Back in January of 2009, much was made about President Barack Obama’s telling Republican leaders that, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
Last October, Liz Cheney, spawn of the aptly named former Vice President Cheney, made an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News television show to criticize the Obama administration’s calling out of Fox News, like White House advisor David Axelrod’s claims to ABC News that Fox News is “really not news…other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way. We’re not going to treat them that way.”
On Hannity’s program, Cheney claimed that the administration’s condemnations of Fox News were “clear censorship.”
Cheney, as often seems to be the case with people that share her last name, was wrong. The Obama administration’s comments about Fox News were, in fact, simply comments (see last week’s Correctionary for more information about “comments”). Any claims of censorship made by Fox News or its advocates are nothing more than wishful thinking on behalf of an ideological mindset that wants nothing more than to achieve power through political martyrdom.
What, then, is censorship?
Censoring is indisputably different from criticizing something, specifically “to suppress or delete as objectionable.” For example, if you express an opinion about something (i.e. “Gay marriage is going to destroy America”), and someone offers a counterpoint to your expressed opinion (i.e. “No, and you’re an idiot”), they are not necessarily censoring you.
The constitutionally protected free speech that allows one person to criticize gay marriage also allows someone smarter to criticize that opinion (which, remember, despite its ignorance, they are welcome to express).
The term “censor” originated from a Roman governmental position. A censor was responsible for the census and the overseeing of public morals. While some may argue that censorship is always wrong, there are certain times when it seems obviously called for; child pornography, hate speech, and Stephanie Meyer novels immediately come to mind.
In the 1919 Supreme Court decision of Schenk v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a man whose square name indicates only half of his complete and total awesomeness, famously declared that the First Amendment of the Constitution would not protect a citizen from “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Holmes is frequently misquoted without the all-important word “falsely,” the incredibly crucial adjective indicating the necessity and importance of truth behind any protected speech. This does, of course, include opinion, but remember that the opinions of all citizens of the United States are protected by the First Amendment, not simply the opinions with which you agree.
Making Glenn Beck’s television program illegal would be censorship. Starting your own show that exists solely to call out Beck’s deluded, transparent-as-clear-water demagoguery is just a utilization of free speech. Let’s remember the difference.
And also, let’s ignore Glenn Beck. He’s evil. And I’m allowed to say so. Eat it.