get punished drastically for even the most lighthearted, harmless comment taken out of context.. . [I]f we are to have free speech in this country, we have to be able to speak about anything except inciting to violence."

By Natalie Sirkin
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