February 24, 2006

Hypocrisy on free press.

Many intriguing questions about freedom of the press have arisen recently, largely through the NSA wiretapping and Mohammed cartoon issues. Glenn Greenwald pulls back the curtain on the contradictory stances of the administration and certain conservative mouthpieces, e.g. Bill Bennett, the Power Line bloggers, and Michelle Malkin.

So, to recap so far: publishing stories which inflame Muslims by reporting on American abuses at Guantanamo is wrong and subversive and ought be suppressed. Anyone who states that Iraq is disintegrating and our war effort is failing is harming the troops and is a traitor who ought to be treated as such. Images which depict grotesque acts by the U.S. military are dangerous and their publication is treasonous. But when it comes to anti-Muslim cartoons which are at least as provocative and inflammatory, consequences be damned; lofty principles of a free press demand that they be published and published widely regardless of the reactions.

These demands by Bush followers that ideas be freely expressed without restraint are extremely selective – they want the ideas they like to be disseminated widely and aggressively but ideas which they dislike to be suppressed. In general, when one espouses standards and principles which one applies only selectively and in a self-interested manner, the result is just garden-variety hypocrisy. But when principles of a free press are applied selectively -- such that one urges some ideas to be vigorously safeguarded while other ideas be aggressively suppressed -- it is not merely hypocritical, but incomparably pernicious, because what is really being sought, by definition, is a system of laws and rules which exist to propagandize.

Greenwald also looks at where we're going from here. Equating the administration's perceived right to break the law with national security, DOJ is using the Espionage Act to go after journalists who report information they get from sources inside the government. It's worth reading.


Blogger bigdog said...

Greenwald gets it a little wrong in asserting that Bush defended the right to publish the Mohamed cartoons. The Bush administration, in my opinion quite disappointingly, actually urged self-censorship and consideration of Muslim's religious "feelings". He also failed to defend an ally in Denmark when there embassies were getting burned, workers threatened and products boycotted throughout the Muslim world.

2/24/2006 4:25 PM  
Blogger biwah said...

The failure to defend Denmark, even symbolically, is a sin committed by the U.S. and much of the E.U. - in equal measure from what I know. It really is depressing to see everyone on the block do nothing when the chips are down. No matter your stance is on a Danish newspaper's decision regarding the cartoons, how can anyone do anything other than condemn the violence?

As far as the decision to publish the cartoons, you're right, it was mostly outsiders, e.g. bloggers, speaking in favor of publication. any violence that happens as a result of cartoons was probably going to happen anyway. Why should anyone cower and compromise, simply to prevent the inevitable?

There were charges of hypocrisy when the images of British troops beating Iraqi youths were broadcast, while the cartoons were stifled. I think these charges, mostly from the right, hold water - the two are distinguishable, but the distinctions are ultimately unimportant.

I forgot to mention another unique speech issue from the week - David Irving's Holocaust denial conviction. To that, I'd say "never in the U.S.", but there are different kinds of free societies, with their own priorities and histories. What does Austria really have to gain by this conviction though?

2/24/2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger biwah said...

Christopher Hitchens makes a sensible and urgent appeal for us to stand with Denmark.

2/25/2006 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Psyberian said...

'Glad to see you're blogging again biwah! I just noticed it (how observant I am).

2/27/2006 2:55 PM  
Blogger biwah said...

Thanks psyberian. Not sure what kind of a pace I'll be able to keep up, but having people actually come through helps with the motivation.

see you soon, no doubt.

2/27/2006 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Psyberian said...

On Patterico's site, you mentioned Fukuyama. I can't find this on MSNBC, but I believe he will appear on Olbermann tonight. I thought the article on Legal Fiction about his piece was interesting too: http://lawandpolitics.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_lawandpolitics_archive.html#114040461574173685

2/27/2006 4:04 PM  
Blogger biwah said...

My post below has the link.

The LF post looks good, I'll definitely read it later.

2/27/2006 4:05 PM  

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