Democracy Soup

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Freedom of speech needs to survive government interference and 9/11

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Originally published on on Thu, 09/11/2008 – 9:54am

“they’re reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do” — Ari Flesicher, September 26, 2001

This won’t be another take on what 9/11 means to me. There will be hundreds of them today, and this won’t be one of them.

But this is a country that has always been proud of freedom, the freedom to say the truth and not suffer repercussions from government. Freedom is a word we heard during the St. Paul convention. “Freedom fries” was part of the vernacular in the early part of this century.

Keith Olbermann, in reminding us of the true cost of 9/11, spoke the truth last night and last week. For his remarks last week, he did pay a price. While technically it came not as the result of government, it did come from the people who are trying to run our government.

But on this anniversary, I am reminded of a direct governmental intimidation to take away our freedom to speak the truth:

Q As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President’s reaction to television’s Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not discussed it with the President, one. I have —

Q Surely, as a —

MR. FLEISCHER: I’m getting there.

Q Surely as Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn’t he?

MR. FLEISCHER: I’m getting there, Les.

Q Okay.

MR. FLEISCHER: I’m aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it’s a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that’s why — there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party — they’re reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.

So what did Bill Maher say that apparently warranted this extremely harsh reaction? From Wikipedia:

On Politically Incorrect’s September 17 show, Maher’s guest (conservative political commentator) Dinesh D’Souza disputed Bush’s label, saying the terrorists were warriors. Maher agreed, and according to a transcript replied “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Maher suffered greatly from the backlash to those remarks. Major advertisers withdrew. The right-wing bastion of TV ownership, Sinclair, took Maher’s show on its affiliates. ABC cancelled the show on June 16, 2002. Maher almost immediately apologized after the incident, and did note that he had been criticizing U.S. military policy.

But Olbermann was right. Maher was right. Freedom to speak the truth without retribution from the government.

But let’s pinpoint what the White House press secretary – agent of the president of the United States – said:

“they’re reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do”

Between the ongoing violations of the 4th Amendment, we are reminded that Fleischer’s words sadly came true. But this should also be a reminder that America is better than Bush, Cheney, Fleischer, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. Better than the Republican Party. Better than the attacks of 9/11. Better because we believe in freedom, even when our government does not.


Written by democracysoup

September 11, 2008 at 9:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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