Conservatives -- newfound lovers of political dissent -- are so very OUTRAGED at Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for their USA Today oped, which says: "These [congressional town hall] disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."
As you can see, the two did not call the act of protest un-American. They did not call the expression of conservative views un-American. They did not call anyone who has gone to a town hall un-American. They said the "drowning out of opposing views" is un-American.
Further, they were referring to the act of suppressing speech, not to the loyalties of individual people. There is no implication that anyone -- even those who have been trying to drown out the views of others -- lacks patriotism or traffics in treason. Their use of the word "un-American," charged it may still be, but clearly in reference to the "American" ideal of free speech, not "American" in terms of citizenship. The backdrop of the health care debate itself is in far different context than the use of such terms when debating war.
But conservatives, long the biggest enforcers of "political correctness" as it suits their political ends, were quick to find offense -- even if it required twisting the words around. "They simply have decided to call protests 'un-American," wrongly writes Hot Air's Ed Morrissey. They are calling "good Americans who are tired of being lied too as 'un-American' when they approach their representative with questions" really wrongly writes QandO.
Patterico made the odd argument that Pelosi's refusal to meet with Code Pink somehow means she holds Code Pink in higher regard than the current right-wing mob. National Review's Jonah Goldberg implicitly made the really odd argument that offensive rhetoric from a few far left protesters in San Francisco somehow makes it respectable to embrace offensive rhetoric from far right protesters.
Of course, none of these conservatives were terribly concerned when there was actual government interference of political dissent, like when police literally conducted "covert surveillance" of anti-Bush, anti-war protests. Michelle Malkin, who today is incensed at Pelosi and Hoyer, just last week defended the arrest of Prof. Henry Gates for disorderly conduct when criticizing the local police's handling of him because "look, you're supposed to respect the police." Their concerns about free speech are quite selective.
If I thought there was a whit of actual suppression of conservative views, I would stand with conservative complaints in a flash.
But freedom of speech has never meant freedom to libel, freedom to riot or freedom to suppress the speech of others. And we've seen all of three in the past several days.
Originally posted at OurFuture.org