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Freedom of Cluelessness, er, Speech

Thanks for this to my oldest friend Chris - wait a minute, that didn’t come out right, I have friends that are older, he and I are the same age, but we’ve been friends since ninth grade so he’s got seniority… anyway, Chris sent me this link to a Daily Show piece about the Berkeley protest against the poor Marine recruiters who apparently really pissed somebody off in order to get assigned duty there: http://www.y outube.com/w atch?v=SCOFY hPFgw0 Chris has commented in this forum occasionally as “Not As Liberal As Liberal Jarhead.”

The protesters are adamantly protecting the free speech rights of anyone who agrees with them. The best comedy and the best irony are always unintentiona l, as in their total obliviousnes s to the parallel between their wanting to prevent the recruiters from talking to anyone in their town and Dubya’s out-of-sight  , out-of-mind “free speech zones.” A brilliant guy named Nat Hentoff absolutely skewered this kind of thing, on all parts of the political map, in his great book, Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee: How The American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.

What ever happened to “I completely disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?”

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11 Responses to “Freedom of Cluelessness, er, Speech”

  1. Funny video. Rightwing bloggers sure had a field day with that Berkeley/Mar ine Corps incident.

    I hope Berkeley hasn’t turned into the conformist one-dimensio nal place that’s portrayed in all the stereotypes.   I lived there for about 2 years, a long time ago. It had to be the biggest collection of weird people I’ve ever seen; but weird in every way. It wasn’t just longhaired potsmoking anti-war protesters; it was every political viewpoint imagineable, and every type of character you’ve ever met anywhere.

    It seemed like everybody who didn’t quite “fit in” in their own community would move to Berkeley (which of course had nothing to do with why I was there).

    I hope Berkeley hasn’t been swallowed up by conformity and political correctness and “free speech for me but not for thee.” If so, the town has lost something intangible.

  2. I doubt if it’s changed much. But is wonderful how the rightous have such a hard time seeing other people opinions as worth anything.

  3. Yes, true believers of all stripes have more in common with each other than any of them have with more open-minded people who are willing to entertain the idea that someone might be able to disagree with them without being stupid, evil, or crazy. Funny how they mirror each other so well and are so blind to it, and are the most judgmental about the negative qualities in their designated bad guys that they also show most strongly themselves.

    It’s like they say in A.A. meetings: “If you spot it, you’ve got it.”

  4. Apparently the vidio’s been removed due to a copyright infringement claim. So what was it?

  5. Craig,

    It was a sequence from the Daily Show in which a journalist, who noted that he was a former Marine himself, went to Berkeley to report on the protests against the Marine Corps recruiting office that had recently opened there.

    It featured footage of the head of the city council announcing that the Marines “should have more sense” than to do that, more footage of the Code Pink group staging a street protest in front of the office, and interviews he did with several locals who insisted both that they were defending the right of free speech and that the Marine Corps is evil and should not be allowed to talk to people in Berkeley.

    At one point, while one woman was waxing ecstatic about the value of free speech, the reporter asked her what she thought of the idea of an organization that was actually dedicated to protecting that right, and she said she thought it would be great. You could hear the “whoosh” as it went right over her head. She also argued that if we eliminated our military there would be no wars, and if we got rid of all our weapons, there would be no violence. The reporter nodded and said, “So if we had no police, do you think there would be no crime?” She smiled, nodded and said, “Conceivably .”

    At the end of the segment, he was doing a final brief interview with one of the protesters, when another shoved her way between them and the camera and drowned them out shouting “US out of Iraq!” , at which point it cut back to Jon Stewart in the studio commenting wryly on their using their freedom of speech to block their own freedom of speech. Basically, the protesters showed themselves to be naive, illogical, and unconsciousl y hypocritical .

    It reminded me of experiences in the 80s, when I was a new lieutenant going through the Marine Corps’ Basic School at Quantico (a six-month school all new officers go through, which consists mainly of intensive training in ground combat leadership as well as an overview of other job fields; after that, the new lieutenants or warrant officers go on to additional schools for their specialties)  , and I was engaged to a young woman who was attending Smith College in Northampton, MA. I went up to see her about every third weekend. Smith was a bastion of the same kind of attitudes as the video showed at Berkeley, and I had more conversation s than I could count with earnest young women, nearly all sheltered and pampered products of the upper and upper middle classes, who insisted that the military was evil and I must be evil or stupid for being in it, as well as that if we simply disbanded our armed forces, there would be world peace. I usually ended by telling them that I totally disagreed with what they said but that it was my job to defend their rights including free speech, and that since that right was obviously working just fine, I must have been doing my job effectively and tell them, “you’re welcome.”

  6. Disband the police to defeat crime…why didn’t I think of that? :-D

  7. By the way, LJ, let me add my thank you to theirs.

  8. One thing. I don’t have a problem with saying something like “The Marines don’t have a right to talk to people”, especially when they are speaking in their official capacity as agents for the government. The first amendment is a limit upon the power of the government that is intended to protect the right of ordinary people to protest the government’s policies. The first amendment does not protect the right of government agents to speak. While I think that it would be short-sighte d and stupid, I think Berkely — that is, the people of Berkely, through their elected representati ves — would have every right to disallow the federal government from placing recruiting offices in their city.

    Please note, thought, I am not saying that individual marines, speaking as Americans, have no free speech protections. They have the same free speech rights as anyone else (within the confines of military regulations restricting those rights).

    My only other comment about this is: not long ago, I read an article about people from Code Pink chaining themselves to the front doors of a recruiting office in Berkely, presumably the same office but I’m not sure, effectively blocking access to the office. This is not free speech exercise, it is civil disobedience because, although the Marines, as government agents, don’t have first amendment rights, people who would enter the office for whatever reason DO have such rights and to block their access to the recruiting office is, in my opinion, an impermissibl e infringement upon the first amendment rights — free speech, freedom of association and assembly — of those Americans seeking access to the recruiting office. I would analogize this to abortion protesters outside an abortion clinic. Abortion protesters have a right to protest abortion but, the Supreme Court ruled, they must maintain a certain minimum distance from the entrance and any attempt to prevent anyone from entering or to harass anyone leaving can get them arrested. This same rule should apply to people protesting recruiting offices. They can protest but may not legally prevent or people from entering or harass them when entering or exiting the office.

    Craig R. Harmon

  9. Craig,
    Useful distinctions . Thanks for noting them.
    As you noted, no one has the right to interfere the right of any adult to talk to military recruiters, any more than they have the right to keep them from talking to anti-war organization s.

    What gets me about this kind of thing - one of the things that gets me about it - is how condescendin g it is; part of their message is that they don’t think other people can be trusted to reach what they think are the correct conclusions.   It’s an arrogant thing to assume not only that one is right, but that one has the right to deny others the chance to make other decisions. And it is just plain dumb to argue that one is destroying something, such as the right of freedom of speech, in order to protect it. Like the officer who explained that they were destroying a village to save it; obviously, they weren’t saving the village, just denying someone else the chance to use it.

    I do question the Berkeley city government’s right to expect and use funds from the federal government, or services bought with such funds, while doing this. Kind of like the way universities may have the right to ban ROTC programs and recruiters, but not if they’re taking federal funding. Or, as the feds mandated during the Carter administrati on, the right of states not to change their highway speed limits to 55 mph, but not to expect federal highway funds if they didn’t.

    But this whole Berkeley thing is just foolish and shows a degree of ignorance that is sad in a university town - they should know that the military does not start wars or make war policy; the elected civilian leadership gives the military orders, and the military salutes and carries them out. So these folks need to take their beef to the executive and legislative branches in DC, not to some poor slobs who are just carrying out very difficult orders; if they don’t make their recruiting quotas, their careers will be destroyed, but it won’t change foreign policy. Kind of reminds me of the truism that animal rights protesters harass people wearing fur but not leather because rich women are a lot safer to pick on than bikers.

  10. LJ,

    I agree. One clarificatio n. When I suggested that the people of Berkely, through their elected officials, wished to deny the federal government recruiting offices within their city, as you noted, the American people in general, though their elected officials, could then deny Berkely federal funds. If Berkelyites  (Berkelyan s?) have such contempt for protections by federal military troops, they can do without federal funding.

  11. Jim and fellow blogologists  ;

    Here’s an updated link from the Daily Show website in case anyone missed the youtube posting and still wants to see it: http://www.t hedailyshow. com/video/in dex.jhtml?vi deoId=163653 &title=marin es-in-berkle y

    As a former practicing journalist (I’ve been going to JA for years for recovery) and a retired Marine; I particularly like this form of satire since it fits so nicely into my philosophy of “I protect your right to be stupid, as hard as I protect my right to laugh at you.”

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