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Fee Speech and the War Dead

A University of Massachusetts at Amherst graduate student is apologizing to Pat Tillman's family. ... Gonzalez said in an e-mail to a Boston TV station that he was trying to say Tillman's celebrity had factored into his being labeled a hero. He admits he tried to prove his point in an "insensitive way" and that the article wasn't worth publishing.
There were many messages I got out of Gonzales's editorial, but not one of them had anything to do with Tillman's celebrity had factored into his being labeled a hero. Nor do I think this is any sort of apology. Gonzales's words cannot be taken on their merit simply because of things Gonzales has written in the past concerning war and politics. But that's not the point today. We're going to talk instead about freedom of speech, as it pertains to both Gonzales, weblog comments and Ted Koppel. Let's start with the comments. While I think Gonzales is a spoiled, ignorant brat who should be ashamed of himself for printing such an ignorant rant, I do not think that what he did calls for a beating to be delivered upon his person. Nor do I think he should be shot, hung, buried alive or scalped. All of the above suggestions were mentioned in the comments on this post. Some of the comments printed the phone number and address of Gonzales. I deleted most of them, but there are a few more I need to get to. If you want to play the part of vigilante, I'd much rather not be your sidekick. Yes, you have the freedom to throw your ideas out there - but this being my website that I pay for, complete with a space provided to you free for all your commentary needs, I have the right to ask you to remove yourself and your ideas from this place. Frankly, I'd rather not be a part of it when Gonzales is found in a bloody pulp on his own doorstep, should you be so inclined to follow through on your threats. And now a few words about Mr. Koppel. While I applaud Sinclair TV's move to not have their ABC affiliates air Koppel's thinly veiled swipe at the ongoing battle in Iraq, there is a part of me that hopes they reconsider. In an ideal world, we all make our own decisions, which we are then held responsible for. By taking Nightline off the air for that night, Sinclair is both making a decision for every one of its viewers and letting Koppel off the hook in those specific cities in which the show will not be seen. Sinclair should instead give their viewers the chance to watch or not watch the show on their own accord, and put a disclaimer on before Nightline stating that they do not agree with the content of the show, but are going to air it so as not to take away the right to watch it from those who want to. Koppel was on Curtis and Kuby (WABC radio) this morning. He was explaining how important it is that he read the names of the war dead, otherwise the dumb American public will never know the cost of the war. So, Koppel thinks that we are so uneducated about the war that we have no idea people are dying every day, that our soldiers are coming home in caskets, that death is a part of war. We know that, Ted. We are well aware of the casualties of war, both civilian and military. What I want is for Koppel and ABC to be honest about what they are doing. Just come out and say it. But don't drape the program in some patriotic flag and tell us you are doing it for our own good. If that is the story they are sticking with, then that tells me that ABC and the producers of Nightline believe that, as a nation, we are clueless, unniformed and naive. We are not. Whether you are with this war or against it, you know the toll. You know the numbers (exaggerated as some of them may be). You know many of the names and faces. No one I know is hiding their head in the sand and pretending that every soldier who goes overseas will come home in one piece. War is ugly, brutal and deadly. And, sometimes, necessary. This is what I said at Bill Quick's this morning, when Bill linked to a quote by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey: bq. "The decision by Sinclair ... to keep this program off its stations is being made by a corporation with a political agenda without regard to the wants or needs of its viewers," Hinchey said. "This move may be providing a chilling look into the future if we allow media ownership to be consolidated into fewer and fewer hands." To which I replied: And one can conversely say "The decision to air Koppel's reading was made by a corporation with a political agenda without regard to the wants or needs of its viewers." So where does that leave us? Perhaps we should just allow anything and everything to be aired and leave us to judge for ourselves whether or not to watch or listen? Then we can react to what we have seen or heard and not to what was not seen or heard. Everything out in the open; biases, agendas, partnerships, affiliations - full disclosure. Have a crawl on the bottom of CNN saying, "This is an ant-Israeli station" whenever they report from Israel. Have Fox put up a disclaimer saying "We are staunch conservatives who suppor the war" on their station. Newscasters should wear buttons proclaiming support for their favorite politicians. Interviewe shows can open with a little segment in which the interviewer says "Not only do I hate the person I am interviewing, but I slept with her and she dumped me the next day, so I harbor much bitterness towards her." This way, we will have no guessing as to the subtext of a certain segment or editorial. We'll know exactly what we are watching and we can make our judgment on the show's worth based on that. Yea, well Ted Koppel read those names the other night, but he came right out and said it was designed to lower support for the war, so I turned it off. Oh? That's when I turned it up. I thought it was magnificent. But then, I'm anti-war. Oh yes, I know - eventually it will lead to liberals watching liberal shows and conservatives watching conservative shows, and if one watches the other, it will only be to gather ammunition for the next water cooler debate. Much like blogs, where we visit DU or FR just to find out what the "enemy" is saying. And then we'll all live in little echo chambers, where the only sound is the sound of our own opinions bouncing back at us, over and over. Or will we? Would you be more inclined to watch something if you knew outright that the moderator of the show was fervently opposed to your ideals? Would a gay person watch a politcal talk show where the anchor was wearing a lapel pin that read "I hate gays?" See, there's no real solution to media bias. We just have to let it be and try to figure out for ourselves what's truth and what's half truth and what's plain old agenda. I'm glad the Daily Collegian printed Gonzales's editorial. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard, no matter how ignorant and vile it is. Exposure of ignorance is a good thing. But silencing that ignorance with rocks and clubs is not a good thing. It is not good for liberty, for freedom or justice for all - the very things we purport that Pat Tillman was fighting in the name of when he died. If Tillman has become a hero, it is because of his celebrity, in a way. And that's a good thing. Pat Tillman's face and name, for many, have become the face and name of the war dead. Unfortunately, Pat Tillman's name won't be heard on Nightline tonight. He died in Afghanistan. Koppel is only reading the names of the Iraq dead. Maybe he should tell us why. _______ Related: When Idiots Attack Ted's Tribute Ted Koppel, War Profiteer, and The War Dead On Pat Tillman

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» Tillman, Koppel, free speech, etc. from Sheila A-Stray's Redheaded Ramblings
Michele has an essential post, covering all of these bases. I certainly don't want to live in, as Michele calls it, a "little echo chamber", where all I ever hear is my own opinion coming back at me.... [Read More]

» Rene Gonzales from Chief Wiggles
I read about this a few days ago on Michele's wonderful blog, A Small Victory. I was upset, I was furious. I couldn't believe it. I was going to write more on this idiot, but I feel Michele has covered... [Read More]

» The Only Post from Little Miss Attila
. . . you'll ever need to read on the war in Iraq, Ted Koppel, freedom of speech, or Pat Tillman is over at A Small Victory. Get over there.... [Read More]

Comments

When you look at it properly, this is not an example of "the evils of consolidation." In fact, this shows that there is still diversity in the network affiliation marketplace.

Actually, if media consolidation were complete and total, there's be no Sinclairs and Belos and Cox and Merediths in the Big Three Broadcasting field. Further consolidation would result in NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC owning all of their network affiliates. Sinclair wouldn't own the stations it did, and instead ABC/Disney would force the local affiliates to run what content the were feeding down the network pipe.

Compliance is enforced by consolidation, and that end up being the "liberal propaganda" of Koppel's reading of the names.

On the other end of the scale, if this were still the wildcatting golden age of television expansion where local newspapers or local rich families owned stations, the prevailing trend would be conservativisim. That would result in a greater backlash against ABC for doing what it's doing and a lot more defections/pre-emptions.

Excellent post, Michelle. As always, well thought out.

It's the beauty of our country, as well as the ugly side of it. Everyone has the freedom to report the truth, or lie, or comment, to say they are fair and balanced, whether they actually are or not. We all also have the freedom to judge their product, buy it or noe, support it or not. It all comes down to, what do YOU want? If you aren't getting it, invent a way to get it how you want it. I'm glad we all want different things and have different ideas on how to get there. It's what I love about us the most.

Now, if you can get that guy off of my tail in the big pick-up who makes "I'll shoot you" gestures when I tap my brakes, that would be something.

Well, I'll still stick up for Sinclair's right to air, or not to air, anything it chooses. And the same for Koppel's network, of course.

Yes, this is an excellent post and I agree word for word with almost everything in it. One minor quibble: I don't agree that everyone deserves to have their voice heard--at least not in any forum that has even the most rudimentary editorial guidelines. In the same way that you delete the comments from people that spam, improperly self-promote, or advocate something you find too far beyond the pale of the discussion, I wish that the editor of the Daily had never given voice to this creep.

I don't think there was any obligation to print something that was, simply, that offensive.

That doesn't mean I advocate the physical stomping of the schmuck, just that I don't think every crackpot jerk in the nation has the right to expect even the local college paper to carry their demented theories.

"I'm glad the Daily Collegian printed Gonzales's editorial. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard, no matter how ignorant and vile it is."

Except that the Collegian refused to print David Horowitz's ad (see Goldberg's comments in the NRO/Corner blog), which makes this outfit both liars and hypocrites.

These people are not our fellow countrymen ... they are the enemy.

Agreed, zomb(ie). Were I the proprietor of the DC, I would have tossed it or told Gonzales to find somewhere else to print it. We are not in any way obligated to give a voice to everyone, but we, as a nation, are obligated to allow everyone to find a place for their voice to be heard.

Ain't that America.

We are not in any way obligated to give a voice to everyone, but we, as a nation, are obligated to allow everyone to find a place for their voice to be heard.

And obligated to fight for the same freedoms beyond our borders.

And each voice is obligated to consider the scope of its audience, which is often global. For example, when a Senator takes the Senate floor to scream "quagmire", he is obligated to consider the effect of his sound bites as they are repeated ad nauseam on Al-Jazeera.

p.s. "fee speech"?

jealous that Koppel is paid handsomely to advance his agenda? ;)

HEY LOOK EVERYBODY, I FOUND ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF BUSH BIAS IN THE MEDIA ---- CNN.COM (you know - the Communist News Network) reported yesterday that the dow jones dropped by over 70 points. Clearly this was intended to smear Bush!!! We need to contact all ISPs owned by Bush Supporters and see if they will ban access to the CNN.COM. There can be no doubt but that this type of shit is "contrary to the public interest" and must be stopped immediately!!!

Way to miss a point, Macswain.

"So, Koppel thinks that we are so uneducated about the war that we have no idea people are dying every day, that our soldiers are coming home in caskets, that death is a part of war."

I think you're right Michelle, this is what Koppel thinks. Of course, he probably doesn't know anyone personally who has served over there or has children serving over there, so he feels he has to provide this public service for us. The problem is that most of Real America is way ahead of him here. It's interesting how few of the protesters these days are people who have served or know people who have served. I'm sure this show will be eagerly viewed by those elites that can't imagine real sacrifice and pain and need it explained to them, those elites for whom the motivations and actions of a person like Pat Tillman are wholly foreign.

This is just another attempt to make political hay out of dead soldiers. I recently had a "conversation" with a woman at a book fair about the controversy over the coffin pictures. She thought they should be published because "there are people out there that don't know." Only a moron would believe that, let alone say it, unless they had an ulterior motive. This can only be a political ploy, there's no other reason to do it.

even us ignorant halfwitted hicks in tiny towns in Oregon know. Coos Bay just buried Lance Cpl. Gary Frances Van Leuven yesterday. As far as i know, the local anti-war people had the decency not to show up at his memorial.

Yeah, I'm not for having Gonzalez harmed or even for having his brand of idiocy barred from publication, but I also can't agree that there's anything in it that adds to public discourse, and the Daily Collegian's "editors" should be ashamed of themselves for not having the sense or the spine to recognize that and tell him to go peddle this screed somewhere other than in a large-circulation taxpayer-funded campus newspaper.

It so obviously slanted (yawn) that it bores me. Not mentioning the war dead in Afghanistan is just silly.

"...that tells me that ABC and the producers of Nightline believe that, as a nation, we are clueless, unniformed and naive."

Of course they believe that. They are the Left, and the Left always believes that only the "intellectual elite" are fit to rule, or even hold a sensible opinion. Those who disagree with them are obviously "clueless, unniformed and naive", or else genuine malefactors. Since everything they believe is objectively True, there can be no other conclusion.

So, Gonzales's editorial was clearly a waste of ink. I tend to chalk that kind of thing up to youth. Not in the sense of, "sheltered and na´ve" (though that's clearly possible). More along the lines of "horribly unwise". Whatever Gonzales writes, it's possible he knows better. The mistake he probably made here is a young writer's mistake; it's the sin of trying to get a rise out of people. I've certainly done it. Anyone who fancies themselves a writer has done it. Anyone who says they haven't, or that Gonzales's example is extraordinary, is fooling themselves.

This is not to say I excuse the editorial. Just something more along the lines of what Scott said: it's such an over-the-top screw-up, it's not really interesting to me.