Richard Cohen's wrong

Posted: May 13, 2002 12:00 AM
Some things are not open for debate. For example, the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech”. That’s an absolute, and should not be messed with. However, the right to free speech doesn’t mean the right to be listened to, and it doesn’t guarantee that everybody else has to pay for the forum. Which brings up the case of Harris Mirkin, Ph.D. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote recently about Mirkin -- a University of Missouri professor. Mirkin is taking heat for publishing an article in the Journal of Homosexuality which argued, “there is a two-phase pattern of sexual politics…Feminist and gay/lesbian politics have recently entered the second phase, while pedophilia is in the first.” In other words, Mirkin would like to see pedophilia become an acceptable subject for discussion, even political debate, the same way the feminist and gay agendas have. That idea was a bit too extreme for Missouri lawmakers, who responded by taking $100,000 out of the university’s budget. Cohen calls that, “a penalty for having the temerity of independent thought.” Wrong. The state legislature isn’t punishing Mirkin for his thoughts. It’s withdrawing the implicit endorsement of Mirkin’s views by the taxpayers of Missouri who finance their state’s public university system. This does not step on Mirkin’s First Amendment rights. He’s still free to think, say and write anything he likes. Any publisher who wants to can print Mirkin’s thoughts. However, Mirkin is not guaranteed a job when he does that. As an example, I work at The
Heritage Foundation. If I start publishing articles calling for higher taxes, more government intervention in our lives and a weaker national military, I’d expect to be given the chance to seek employment elsewhere. Not because the Foundation is tramping on my right to free speech, but because those things are counter to its mission. In the same way, as long as Mirkin is cashing a paycheck from the state of Missouri, state lawmakers can always withhold tax dollars paid by people who find his statements repulsive or offensive. And there is plenty that repulses. Cohen reports, “as Mirkin says, the idea of the innocent child is a recent development. Previous generations…saw the child as a sexual being.” Yes, Mr. Cohen. And previous generations sent 8-year-olds to work in mines and factories because those children had small hands and could squeeze into tight places. Of course, those children usually died young -- either in horrible accidents, or from diseases picked up while working in subhuman conditions. In his Journal of Homosexuality piece, Mirkin also says that, “according to the dominant formulas, the youths are always seduced. They are never considered partners or initiators or willing participants even if they are hustlers.” There’s a frightening idea. A child, portrayed as seducer of an adult. A child, who is considered too immature to drive, vote or drink possibly being allowed to “initiate” sex with an adult. An adult who can then claim to have been “hustled” into the entire thing. Yes, our view of childhood has changed in the last hundred years or so. And thank God! Cohen closes his article by observing, “censorship and demagoguery, not to mention the defamation and incarceration of innocent people are also abominations. Despite what some will tell you, we don’t have to choose.” That’s true. And we don’t have to pay for Mirkin’s forum, either. Mirkin isn’t being censored. He’s free to think, say and write whatever he wants. And, last I checked, Mirkin is still walking around free. He hasn’t been, and isn’t going to be, locked up for his ideas. As for what Cohen calls demagoguery and defamation: That’s simply the rest of us exercising the same right to free speech that Mirkin enjoys. Mirkin isn’t being defamed when others simply challenge his ideas. Mirkin himself doesn’t seem excited about the right of others to disagree with him. He complained to the Kansas City Star that the criticism, “makes me sound like I'm head of a pro-sex-with-children organization. There is no organization, I am not the head of it, and I don't endorse sex with children.” Sadly, there is at least one organization that’s pro-sex-with-children, and I assume Mirkin is familiar with it: The North American Man/Boy Love Association. However, it’s good that Mirkin is not the head of NAMBLA. And it’s good that he's not in favor of adults having sex with children. So what's to talk about? We don't discuss whether rape, or robbery, or murder, or slavery should be allowed. So, since adult-child sex is already illegal, so let's just leave it that way and move on.