Conservative commentary: Ideas never are to be feared

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— To fear an idea, any idea, is unworthy of a free society. To suppress an idea from debate is more cowardly still. How does our country measure up?

Americans pride themselves on being free-thinking and open, and we generally are. But five instances to the contrary recently hit the news. The utterance of forbidden words had polite opinion caterwauling like spinsters who saw a mouse. It was a bad show. We can do better.

The would-be censors targeted a radio host's glee, a political party's advocacy, a wartime nation's realism, a legislator's bluntness and a black man's heresy. Amid the Washington cherry blossoms, Jefferson's statue wept. French seismographs detected Voltaire spinning in his grave. It was not a good week for free expression.

Start with Rush Limbaugh. The king of talk radio exulted that he was "dreaming of riots in Denver" when radicals try to disrupt the Democratic convention. A chorus of opposition led by Sen. Ken Salazar demanded Limbaugh be punished. For what: stating the obvious? Civil disorder fomented by the likes of Glenn Spagnuolo and Al Sharpton can only help Republicans - but nothing Rush says will increase its likelihood. Grow up, people.

Then there was Linda Daves, the North Carolina Republican chairwoman. Her TV ad in a governor's race, featuring film of Barack Obama's pastor calling for America's damnation, was deemed by John McCain as unfit for airing. That the war hero soon flipped and disqualified himself as "referee" only worsened the embarrassment. Why was he frightened in the first place by the idea of voters knowing this fact about Democrats and the company they keep?

Our epidemic of the vapors then swept the departments of State and Homeland Security, which told Americans to avoid words like "jihad" and "Islam" in describing the radical Muslims at war against us - even though many so label themselves. Mustn't cause "offense to moderates," explained the Associated Press story. The bureaucrats prefer sanitized terms such as "violent extremist." Counter-terrorism expert Steven Emerson suspects the Muslim Brotherhood scripted all this.

So what else has arisen lately in the way of ideas to be afraid of? Don't forget the unschooled rural farm laborers - or in a single pithy phrase, "illiterate peasants." Liberal legislators and media scolds went nutso when Rep. Douglas Bruce spoke the unspeakable in a debate on guest workers. Censure was threatened. Bruce's election challenger self-servingly urged him to quit. Memo to lynch mob: Bad manners aren't grounds for muzzling and persecution. It's still a free country.

No survey of intellectual cowardice would be complete without an update on the campus thought police. Chris Robinson, the Colorado College student hauled into kangaroo court for satirizing feminism, is a tale for another day. Today, consider Joseph C. Phillips, the black TV actor and columnist, whose April 4 speaking date for the College Republicans at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania became an ordeal of intimidation for his hosts - at the hands not of fellow students, but of administrators.

Phillips' talk on - not for or against, just "on" - affirmative action must be paired with an opposing speaker, the hosts were warned, or vandalism against their posters and personal backlash against them were likely. When the GOP students stood firm, according to a report filed by Phillips with Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute, "they were finally told by the Office of Multicultural Affairs that they should have invited a white speaker instead of me."

You can be sure that story's not over. None of these stories are, because America's journey toward a full realization of freedom and responsibility isn't over either. The goal is a civic arena where all ideas openly contend and none are fearfully silenced. We're not there yet.

John Andrews of Centennial was president of the Colorado Senate in 2003-05. He is now a Claremont Institute fellow, a member of the Conservative Leadership Counsel of Northwest Colorado and host of Backbone Radio, Sundays at 5 p.m. online at 710knus.com. You can e-mail John at andrewsjk@aol.com.

Comments

Scott Wedel 5 years, 11 months ago

Of course ideas are to be feared. Our country has been fighting a war on terrorism. We do not welcome or accept the ideas of terrorism.

The relevant question is why are certain ideas feared and opposed. Is the idea being criticized and demands for it to be retracted because it is a really bad idea that may be advocating violence or a racist insult? Or is the idea harmless or maybe even truthful that is being opposed because of political correctness?

For instance, Rush Limbaugh hoping for riots at the Denver Democratic convention appears to be hoping for violence. Rush followed up his initial comment by another that made it very clearly his use of "riot" did not mention political conflict, but actual cars burning and so on.

That deserves to be criticized and should be retracted.

And Linda Davies of North Carolina was advocating guilt by association of that person's association. That is easily recognized as a very low form of politics since there is no end of vile statements from associates of associates.

If Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were described as "conservative chirstians" then that too should be criticized because it is far too general a description and unfairly suggests that everyone fitting that description is likely to be a domestic terrorist. Thus, it is actually accurate and smart to avoid describing the world's 1.2 billion followers as Islam as terrorists.

Douglas Bruce's comment of "illiterate peasants" is not a synonym for "under educated poor people" because "illiterate" does not mean "under educated". It means unable to read. Thus, that comment was an inaccurate needless insult.

That a college says that a speaker must also present an opposing viewpoint is also wrong. A college should encourage a variety of ideas. Though, a Goggle search found no articles that happening and more importantly there is no indication of "media scolds" or of anyone at all supporting the college's actions as described by Mr Phillips account.

But it is intellectually wrong to group together widely reported offensive ideas in which the articles include comments from people pointing out why that is an offensive idea along with a basically unreported account of a conservative person having trouble expressing his ideas at a college.

Where is the fear in expressing any of these ideas? That someone was offended and asks if the intent of the comment was to offend?

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colowoodsman 5 years, 11 months ago

According to my 'Webster' illiterate means 'unable to read or write'. Since these 'peasants' would be entering a country where most of the media, laws, rules and regulations are in English not Spanish, Bruce was correct in terming them 'illiterate'.

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424now 5 years, 11 months ago

Censorship will foster a society afraid to utter a word.

I say let the pastor rant! It only helps us grasp his motivations more clearly.

Let Rush foment public unrest. He does not like Democrats, is it illegal for him to hope they fail?

The could never in a million years be a more accurate depiction of the word dichotomy.

If you were to split the total population down the middle separated by there polarity, on the far right you have Rush and on the far left the pastor.

Personally, I recognize both as debate generators. Either is guilty of only one true fault.

Their adherence to their own perceived absolute correctness.

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seabirth 5 years, 11 months ago

another funny piece from our "conservatives". i like how they always bring up rush limbaugh... the DRUG ADDICT... to bolster their case.

i also like how rev. wright is again brought up (although it was nice to hear a "conservative" bring up mccain's flip-flopping). mccain wanted it silenced not because he was offended or didn't want to go after obama, but because he knows if pastors become an issue he's in trouble. he went after support of pastors who hate the catholic church and who state katrina came to stop a gay pride parade in new orleans (katrina didn't just damage new orleans, but a lot of god-fearing conservative towns). this is after stating pastors like this were "agents of intolerance" back in 2000.

yes, the conservatives always want ideas to be heard, unless they disagree with them... such as science (evolution, sex ed) or anything they consider vulgar or profane.

how about protecting george w from dissent http://www.amconmag.com/12_15_03/feature.html

don't let michael moore speak at a college http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2005/SO/Feat/kell.htm

prioritizing fighting adult porn over terrorism and organized crime http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1125318960389

the problem with going after free speech isn't a left or right issue, but a human issue. people do not like to hear things that offend or upset them. the common reaction (left or right) is to try to stop the offending speech.

and just so everyone knows, i am not trying to stop these "conservative" columns... but i would suggest they be moved to the section with the comics.

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Stephen Blinkenberg 5 years, 11 months ago

Was that an attempt at humor? oops, i mean, was that an attempt at humor?

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JT 5 years, 11 months ago

The Colorado College incident has been mischaracterized over and over. The student mentioned in this commentary was questioned not for satirizing feminism but because he and a friend posted an anonymous flier with references to sniper rifles, guns and survival rates just two weeks after the shootings at Northern Illinois University. Many people were alarmed and concerned for their safety. The students were not sanctioned or punished. At least one additional issue of their flier has been posted since, again with content some may find offensive, as well as weapons references, but that one didn't contain realistic threats to a campus, so it was a non-issue.

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424now 5 years, 11 months ago

Seabirth,

I, as a long standing and what my compatriots would term a Republican invite argument and dissent as it will only serve to bring the truth to light.

You will rarely hear me quoting Rush or Ann. I like to pick apart abhorrent ideologies all by myself. It's fun.

I oppose Obama due to his lack of foreign relations and his pledge to simply withdraw troops from Iraq. Irregardless of the havoc that will create.

Unfortunately for our children that just might come to pass. It is another reason why I appreciate living in the Boat. We are not a high profile enough target for the "Boogey man" that will crawl out of that chaos. A boogey man bent on our destruction, with plenty of radical religion to ease his mind as he takes as many of us with him into the afterlife. Osama Bin Laden Crawled out of Afghanistan when we walked away in the 80's.

We have seen what that kind of monster can do.

Let's not forget the past.

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id04sp 5 years, 11 months ago

Here's my bottom line on it, Bub.

I don't care which side of the aisle wants to sit and judge what I do. The fact that they WANT to judge what I do means they are somehow offended by my actions.

Don't you dare tell me what Jesus would do. You don't have a clue. And don't dare tell me that recognizing the fact that working-class Americans are not voting for Obama is anything other than backlash against the African American sector of our society that deals in drugs, violence, and illegitimacy as a way of life.

Another Navy pilot once told me, "Everybody out there is trying to kill us; and some of them are on the other side."

Middle-class white America wants tax relief, crime relief, traffic relief, medical care cost relief, affordable transportation and a sense of personal safety and security. People who deal in the abstract on either side (Conservative: We will win this county for GOD! or Liberal: We will have socialism in our lifetime) are out of touch and need to get a clue.

The people running for office ONLY want to get elected. They'll figure out the rest of it once they take office.

Too many people in this country make their living by talking to the rest of us. We'd all be better off if they were planting rice in Myanmar instead. Enough is enough already. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Fish, or cut bait. Liberals, stop waiting for a handout. We're all handed-out already. Conservatives, lighten up and get to know the real problems people have, and find ways to solve them, instead of spouting ideology.

I already support my family and another person I don't know (welfare, social security, etc.). That's enough. Leave me alone. Have your ideas somewhere else. We've already got enough good ones that will never work.

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id04sp 5 years, 11 months ago

424,

Whichever out-of-touch Bozo wrote this thing on behalf of the "conservative" movement.

My point is that all of us should support ourselves, but some of us cannot because of conditions beyond our control (physical infirmity caused by disease or accident not attributable to our own negligence). The rest of the people who don't share conservative ideology (and ambition, productivity and success without victimizing somebody else in the best of cases with people who call themselves conservatives) can't be euthanized, so what's the solution? Change their minds? Ain't gonna happen.

There are people who will be poor because it's easier than being rich. Some people will be promiscuous, and use drugs and alcohol to excess, and all that other stuff that helps destroy our society, simply because we let them get away with it. We can't have freedom, free will AND universal responsibility for self-support.

Every person I know over the age of 40 who struggles financially does so because of personal choice. I don't happen to know any who struggle because of being victimized by criminals and renegade spouses, natural disasters, etc., but that DOES happen. Having been in that boat myself, however, I know it can take a while to recover, but by Jove, you CAN recover if you are able to work at it and choose to do so.

The Democrats are trying to buy votes with government give-aways. That's the bottom line. If they were coming down on the side of personal safety, national security, individual responsibility and pulling together to solve our problems WITHOUT THE GOVERNMENT FOOTING THE WHOLE BILL I'd be with them. So what's my choice? Thank God it's a Republican moderate in John McCain. It's about time.

Liberals are just, well, pitiful. They will never prosper as a whole in the long run unless they change their attitudes. A few will always be successful, but for every one that is, thousands get by on very little.

Conservatives, generally, are judgmental and selfish. Jesus never condemned anybody for a sin of the flesh, and neither should the rest of us. If you want to live with a stick up your @$$, fine, but keep that stick away from me.

There's some famous quote about being liberal when you're young, and conservative when you're old. I think it really cuts deeper. Try being conservative when life has overtaken you, and you're trying to pay medical bills, support your family, pay your taxes, etc. The very same applies to liberals.

There has got to be a middle ground that serves the common good, and the extremists should be slapped down and told to shut up. Enough already.

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nikobesti 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm not fan of political correctness. But here's the distinction, and Scott alluded to it: political correctness is when something that is TRUE is denounced. I have no problem with someone calling immigrant farm workers peasants. But they are not illiterate. The literacy rate in Mexico is 91% (and colowoodsman, it means you can read and right in YOUR OWN LANGUAGE, Copernicus). When you say something untrue and inflammatory about a group of people, it's bigotry. You know, like "blacks are lazy." That kind of thing is untrue, and therefore is not about PC. "Muslims in Al Qaeda are terrorists." Yes. If you denounce that, PC has gone overboard. "All Muslims are terrorists." NO. That's untrue and is bigotry. Get the distinction now? But I agree sometimes we liberals need to be a little less sensitive. And much of the blame should go to the media, which can't cover real news so they prefer to cover controvercial sound bites taken out of context.

Okay, then let's move on to open mindedness and suppressing ideas and debate. I support discussion on any topic and I think sometimes liberals need to work on this. I read an op-ed in High Country News supporting killing predators. You should have seen the closed minds from some liberals. "How DARE you print such a piece?" Give me a break! Free speech goes both ways folks, and there's nothing wrong with listening to others' opinions. However, some conservatives are just as bad. For example, read the comments on the thread "Audacity of Hope" and read how the conservative weallnutz who didn't like my opinion told me, "if you don't support your country or its leaders....LEAVE!" Now that's the epitome of cowardly suppression of ideas and debate.

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