I’ve met some really nice people over the years who love NPR. Most of them are fairly intelligent as well. However, the peculiar thing about these individuals is that, despite their intelligence, they have a propensity to say frighteningly stupid things. On Feb. 6, NPR’s outgoing Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos was able to provide the perfect example.
Mr. Schumacher-Matos wrote in his final column:
I am not Charlie.
The French news media may have their ethical standards, but they are not American or sacred universal ones, and they shouldn’t be French ones either. The United States has never had absolute freedom of the press. And the framers of the Constitution—I once held the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University—never intended it to. You wouldn’t know this, however, from listening to the First Amendment fundamentalists piping up from Washington to Silicon Valley.
In this case, the competing social and constitutional demand is the control of hate speech in the interests of social cohesion, without which the very idea of a nation is impossible. …
I do not know if American courts would find much of what Charlie Hebdo does to be hate speech unprotected by the Constitution, but I know—hope?—that most Americans would. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods. The NPR editors were right not to reprint any of the images.
There you have it: a smart man who is completely unaware of all the frighteningly stupid ideas he’s putting out into the world.
It would be rather bizarre if journalists started publishing nuclear launch codes and the identities of CIA agents in foreign countries, all while operating under the assumption that they could do so with impunity. If one were going to use terms like “First Amendment fundamentalists” to describe “free speech radicals,” then perhaps defenders of such journalists would qualify for membership. However, to use “First Amendment fundamentalist” as a pejorative to describe Charlie Hebdo’s American advocates is absurd.
Charlie Hebdo has said all sorts of “nasty” things about Christians. As a Catholic man, I find the publication’s illustrations of Jesus to be downright revolting — but I will defend their right to publish such pictures until my last breath. The fact that an NPR Ombudsman could ever publish a column in which he advocates giving religious radicals veto power over the content journalists provide their readers only shows how warped our culture has become.
There is no “constitutional demand” to control “hate speech.” There is only the desire among society’s self-proclaimed cultured class to control the actions of the rest of us.
“Hate speech” laws do not act as a salve for the red hot fissures that often occur between disparate groups in a country like The United States of America — they are in fact accelerants. Such laws infuse words with unwarranted power and give every group’s grievance mongers a reason to seek their own list of off-limits speech.
Speaking of off-limits, NPR closed down the comments section on Mr. Schumacher-Matos’ op-ed. Telling, isn’t it?
In the fight for Western Civilization’s soul, the mindset cultivated by men like Mr. Schumacher-Matos is a loser.