Take off the muzzle

Posted: Sep 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Children of the ’80s may fondly recall the program “You Can’t Do That on Television.” It was especially entertaining when they dumped green slime on Alanis Morissette, something many wish they could do now.

These days, there’s very little you can’t do on television. However, there are plenty of things that you can’t say, on television or in print. Not because these things aren’t true, but because they’re considered politically incorrect.

Let’s begin with patriotism, or the lack thereof. For years, those on the left insisted no one could suggest they are less than patriotic. “I refuse to have my patriotism or right to speak out questioned,” then-presidential candidate John Kerry told the Associated Press in 2003.

These days there’s little need to question the patriotism of some liberals -- they’ll do so themselves. Recently Kim Holmes, a vice president at The Heritage Foundation, was on C-SPAN to warn about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. “What would the world be like if this regime actually gets its hands on this most terrible of weapons?” Holmes asked. He wants the U.S. to take this threat seriously and take steps to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. No doubt most Americans agree.

But some callers claimed the real threat to peace is not Iran, but our own United States.

“If I were an Iranian, I would want my government to have every weapon possible to defend itself against imperialist aggression from the United States,” one caller insisted. “As far as Iran is concerned, you talk about human rights, what about human rights right here in America?” another wondered. “Look at the blacks being thrown in jail. We have terrorists, we have the KKK. All this stuff happens right here in the United States.”

A third caller insisted there is a “concerted plan by the administration to take over the entire Middle East.” This man, a self-declared Democrat from Cleveland, opined, “when it’s proven that [Iranians] are manufacturing nuclear weapons, then the United Nations, not the United States, the United Nations, will have the responsibility to go into Iran and stop the program.”

Hey, there’s the spirit that made the United States great: Let the U.N. do it.

Let’s recall, though, that the United Nations is the home of the Oil-for-Food scandal. An investigation recently reported that Oil-for-Food allowed Saddam Hussein to pocket more than $10 billion in illicit profits. Iran must be drooling at the idea the U.N. might be in charge of preventing it from getting nukes -- its leaders would end up with both a bomb and billions of dollars.

The U.N. alone cannot prevent the spread of nuclear technology. Especially since Russia and China -- each interested in winning favor with Iran -- have vetoes in the Security Council and can block any meaningful action by the U.S.

Note that these callers considered the U.S. to be a threat to world peace, a violator of human rights, a country that ought to be checked by the U.N. and Iran. It may make these callers angry to hear it, but the U.S., in spite of its failings, is the global champion of peace, the strongest defender of human rights and the country that polices rogues and international institutions. To say otherwise can only be described as unpatriotic.

Another topic that’s supposedly off-limits is whether or not Islam preaches violence.

Radio talk show host Michael Graham says it does. “Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization,” he announced on Washington’s WMAL back in July. Graham’s comments enraged the Muslim pressure group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations). It demanded “disciplinary action.”

Graham’s statement was controversial, but at least he attempted to back it up. If WMAL cherished free exchange, it would have given a CAIR representative airtime and allowed him to correct Graham’s statement. If what he’d said was so offensive and wrong, refuting it shouldn’t have been difficult.

Instead, CAIR demanded an apology. When Graham refused, WMAL fired him. “We are saddened that Michael Graham would not take responsibility for his hate-filled words,” CAIR’s executive director said, “but we do welcome WMAL’s action as a step toward reducing the level of anti-Muslim bigotry on our nation’s airwaves.” What a sad viewpoint. Instead of having an exchange in the arena of ideas, CAIR wants anyone who expresses ideas it disagrees with pulled off the air.

There will always be things we shouldn’t talk about, at least on radio and television. But we’ve got a problem when certain topics are essentially forbidden. Let’s have free and open discussions -- and save the green slime for reruns of “You Can’t Do That on Television.”

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