Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Newt Hits A Nerve

Captain Ed is usually the epitome of sane rationalism, but in this instance he falls victim to the leftist predisposition of jumping to emotional conclusions based on emotionally written press reports. In our current age of faux journalism it is wise to remember: fact checking before fact reacting.

Gingrich: First Amendment Is Dispensable: However, if Gingrich believes that we can win the war by silencing American citizens, then he is fighting the wrong war on behalf of the wrong principles. All he is doing is replacing one bogeyman (political corruption) for another (terrorism); in essence, he's no different from McCain.

Newt Gingrich gives a speech at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in New Hampshire and directly addresses the fact that the war with Islamic Jihad has a propaganda component we must take seriously. A newspaper story interprets his remarks as an attack on First Amendment free speech and a great howl of predictable revulsion spews forth. Even Real Clear Politics feels shivers down the spine.

The Limits of Free Speech: The newspaper article didn't give much context to Gingrich's remarks, but I suppose you can conjure up scenarios where the public good would be served by abridging some free speech rights in certain instances. Still, the libertarian in me recoils at talk of "re-examining" the boundaries of freedom of speech.

Manipulation of emotion is the raison d'ĂȘtre of the mass media. If the defenders of liberty want to win the battle of public opinion they first need to understand the rules of the game, and then be willing to seriously compete against the combined forces of socialism and Islamic theocracy.

What did Newt really say? When the British this summer arrested people who were planning to blow up ten airliners in one day, they arrested a couple who were going to use their six month old baby in order to hide the bomb as baby milk.

Now, if I come to you tonight and said that there are people on the planet who hate you, and they are 15-25 year old males who are willing to die as long as they get to kill you, I’ve simply described the warrior culture which is ... true for 6 or 7 thousand years. But, if I come to you and say that there is a couple that hates you so much that they will kill their six month old baby in order to kill you, I am describing a level of ferocity, and a level of savagery beyond anything we have tried to handle. …

This is a serious long term war, and it will enviably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country, that will lead us to learn how to close down every website that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear of biological weapons.

And, my prediction to you is that ether before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.

This is a serious problem that will lead to a serious debate about the first amendment, but I think that the national security threat of losing an American city to a nuclear weapon, or losing several million Americans to a biological attack is so real that we need to proactively, now, develop the appropriate rules of engagement.

Newt is correct. The challenge before us is not ending free speech, but rather “to break up their capacity to use free speech” against us. How to achieve this goal is a debate that adults need to pursue with logic and not histrionics.