THE BLOG
01/30/2007 03:27 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Fellow of The Nation Institute Calls for Suppression of Speech by "the Radical Christian Right"

From American Fascists by Chris Hedges, Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute, former reporter for the New York Times and NPR, and (paragraph break added):

This is the awful paradox of tolerance. There arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated. They must be held accountable by institutions that maintain the free exchange of ideas and liberty.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans. They must be denied the right to demonize whole segments of American society, saying they are manipulated by Satan and worthy only of conversion or eradication. They must be made to treat their opponents with respect and acknowledge the right of a fair hearing even as they exercise their own freedom to disagree with their opponents.

Passivity in the face of the rise of the Christian Right threatens the democratic state. And the movement has targeted the last remaining obstacles to its systems of indoctrination, mounting a fierce campaign to defeat hate-crime legislation, fearing the courts could apply it to them as they spew hate talk over the radio, television and Internet.

And to the extent there's some ambiguity about whether he's calling for legal suppression (which "denied the right" seems to strongly suggest) or just social pressure, he seems to have clarified it in favor of legal suppression (and "hate crimes legislation" in the sense of bans on supposed hate speech) on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Jan. 25, 2007:

JIM (Caller): Yes. Yes, I am. I needed to ask the author — I mean, I myself am a Christian, but I wouldn't even somewhat agree with Pat Roberts. But the author stating that you need to restrict someone's free speech just for mere words, he's advocating — I mean, what he's advocating is fascism, is he (unintelligible)? ...

Mr. HEDGES: I think that, you know, in a democratic society, people don't have a right to preach the extermination of others, which has been a part of this movement of - certainly in terms of what should be done with homosexuals. You know, Rushdoony and others have talked about 18 moral crimes for which people should be executed, including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and all - in order for an open society to function, it must function with a mutual respect, with a respect...

JIM: Sure.

Mr. HEDGES: ...for other ways to be and other ways to believe. And I think that the fringes of this movement have denied people that respect, which is why they fight so hard against hate crimes legislation — such as exist in Canada — being made law in the United States.

[NEAL] CONAN: But Chris, to be fair, aren't you talking about violating their right to free speech, their right to religion as laid out in the First Amendment?

Mr. HEDGES: Well, I think that when you preach — or when you call for the physical extermination of other people within the society, you know, you've crossed the bounds of free speech. I mean, we're not going to turn a cable channel over to the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the kinds of things that are allowed to be spewed out over much of Christian radio and television essentially preaches sedition. It preaches civil war. It's not a difference of opinion. With that kind of rhetoric, it becomes a fight for survival....

Seems to me that trying to restrict your enemies' speech this way is neither right nor wise. Do we really trust the government to have the power to outlaw speech that "demonize[s]" people, or that suggests that people "are manipulated by" evil forces? If the Christian Right is so powerful -- and in many ways it is quite powerful -- why would Mr. Hedges want to give it this tool to use against its enemies, which it doubtless thinks are trying to "demonize" them?