Huffpost New York

Helen A Bucket (Doubting Thomas)

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A reader writes:

"I'm not going to defend Helen's comment, but I will defend her right to freedom of speech & no American should be 'shamed' just because they have an opinion. How would any of like to be the scorn of the media because we said something others didn't like (which is often with most of us)."

Helen Thomas was an opinion columnist. Everyday, people try to "shame" opinion writers because they have an opinion. To restrict our ability to do so would be to impinge upon our own freedom of speech.

I'm pretty much a free speech absolutist. I will defend to the death your right to use the N-word, and my right to (usually) condemn you for doing so.

Thomas said something shameful--I reserve the right to shame her.

In "Borat," Sascha Baron Cohen tried to illustrate the point that social mores and the threat of peer disapproval often served to facilitate the polite acceptance of bigotry.

Perhaps.

But I would argue that, far more often, social mores and the threat of peer disapproval prevent the expression of comments which might have the possibility as being perceived as bigoted or otherwise unacceptable.

I know they have for me. Rock Hackshaw can (and did) call his piece on the police shooting of a young black man in Queens on the night before his wedding "Taking the 51st Shot", but I decided it was best just to avoid the subject altogether.

But, being quite obviously senile, such social strictures failed to restrain Ms. Thomas. This is normally one of those gifts God bestows upon the elderly, though perhaps not in the instant case.

Social mores and peer disapproval are usually far more effective limits on speech than government regulation could ever be. Add to that the power of the marketplace. The Hearst Syndicate is a commercial enterprise, and Ms. Thomas is one of their products; if, like British Petroleum, the product becomes toxic, buyers have the right to express their outrage as they see fit, and distributors associated with the toxic product are often well advised to run for cover and/or cut their losses.

Is this censorship? No. Ms. Thomas is free to blog to her heart's content, and those who seek her out will surely find her and others of her ilk.

"Free speech" is a misnomer; it always has a cost; in a "free" society, that cost is determined by the marketplace rather than the government.

Moreover, there is surely a marketplace for the bilge Ms. Thomas peddles. Is it as lucrative as that of her former sponsors? I surely hope not, but she surely will not be deprived of a living in a marketplace of ideas that supports the likes of Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck.

As I've noted before, that some choose to sometimes hold their tongues rather than to express their every flatulent brain fart is not always necessarily a bad thing, although it sometimes acts to silence voices and lines of inquiry which it might be beneficial to have heard. In the case of Ms. Thomas though, the loss will be small; she has gone from an "Institution" to one in need of institutionalization.

While I consider boycotts a legitimate but distasteful form of free speech I generally avoid, and I don't recall ever supporting someone being fired for something they've said (as opposed to done), I reserve the right to call out as a bigot anyone who publicly calls for the mass deportation of millions of people on the basis of their heritage. After all, this is America, not Arizona.

That those millions are overwhelmingly comprised of people who either have known no other home, or were seeking refuge from persecution and had nowhere else to go is just icing on the kike--I mean cake. That most were either born in, or descended from refugees not from Poland or Germany, but countries dominated by Arabs and/or Muslims where (with rare exceptions, like Morocco) they were treated like human refuse, only adds to the indignity.

So, even though I did not advocate Ms. Thomas be fired (though said it would be nice if she retired), I am smiling from ear to ear.

Don't Let the Doorknob hit your Tuchis on the Way Out!  


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