Haters of Free Speech Need to Grow Up

Commentary by Ron Miller

Ron MillerLet's play out a hypothetical scenario, shall we?

Let's pretend that last Friday, it's reported that the president of the Maryland Senate, Mike Miller, made a disparaging statement about candidates who ran on a pledge not to raise taxes, something like, "Those people aren't worth the powder you'd blow them up with."

The next day, Delegate-elect Mark Fisher is out meeting constituents at the local Safeway grocery store as he prepares to take office, when a man walks up to him, tosses a device on the ground at his feet, and runs off as it explodes, wounding Fisher and others around him. Not everyone survives.

How many press outlets, within an hour of the horrific attack, do you think would be blasting the airwaves with critiques slamming Mike Miller and the incendiary rhetoric of the Left for creating a climate in which such atrocities are encouraged? How many legislators would be calling for crackdowns on "hate" speech?

I hear crickets - do you?

Now, let me assure you that Mark Fisher is fine - sorry to use you in that example, Mark! - and this is just an illustration to make a point. Well, most of it is made up, but not all of it.

Mike Miller did indeed utter the words above; they were reported in the Baltimore Sun last Friday.

They take on a different meaning in the wake of the Tucson shootings that killed six, including a 9-year old girl and a federal judge, wounded 14 others and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in critical condition, fighting for her life.

The rush to judgment by the liberal elites, the media and their followers, the immediate shift to a generalized condemnation of "toxic" speech once their initial charges were proven to be completely bogus, and the various proposals to restrict our freedom of speech and our 2nd Amendment rights, are shameful and silly.

I could sit here and complain about the unfairness of it all - the liberal double standard when it comes to provocative speech, the shameless attempts to exploit this tragedy for political gain, yada, yada - and I'd be right. But I'm not going to go there.

For what it's worth, I don't assume that angry liberals are looking for blasting powder to go blow up some no-tax pledge signers as a result of Mike's stupid statement. I respect my fellow Marylanders, and my fellow Americans, too much to be that condescending.

Besides, this isn't the first time Mike has used violent imagery in his public pronouncements. Remember this gem?
"[W]e're going to shoot [Republicans] down. We're going to put them in the ground. We're going to bury them upside-down, and it'll be 10 years before they crawl out again."

Not only did he not retract that statement, but he repeated it four years later, and added another 30 years to the burial time.

My response? It reflects on him, not anyone else. Those are his words and he owns them. People can decide for themselves what they think of a public servant making such utterances, especially one in his position of leadership. But I digress.

I only have two messages that I want to make sure everyone processes.

First, the individual who murdered and wounded innocent people in Tucson last Saturday is neither a liberal nor a conservative. He is mentally disturbed, as have been most people throughout history who've committed such horrific acts. He owns his deed - all of it. The responsibility is his and his alone.

Second, to everyone who is whining about how Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, the Tea Party movement and every other conservative bogeyman made him pull the trigger?

You're supposed to be Americans. Act like it.

And go read a book on American history while you're at it - a real one, not the revised ones you adore so much with the pages torn out of them.

Incendiary rhetoric and politics go together like a horse and carriage, and they always have. Read about the 1800 presidential campaign between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, or the 1828 presidential campaign between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, which some historians have called the nastiest in American history.

In a blog article I wrote during the 2008 presidential campaign, Dirty Politics is a Redundant Term," I offered a couple of observations from people who've taken the time to study American politics objectively:
Emmett H. Buell Jr. and Lee Sigelman, authors of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns since 1960, did an exhaustive analysis of Presidential campaigns from 1960 to 2004 and concluded that negative campaigning hasn't increased but is simply better publicized and that John F. Kennedy's campaign in 1960 may have been the most negative of all - yes, even more negative than the infamous "Swift Boat" campaign of 2004.
I also quoted Henry Brooks Adams, an American writer and scholar and descendant of the political Adams family, who wrote in his 1880 novel Democracy that "Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds."

So politics is and always has been a rough and tumble profession, and we should be able to handle it. In fact, America was designed to encourage the tension of conflicting ideas. This is the land of liberty, right?

Liberty isn't pretty; in fact, the true test of our devotion to liberty is when it's practiced by those with whom we disagree.

Civil libertarian and free speech advocate Zechariah Chafee said, "After all, if freedom of speech means anything, it means a willingness to stand and let people say things with which we disagree, and which do weary us considerably."

Thomas Jefferson had no problem with energetic and spirited political debate, proclaiming, "I hold it, that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

He also warned us that "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." As he once cried, "For God's sake, let us freely hear both sides!"

Those legislators who are submitting bills to restrict speech or gun ownership are not defenders of liberty, but oppressors.

They are also duplicitous when it comes to free speech. Trust me when I tell you they have a particular category of speech in mind when they propose these restrictions.

Hate speech, net neutrality, the Fairness Doctrine - all of these high-sounding programs have but one objective, and that is the suppression of speech with which they disagree.

Behind these efforts is a deeply-held contempt toward most Americans, a pathology which I've labeled "the infantilization of America."

They believe we are weak-minded, ignorant and manipulable, and therefore incapable of controlling the impulses that arise from passionate political discourse, making us susceptible to violence.

To them, their foot soldiers in the media, academia and the entertainment industry, and the minions who follow them, I say, shame on you.

No one appointed you as gods to lord over us, or magistrates to determine our fitness as human beings. The very document that gave birth to this nation established that our equality and dignity come not from you, but from the very hand of God.

He entrusted us with our liberties, and the fact that millions of people from around the world leave their ancestral homes every year to come here is a testimony to how well we've handled it to this point.

We reject your arrogance, just as we reject your attempts to silence us. You once had our trust, but you have shown yourselves to be unworthy of it, so flail away as much as you wish. We will not follow you, nor will we permit you to take away our freedom.

Liberty is for big boys and girls who believe in individual responsibility and accountability. Get over yourselves and grow up.

Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.

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