OpEdNews and the freedom of speech

OpEdNews is a fairly far-left site, with a substantial readership. Rob Kall, the primary editor, has graciously allowed me to post a few articles there; Mr Kall apparently believes in freedom of speech, and is unafraid of some diversity of opinion, even on his own site.

However, such dedication to freedom of speech isn’t found universally on OpEdnews. A gentleman by the name of Gustav Wynn wrote an article with the interesting title, “Radio Treason: Hannity Continues Radical Anti-Obama Fearmongering.” Treason? Surely the title is a bit overblown!

    Perhaps Sean Hannity’s father never had that talk with him. You know, the one fathers and sons have when the kid, just learning how American politics works, sees his preferred candidate has lost and continues to bad-mouth the winner. That’s when the grown-up explains the American tradition to the child. My father told me plainly, when the election is called, it’s time for the whole country to get behind the new leader and give the benefit of the doubt, because we are a representative democracy.

    Some call it grace, being a gentleman, sportsmanship, or showing character – but elections in America and Zimbabwe are vastly different because win or lose, Americans defer to majority rule and established laws in peaceful transitions of power between administrations, especially given our diversity and established history of party pendulum swings.

Since John McCain very unfortunately lost the election, we have no way to test whether Mr Wynn would have followed his own advice had Senator McCain won. But we can ask him: did he engage in such gracious behavior himself following George Bush’s victories in 2000 and 2004?

What draws Mr Wynn’s ire?

    Hannity’s arguments ignore or distort Obama’s policy proposals, for example telling listeners Obama wants to raise their taxes when most would receive a net tax cut under the new structure. Hannity also emphasizes a trillion in new spending without factoring in the expected military cuts that would greatly offset this.

Sorry, but in this, Mr Hannity was absolutely right. We just finished FY2008, with early figures showing a $455 billion deficit. Senator Obama promised roughly $200 billion a year in additional spending. Then Congress passed the $700+ billion financial systems bailout, and is now considering a $50+ billion bailout for the automobile industry. Even if the Iraq War could be made to disappear by magic, not costing us a single penny even to withdraw, the savings would be only about $133 billion a year. Even without the financial systems bailout, Mr Obama has promised more in new spending than the entire cost of the Iraq War!

Our incoming president has a trillion dollar deficit looking him dead in the eye. Whether Mr Obama really intended to cut taxes for the middle class — and I’ve said many times that I didn’t believe him for a moment — is beside the point; with the deficit he’s facing, he can’t cut taxes.

It doesn’t matter what Senator Obama’s campaign proposals were on taxes; they are promises he simply cannot keep. On that subject, Sean Hannity was telling the truth, and Gustav Wynn failed to consider economic realities.

Mr Wynn doesn’t like the way Mr Hannity runs his show:

    Are not call-in talk shows better for their controversy and difference of opinion? Not on The Sean Hannity Show, where the guests are predominantly on the same page as the host, the make-up of aired calls doesn’t approach real-world diversity, and the news items cited exclude altogether events like the filing of Articles of Impeachment in Congress against the President and Vice President, the removal of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, or the polls showing national disapproval of continuing the Iraq War.

OK, fine, he disapproves, as is his right. But he also calls for some form of reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine,

    In full-on panic today, Hannity complains that a larger Democratic majority will enact some version of the Fairness Doctrine to silence him, cleverly painting himself as a victim. In fact, the Fairness Doctrine was never used to censor anyone, rather to compel them to provide responsible journalistic balance to the best of their ability. For example, Hannity wouldn’t be able to state that Obama sat in Rev. Wright’s pews for twenty years listening to hate-filled diatribes without also giving the fuller picture that the vitriolic rantings of Rev. Wright made up only a very tiny portion of the known sermons he’s delivered over the decades and nothing available proves Obama was present during any such controversial speeches.

In simpler language, Mr Wynn would use the power of government to regulate what Mr Hannity says and how he says it. At least until the next paragraph, when he tells the truth about his intentions:

    Before 1987, it was the broadcasting corporations who chose not to air lopsided political arguments because it was cheaper and easier to avoid back and forth debate. Enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine was difficult and inconsistent. Today, those who suggest reviving some version of the law are concerned about a serious issue – wholesale ignorance. The U.S. has been long ridiculed internationally for wrongly believing Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and it’s no news to anyone who our top rated “news” sources are – Fox on TV and Limbaugh/Hannity on radio. Our founding fathers created public education so our voters could not only discern candidate choices intelligently, but could keep an informed eye out for shenanigans.

It’s clear that Mr Wynn believes the Fairness Doctrine’s resumption would be used in a manner which would cause broadcasters to simply drop conservative talk radio programs, because it is “cheaper and easier to avoid back and forth debate.” Somehow, that doesn’t exactly fit with his stated goal of informing the “ignorant.” One suspects that the ignorant would be informed with Mr Wynn’s version of the truth.

Well, at least Mr Wynn didn’t call for putting Mr Hannity in prison for saying tings he didn’t like, but commenter and sometimes OpEdNews author Daniel Geery did. OpEdNews comments don’t hyperlink separately, but Mr Geery said:

Hannity should be locked up and the key thrown away. He actively works against every human value that every bona fide educator tries to instill in children. But last I heard and wrote about, after doing considerable homework on this nutcase earlier, he makes $5 million a year from ABC (that station that is DEF).

When I asked Mr Geery on what charge he believes Mr Hannity should be imprisoned, and pointed out Mr Geery’s own exercise of the freedom of speech, he replied:

There are limits to freedom of speech, a great, great many. Hannity engages in hate mongering, racial profiling, lying on public airwaves, libelous statements (why more folks don’t sue him is beyond me). There is also fraud and fraudulent representation. We now have the Patriot Act, which can have you thrown in jail for saying much less than Hannity says. I’m not a lawyer, but you would not need to be very creative to find a way to lock this social cretin up. There are huge bodies of law on all these subjects, available to anyone with time to read it.

I suppose more importantly I wonder why Bush and his crowd are still free at large–while just the other day I had a gun pulled on me by a cop at a local park, while I was walking down the sidewalk and got between him and three very peaceful and young looking teenagers, who shot their hands in the air even before the cop drew his gun.

You know, this would be hysterically funny, if it weren’t so sad. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I’ve never heard of anyone being locked up under the Patriot Act for simply expressing his opinion.

If Sean Hannity hasn’t been sued for libel, maybe it’s because he hasn’t libeled anyone! Of course, it’s pretty difficult for a public figure to win a libel case, but I don’t recall anyone even trying when it comes to Mr Hannity.

Most humorous of all was his statement, “you would not need to be very creative to find a way to lock this social cretin up.” Mr Geery is writing on OpEdNews, a site which has freely published about the harshest criticism of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the rest of the administration to be found, all in the exercise of the authors’ freedom of speech and of the press rights. I find it absolutely stunning that someone who so proudly and vigorously exercises his freedom of speech would be so quick to wish to deny freedom of speech to someone with whom he disagrees.

Let me put it this way: Barack Obama is not our president yet; George Bush is still our president, the Justice Department is still run by Republicans, and all of the US Attorneys are still Republicans; why shouldn’t they be looking at Mr Geery’s speech, to see if “they would not need to be very creative to find a way to lock him up?”

I freely admit it: I simply do not understand how educated people can be so quick to exercise their freedom of speech, and turn right around and advocate control of the speech of others, and prison for those who will not comply.


  1. I freely admit it: I simply do not understand how educated people can be so quick to exercise their freedom of speech, and turn right around and advocate control of the speech of others, and prison for those who will not comply.


  2. This blog is open to those who disagree and is the better for it.

    Yet how many ‘mainstream newspapers’ are so open? How many allow readers to post a letter to the editor more than once every other month?

    What proportion of Op-Ed pieces are contrary to the opinions of the editorial board?

    Is not the bias of NPR rather obvious?

    Will voices of dissent be reduced to samizdat in a fair new world?

  3. It amazes me when people think that they get to determine what is and what is not free speech. I do believe that the Fairness Doctrine is just a tiny chip in the platter of Marxism that 52% of the American People ok’d on Nov. 4th

  4. Just a few points.

    1. In the past month, Sean Hannity has frequently programmed whole hours of his show around Obama supporters calling in and expressing their opinions. The fact that most people who call his show agree with him is only due to the fact that people usually listen to programs with which they agree much more than those they don’t.

    2. Hannity’s show is an opinion show. He uses opinion and persuasion to express his views. He’s not obligated to include “facts” anyone else deems important, anymore than moonbats who are still shrieking that Sarah Palin required rape victims to pay for their own rape kits have to admit that this is just a vicious smear. If this guy wants his “facts” included he can either (a) call in or (b) get his own show.

    3. The Fairness Doctrine actually discouraged discussion of issues on radio programs through fines and threats. There simply were fewer public affairs programs because it wasn’t worth the hassle. I wouldn’t call a return to that an improvement.

    4. There really aren’t a lot of limits on free speech, particularly not political speech. That’s because the Founding Fathers thought debate and free expression were the cornerstone of a free society. That so many on the Left hate free expression is quite telling.

    5. It is nearly impossible for public figures and public officials to sue for libel. Besides proving the statements are untrue, they also have to prove that the person making the charge did so either with a reckless disregard for the truth or knowingly spreading a falsehood. Either standard makes it not worth the trouble.

    6. I agree with you, Dana. It is incomprehensible to me that so many people screech about silencing speech they dislike while exercising their own.

  5. Pingback: Common Sense Political Thought » Archives » Daniel Geery and the Freedom of Speech

  6. Dana,
    I replied to your posts on the original article page in case you missed it. My follow up article Radio Treason? Right Wing Talkers Skirted Disclosure Law
    defines even more clearly why I believe treason is exactly the word to use for many radio hosts, and perhaps even Sean Hannity. I’d like to hear your thoughts on those points.

    To answer your questions, yes, I gave Bush the benefit of the doubt in 2000, despite all the problems surrounding the Florida vote count, I’d say the country by and large accepted Bush – especially after 9/11 where he saw the highest approval ratings in history. 2004 was different however, based on what was just then being learned about his controversial policies, secrecy, runaway borrowing and deficit spending. Let’s at least agree that the people should be more open-minded for an incoming first term President then one with a 4-year track record.

    Next, I can see that Bush’s trillion dollar deficit could be a monkey wrench in Obama’s stated intent for middle class tax relief, but if it is an “economic reality” that as you say Obama “can’t cut taxes”, do you disagree with Hannity for insisting about twice an hour that Obama should be cutting taxes?

    Also, let’s examine Obama’s proposed spending: infrastructure-rebuilding, energy independence incentives, green jobs, high-speed wireless connectivity. Are these wasteful hand-outs? Or are they vitally necessary for American competitiveness? I think if you review Bush’s spending – privatized military contractors, faith-based payoffs targeted to swing-vote districts and uninhabitable FEMA trailers, you’ll see Hannity is actually concealing and defending fraud and crony corruption already ongoing.

    Next, I NEVER called for reimposition for ANY form of the Fairness Doctrine. I apologize if I wasn’t clear enough, but I did state that the FD was unenforcable and pointed out that Hannity’s frantic opposition of the FD is a smokescreen – he doesn’t even explain to his listeners what it was and what it did. I feel voluntary policing at the station level was the best thing about the FD, but could never be regulated by any outside agency. I also never said a new FD would result in the death of political opinion on radio, I merely pointed out that was the reality under the previous FD.

    Lastly, I want to thank you for your support of freedom of speech and your criticism of anyone who would advocate control of the speech of others – on this we agree. I want to hear Hannity more, not less – but I want to hear him answer important questions out in the open. This includes you, too – I would therefore ask your opinion in this – what should we do to clean up this back and forth bias in broadcasting?

  7. Mr Wynn: I have written a fairly lengthy response to your comment, as a new post. Because there have been several new articles posted this evening, I didn’t want to clutter up the site by posting it immediately, but I’ll post it sometime around 7:00 AM Tuesday morning.

  8. Pingback: Common Sense Political Thought » Blog Archive » Comment rescue: Gus Wynn on Talk Radio and Treason

  9. Interesting to read this in 2010, after Reagan’s misuse of taxpayer money to support domestic propaganda came to light. Trickling down from the White House through Mr. William Casey, not all records were shredded by Col. North.

    These classified documents show Reagan was circumventing domestic propaganda laws to influence public opinion in favor of war and funding of terrorist groups abroad.

    It is elementary to assume the same taxpayer abuse happened under Bush/Cheney/Rove directing advertising towards Hannity and Limbaugh. Why would anyone dare say this? Because many of the same convicted+pardoned players influenced the halls of power when Limbaugh and Hannity got rich echoing Karl Rove’s talking points every day.

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