The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.
Questions Nobody Is Asking
“Was Piers Morgan Right After All?”–headline, PowerLineBlog.com, April 6
Out on a Limb
“Some Gay Activists Fear Same-Sex Supporters Are Becoming Intolerant”–headline, Washington Times, April 6
So Much for the 8th Amendment
“Louisville Jail Signs Up Exiting Inmates for Obamacare”–headline, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, April 7
‘Shut Up’ Is No Argument
…For years we’ve been hearing that the debate about global warming–or “climate change” or whatever they’re calling it this week–is settled. Early in the 2000s some news organizations declared they would banish dissenting points of view from their pages. The debate goes on.
Last month Adam Weinstein wrote a piece for Gawker.com called “Arrest the Climate-Change Deniers.” “Man-made climate change kills a lot of people,” he claimed, offering no evidence. “It’s going to kill a lot more. We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars.”
He stipulates that “I’m not talking about the man on the street,” who is a mere “idiot . . . too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust”:
I’m talking about Rush [Limbaugh] and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscatory propaganda. I’m talking about public persons and organizations and corporations for whom denying a fundamental scientific fact is profitable, who encourage the acceleration of an anti-environment course of unregulated consumption and production that, frankly, will screw my son and your children and whatever progeny they manage to have.
Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.
Deniers will, of course, fuss and stomp and beat their breasts and claim this is persecution, this is a violation of free speech.
In reality, it is none of those things, because it is not going to happen–at least not in America, with our vigorous First Amendment tradition. It’s a fantasy–but a revealing one. What it reveals is a lack of confidence in global-warmist dogma.
The defenestration of Brendan Eich, discussed here Friday, is yet another example. Last week Slate ran three remarkable pieces on the subject. We noted one, by Will Oremus, in Friday’s column. He claimed that anyone opposed to same-sex marriage was a “bigot” and therefore unqualified “to be an effective leader of an organization like Mozilla.”
Another, by Mark Joseph Stern, was titled “The Astonishing Conservative Hypocrisy Over Mozilla and the First Amendment”:
A repeated cry in conservative and libertarian circles over anti-gay Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s resignation is that the company is somehow trampling Eich’s free speech rights. . . . It’s true that, because of this donation, Mozilla’s leaders and board members pressured Eich to resign. But it’s absurd and hypocritical to claim that this pressure constituted an infringement of Eich’s legal rights.
Stern is arguing against a straw man. The links go to posts by The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher and AndrewSullivan.com’s Andrew Sullivan, neither of whom argues that Eich’s ouster was an infringement of his legal rights (Sullivan notes, accurately, that Eich’s contribution to the Proposition 8 campaign was an exercise of his First Amendment Rights).
The third Slate piece, by William Saletan, is the most extreme of all. It’s titled simply “Purge the bigots”:
More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” You can download the entire list, via the Los Angeles Times, as a compressed spreadsheet. . . .
Some, like Eich, are probably senior executives.
Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them.
We know Saletan and his work and realized as we were reading that he meant this facetiously. Not everyone did. One reader emailed us the link with this comment: “Pretty frightening. . . . At first, I thought it was satire. But he’s serious.”
Again, he’s not serious–or rather, he is serious, but his argument is the opposite of what it appears on its face to be. But the mistake is understandable. Especially if one reads the three pieces in the order we’ve presented them here–Oremus, then Stern, then Saletan–there’s a sort of frog-boiling effect that makes it difficult to perceive that one has crossed over into satire.
“Welcome to the Liberal Gulag,” National Review’s Kevin Williamson writes in a column citing some of the same examples we’ve cited here. “That term may be perverse, but it is not an exaggeration.” Referring to the Weinstein piece, he elaborates: “The Left is calling on people to be prosecuted for speaking their minds regarding their beliefs on an important public-policy question that is, as a political matter, the subject of hot dispute. That is the stuff of Soviet repression.”
In a recent article for the Texas Law Review, legal scholar Burt Neuborne, head of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, links the contemporary American left’s turn against free expression to the demise of the Soviet Union:
Once the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the left’s political platform, premised on varying degrees of reliance on governmental redistribution of wealth–ranging from Marxism; to European democratic socialism; to the mild egalitarianism of the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”–ran headlong into an increasing sense that government–even democratic government–performs poorly as the economic or social linchpin of a society. . . . Not surprisingly, many on the left, faced with a newly confident right churning out ideas at a frantic pace, and lacking a coherent alternative political model of their own, lost confidence in the inevitability of progressive change. . . .
Speaking for myself, . . . I find it hard to convince myself that speech aimed at advancing a program of formal legal (as opposed to substantive economic and social) equality is so crucial to human progress that it justifies virtually any negative fallout from an extremely powerful First Amendment. That is a very different First Amendment cost–benefit ratio than the one I perceived as a young ACLU lawyer in the 1960s. …
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”