Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2002/ 22 Kislev, 5763

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Free speech, Harvard, and First Amendment looneys | A fairly regular curmudgeon correspondent, whose disdain for me knows no bounds, sent an e-mail brimming with his usual malignings and a bonus in the form of a query about our child with disabilities, "How is the little defect?"

The dog bit and the bee stung in one sentence. Crude, insensitive and utterly devoid of purpose describe his words and etiquette. The liberalentsia should call his gaggle of verbiage "hate speech." Censor not this clod. The First Amendment shields all speech, from the vile to the ridiculous, and protects dolts for the sake of democracy.

Tom Daschle beats the drums for curbing domination of talk radio by conservatives. Daschle tells blood-curdling tales: Rush Limbaugh fans are after him because El Rushbo referred to Daschle, as, brace yourselves, "obstructionist." Conservative, talk-show-listeners are not lying in wait, meeting in woods and plotting to rid the world of ineffectual senators. Daschle has about as much likelihood of a Limbaugh fan pummeling as Jennifer Lopez has for a lasting marriage. Daschle's Utopian media balance exists already and tilts his way: ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN.

Emily's List, the Democratic PAC that supports only pro-choice female candidates, demands rules on title injustices committed during 2002 gubernatorial races. In Michigan, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus referred to his opponent, AG Jennifer Granholm, as "Jennifer." In Maryland Robert Ehrlich Jr. called his opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, "Ma'am." Oh, the indignity of being a non-Ms.!

Those who seek to erode the First Amendment with regulation, however, desire exceptions for their utterances. The hate speech label vacillates with political leanings. Singer Harry Belafonte pontificated, "Colin Powell's permitted to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture." Day-o! Me want go home! Harry should stick to tallying bananas. There's no daylight here. This racially charged hate sentiment found no outrage from the left.

The California Supreme Court ruled that Nike could be prosecuted under that state's false advertising laws for CEO Phil Knight's letter to the New York Times that challenged a Bob Herbert op-ed piece on Nike's labor practices in Third World countries. Bob Herbert and the New York Times enjoy immunity from refutation for this shallow analysis, "Nike executives . . . are not bothered by the cries of the oppressed. Each cry is a signal that their investment is paying off." Under the guise of advertising regulation, California has censored speech. Corporate speech and Phil Knight enjoy First Amendment protection. Nike has the right to debate its labor practices and policies.

The halls of the academy are home to utter inconsistency on utterances. Harvard's English department invited poet Tom Paulin to campus. Poet Paulin waxes eloquent West Bank Jewish settlers, "They should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them." Wordsworth, where art thou?

Faculties are heavy-handed, inconsistent, and First Amendment-free when they are the targets. Harvard Business School now considers censure for students who published a cartoon in the student newspaper in which career services folks were labeled "incompetent morons." Across the campus at Harvard Law School, future lawyers labor to develop a hate speech code because a student's course outline used a racial slur.

Sometimes speech is nutty. Insensitivity abounds. Free speech can net a wince or two. The First Amendment was not created with the amiable, discerning, or rational in mind. Free speech protects the obnoxious, the offensive and those who do not bow to PC. Censoring speech, no matter how inane or offensive its content, is dangerous. One man's rambling folly is another man's cause. The marketplace of ideas demands a microphone for all because free markets work. No one need fear the flow of thoughts and ideas. Truth percolates; chaff dissipates with laughter's discernment.

Sticks and stones break bones, words don't. My tacky correspondent and the nonsense of others noted here reflect desperation rhetoric, a transparent substitute for analysis and refutation. We endure such oafishness and speak to counter.

Harvard's President Lawrence Summers has done a masterful job of avoiding speech codes while still enforcing common decency. His words shamed his faculty into uninviting poet Paulin, "Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israel have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities."

Words irritate, motivate, excite, and condemn. But words also calm, heal, respond, reason, and defend. Free speech cannot survive without this full range of action verbs. Nor can freedom.

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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


11/25/02: Eminem culture
11/14/02: Hollywood trash
11/04/02: Patron Kennedy Saints
10/28/02: What the snipers and Moose taught
10/22/02: Nobel Prizes and other ventriloquist acts
10/17/02: The window on the liberal mind and war
10/14/02: Leaders don't change; followers do
10/07/02: Do it yourself
09/27/02: Hosers rise again
09/20/02: Girly gridiron
09/13/02: Erudite buffoons
09/11/02: One year later, crass demands, greed, and litigation are back --- but rights are diminished
09/06/02: Public schools: An unqualified success
08/30/02: The Shakespearean tragedy of affirmative action
08/23/02: Hollywood Joe's admission
08/15/02: Cheapskates
08/08/02: Ode to a coal miner
08/02/02: Sarah Brady's gun gift
07/26/02: Don't do it, Tiger
07/18/02: Reality Muppets
07/09/02: We're all going to die, live with it
07/02/02: From the eye of the storm
06/27/02: Nick not right
06/20/02: Behind the music
06/14/02: The sum of all fears in vouchers
06/06/02: Where was Agent Rowley when the FBI needed her?
05/30/02: Of big hair and sanity
05/24/02: Should I embrace liberalism?
05/20/02: Some passion about Israel
05/09/02: A mother who cares enough
05/02/02: Go ahead, pass judgment
04/29/02: The irritation of the modern wedding
04/18/02: Claire's life
04/15/02: Harvard takes off its pants one leg at a time
04/09/02: The Clinton legacy: Politics of personal destruction
03/31/02: Oscars' subtle bigotry was embarrassing
03/22/02: Blame Oprah, Rosie, Sally, Ted, David
03/14/02: The costs of women's feeble choices
03/08/02: Botoxic faces
02/28/02: The dangers of organized philanthropy
02/25/02: Don't take the gold
02/14/02: Ease up on the brothers and sisters
02/11/02: Because I was courted
02/05/02: Fat fault
01/24/02: Tolerance does not mean stupidity
01/17/02: Too old too soon
01/10/02: Ethically challenged firms
01/03/02: The year that was
12/27/01: The Twelve Days of inconsistency
12/20/01: Free Speech and the political spectrum
12/13/01: Curbing brats
12/06/01: Power to influence
11/29/01: The disappearing art of grading
11/21/01: The Big Two-Five
11/13/01: You can never find a lib when you need one
11/01/01: Unlucky in sports
10/26/01: An epidemic of counselitis
10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
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12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings