David Harsanyi

It's a discredit to our national confidence that each time some impolite thought -- perceived or otherwise -- is uttered, sketched or typed, a faction of professionally offended Americans engages in a collective hypersensitivity meltdown.

It has been a long-standing custom for opponents to shut down debate by tagging adversaries with some dreadful labels. No one wants to be called a racist, a Commie or a neocon. It's gotten to the point that the gatekeepers of the news walk so tepidly on the path of least resistance a journalist can't even get a dirty joke in the newspaper.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently claimed that we, as a nation, have been cowards on the topic of race. And maybe he's right. Some Americans are cowards. Other Americans -- the ones in the media -- worry that Al Sharpton might show up in their doorways and shake down their kids for allowance money.

Sean Delonas, cartooning at the New York Post, recently learned what happens when you inadvertently offend. He equated congressional authors of the so-called stimulus bill with that crazy rampaging chimpanzee (admittedly an unpardonable insult to our simian cousins). But some readers saw Barack Obama. So the situation has erupted into a massively stupid kerfuffle.

Now, I don't doubt that many readers of this admittedly unfortunate cartoon legitimately were offended. So let's, for the sake of argument, concede that the cartoonist is a raging racist. What now?

In protests this week, students at a New York college urged boycotts, began burning newspapers -- a hop, skip and jump from burning books! -- and demanded that anyone involved with the cartoon be fired. Fair enough.

But now the Rev. Al has ordered a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission so he -- a man who has set off more chaos, loathing and racism in New York than any cartoonist -- can discuss the ownership of the Post. The FCC, according to Sharpton, has acquiesced to meet in Washington.

As an antiquated government entity, the FCC controls the public airwaves and ownership of media companies. What if it meets with Sharpton and then moves against the New York Post's owner?

We largely have avoided the corrosive trend of chilling free speech -- though discussions about the "Fairness Doctrine" (and its derivatives), which allows government to dictate what opinions Americans should hear on the public airwaves, remains a hobbyhorse for some lefties.