Tony Blankley

But note, we need to distinguish between constitutional free speech and a culture conducive to free speech. Neither Imus, nor any of us, have a right to be published or broadcast. Constitutionally, we only have a right to stand on a street corner or otherwise self-publish our ideas and words.

But a culture that cheers on collective efforts at suppression of heresy, dissent or other unpopular words is every bit as chilling as one merely enforced by law. And there is usually a political agenda (often hidden) behind such public exhortations to suppression: Crassly silence one's political opponent in the name of public virtue. Or, as in the case of Imus, use his suppression as a chilling threat to others -- who are one's true political enemies.

Imus used a nasty phrase, reasonably believed by many to have been hateful. His transgression was merely a convenient moment to launch an intimidating suppression campaign against other "hate speech."

But we all know that "hate speech" is in the ear of the listener. In Europe, citizens can be -- and have been -- criminally prosecuted for calling elements of Islam violence-prone. The great crusading journalist Oriana Fallaci was forced to live out her last cancer-ridden days in exile to avoid paying the penal price for her honest (and accurate) expressions on that topic.

Dissent is often filled with hate -- at objects well worthy of such hatred. But whether the hatred is justified or not, once we have accepted the proposition that hateful speech should not be free, we have lost the battle. The right to speak offensively is at the heart of freedom of expression. One needs no rights to say that puppies are cute, or that it's nice to be nice.

And it is worth noting who has been defending Imus's rights. Although he is a liberal and gave his microphone over to mostly liberal journalists, it was conservatives (and out of the mainstream lefties like Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Maher) who defended his right. Because we are the ones who value and need both a law and culture of free expression.

The liberal journalists were mostly hiding under their desks last week, because their ability to be published and broadcast is dependent, not on freedom of expression, but on friends in high media places (the executive suites of CBS. NBC, ABC, NY Times, Newsweek, Time, etc.)

If one has friends in the palace, one doesn't need justice -- but one must be careful not to displease one's friends. It is the common people, the outcasts who need justice.

While the executives in the liberal media elite no more represent the views of Americans than Louis XVI represented the sentiments of the French people, they do represent current media power -- and they are weak and easily scared by activists such as Sharpton and others who brandish the charge of "hate speech" at commentators who don't support their political agenda.

Imus may be an imperfect martyr, but the malign forces that brought him down must be opposed ferociously.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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