Pat Buchanan might have seen the end of the line coming at MSNBC when last month network president Phil Griffin commented on his latest book, "Suicide of a Superpower," by saying, "I don't think the ideas that (Buchanan) put forth are appropriate for the national dialogue, much less on MSNBC."
When Buchanan was let go last week after 10 years as a commentator on the network, no one was surprised.
I don't agree with some of Buchanan's ideas, especially regarding Jews, his questioning of whether World War II had to happen or whether the United States should be involved militarily in the Middle East, but he has every right to his ideas, as we all have the right to our own. It's called free speech.
The approach to free speech should be like the one taken by the ACLU in 1977 when neo-Nazis made plans to march through the Jewish suburb of Skokie, Ill. While deploring their views, the ACLU defended the group's right to express itself.
Today, is censorship the new pluralism?
Actor Ben Jones, who starred as "Cooter" on the television show "The Dukes of Hazzard," wrote to tell me about a decision by NASCAR to ban the car known as the "General Lee" from appearing at the Sprint Cup series race at Phoenix next month. The image of the Confederate flag on the car's roof, said NASCAR spokesman David Higdon, "...is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive."
Jones said in a recent statement, "At a time when tens of millions of Americans are honoring their Union and Confederate ancestors during this Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, NASCAR has chosen to dishonor those Southerners who fought and died in that terrible conflict by caving to 'political correctness' and the uninformed concerns of corporate sponsors.
"This is also an extraordinary insult to rural Southerners, who are NASCAR's oldest and most fervent fan base, and it sends a message against inclusion and against the need for diversity."
Is conformity the new diversity?
Jones is not only an actor, but a former Democratic member of Congress from Georgia and a strong civil rights proponent.
When the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the burning of the American flag as free speech, while the free exercise of religion is being curtailed at many levels, is this not censoring a particular category of expression? Censorship is also moving beyond its classic definition into a new and even more dangerous area.
As The Daily Caller, a 24-hour news site founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and former Cheney aide Neil Patel, has reported, a liberal group known as Media Matters has not only fed talking points to some reporters and opinion columnists, it has been campaigning to get people fired when they hold ideas with which the left disagrees. According to the Caller, Media Matters hired people to investigate the lives of Fox News employees and compiled an "enemies list." Media Matters didn't respond directly to the charges; its founder, David Brock, instead pointed to Reuters' criticism of the Caller's "bad journalism" and "lame propaganda" as the reason for Media Matters' silence.
These and many other attempts to suppress speech and force people into a universal and "acceptable" belief system harm freedom. Suppressing speech changes not a single mind. The freedom to debate ideas and present arguments in support of a position is what separates the United States from most other nations.
Do we want to become like countries that have the equivalent of "thought police," smothering speech and penalizing anyone who refuses to toe the party line? Should I be prevented from asking this question?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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