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Friday, October 22, 2004

The legitimacy of liberalism

The no-longer-nice blogger over at No More Mister Nice Blog seems to be furious that the New York Times has run a review of “Stolen Honor:  Wounds That Never Heal” by Alessandra Stanley.  The review begins,

“Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

But surely his anger, like that of the Swift Boat Veterans themselves, is misplaced.  The moral imperative to entertain and adjudicate among all points of view runs deep in the liberal tradition, and we should not betray that tradition today simply because we are offended by speech that some might find noxious-- or, as Stanley puts it, “histrionic, often specious and deeply sad.” Indeed, one is reminded here of the famous debate between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on this question, at the very dawn of our Republic.  Who can forget Jefferson’s eloquent declaration that

There remains little Doubt among the opinions of Men, that the legitimacy of liberal Society rests on its willingness to support the Harangues of deranged and vicious Persons of the far Right, particularly if they be subsidized by media Conglomerates of vast Size.

A principle surpassed in nobility only by Madison’s equally eloquent rejoinder:

Nay, Thomas, I know of none who would doubt such a thing.  And yet these be but empty Words, if we of liberal Mind do not further seek to ensure that these well-subsidized Harangues of the “Wing-Nuts” be promulgated throughout the breadth of the Nation, by means of every Channel public and private.  For no Nation can long endure or prosper, unless it be sure to foster a mature political culture of Lying and Calumny.  Liberal citizens must lead in this as in every Respect, to undertake to promote those Means by which they might be slandered and vilified throughout the Land, preferably during prime hours of the Evening in those among our States that are most likely to “swing.”

Long may the gray lady hold aloft the banner of liberalism!

Posted by Michael on 10/22 at 09:08 AM
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