Sunday, July 03, 2005

I'VE FINALLY GOTTEN AROUND to reading that article on World Net Daily about Brian Williams supposedly equating the Founding Fathers to terrorists, of the same stripe as Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The usual far-right bloggers are outraged by this example of "moral equivalence."

A couple of observations:

  • I cannot believe how insecure the right-wing is these days. Every public statement that isn't fulminating with hero-worship for the Bush administration and the U.S. military evokes screams and howls of fury and hysterical calls for an "abject apology to the American people and to our brave men and women in uniform."
  • Brian Williams' accusers can't even read properly, or maybe their comprehension skills are lacking. Williams did not say that the Founding Fathers were terrorists. He did not say they were like terrorists; he did not compare them to Iran's new president, heaven forbid. Referring to the recent charges that Mahmadinejad was one of the hostage-takers when radical Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, Williams said to NBC's Andrea Mitchell : "What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called 'terrorists' by the British crown, after all." Here's a thought: Is it a form of intellectual terrorism when the ability to imagine or speculate on the perspective or mind-set of past leaders in a different country becomes the same as endorsing or agreeing with that perspective?

And some commentary from saner voices in the blogosphere:

Steve Bainbridge quotes from historical sources to show that the leaders of the Revolution and the anti-loyalist populace often DID behave in what we would now consider a terroristic fashion. So did the British. The fight for independence may have been morally distinctive, he says, but let's not turn the founders of our nation into gods or angels.

If you want to make the case that the Founders' crimes were somehow morally distinguishable from those of modern revolutionaries, fine. But, as somebody famous said, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. The Founders were, for the most part, good men. But they were not saints and a lot of the people who worked for them were genuinely bad apples.

... [T]hink about how the Founders might have been viewed if they had lost. In that case, a lot of the people criticizing Williams would have had no objection to the comparison. After all, treason never prospers, because if treason prospers, none dare call it treason.

Oliver at The Liquid List says, Who's being politically correct now?

Remember the days when it was the Right who decried political correctness, speech codes, and the like? As this typical WND screed makes crystal clear, the Right now owns speech codes, and woe is anybody who attempts to make any sort of historical analogy, no matter how tepid.

The truly infuriating aspect of this right-wing PC movement is that the people who squeal in horror that Brian Williams mused that Britain might have considered our Founding Fathers to be terrorists back in the day are the very same people who support detention centers on American soil for specific minority groups. Moral relativism much?

One last thought: If it's true that "It's the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press; and the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech," then we Americans should not have to apologize for speaking freely. We should treasure freedom of speech all the more because all those soldiers have died to preserve it, correct? If, everytime a public figure opens his or her mouth and says something controversial, they are bullied and mocked and ordered to apologize, then we are not being very respectful of our freedom of speech, are we? And by extension, we are not being very respectful of all those soldiers who died to give us that freedom of speech.

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