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Steve Hansen: Is the media taking political correctness too far?

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Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:33 am

Biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall once wrote a comment attributed to the philosophy of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This was a common theme heard in America just a few years ago. But now, this idea apparently has lost all meaning.

Of course, I’m referring to the media frenzy over Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling. He reportedly told his female companion not to bring black people to his team’s basketball games.

No one is going to — nor should they — defend Sterling’s remarks. But when a viewpoint made during a private conversation is used to destroy one’s livelihood, then we all should take notice.

Our First Amendment rights of free speech need to be guarded with the utmost care, as we are about the only place left on Earth that still exercises this right.

Western countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom have traditionally supported unfettered dialogue for many years. But now, they are closing the doors with crimes of “hate speech” — using subjective definitions determined by the government.

Things have gone so far in the U.K. that the BBC News just reported a man named Paul Weston was arrested for quoting former Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill’s century-old book, “The River War,” had some statements on Islam that a passerby found “disgusting.” As a result, the political candidate was interviewed and arrested by police for “religious or racial harassment.”

Some might argue that we don’t have to worry about this in the United States. After all, the First Amendment is about protection from government suppression of free speech. But that does not apply to private citizens or organizations that take lawful action against someone with whom they disagree.

It’s hard to imagine a functioning democracy without the free exchange of ideas.

But unfortunately, whenever some in the media take up arms against those who step out of the politically correct box, politicians and government regulators are usually soon to follow.

Just the other day, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed the “Hate Crime Report of 2014.” It would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an “advisory” agency to the president, to report to Congress the use of telecommunications that promote “crimes of hate.” Of course, “hate” is undefined, but it is fairly safe to assume that anything the political left finds distasteful (as happens in Canada), would certainly be included and judged by a committee of government-appointed “speech monitors.”

It is true that the chances of this act becoming law in the U.S. are slim because of our Bill of Rights protections. But if more judges are appointed to the bench who share the belief that speech and thought should be regulated by the government, as in almost every other country, then that threat can grow if new interpretations of our “living, breathing Constitution” become law.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union defends First Amendment rights and agrees that “truly offensive speech” is protected. Yet, when you stop to think about it, we wouldn’t need this right to protect “non-offensive speech” — would we?

Ironically, it’s the media that often drives stories about politically incorrect statements made by public figures. Yet, it is they who have the most to lose should the tables turn, and the government begins to suppress stories it finds politically offensive. At that point, free news sources and their reporters become victims of an autonomous entity that can ban “distasteful” commentary at will. As in totalitarian countries, the media then simply becomes a mouthpiece for those in power.

Sterling will have to live with the consequences of his statements. But if the obsession continues with what is said in private to trusted friends, then who knows where the next comment that offends someone will take place? Will it be on Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, or a secret recording by a trusted colleague?

Will it be unwittingly made by you or me?

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Jien Kaur posted at 7:41 am on Fri, May 16, 2014.

    Jien Kaur Posts: 377

    I think you are not understanding the comment. Jerome is outraged that people's right to free speech is being curtailed. "Bleeping out" words is an infringment of that right. That is why Jerome should be outraged.

    "Practice good mannerisms?" Cheney told a fellow senator to "go bleep himself."

    You stated he didn't do it. Wrong.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:01 am on Wed, May 14, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    Ms. Bobbin stated:

    What about lewd and obscene language? Why do we not have the right to use "curse words" on TV and radio without them being bleeped out? Why isn't Mr. Kinderman outraged about that? Why don't our legislators follow VP Cheney's lead and start telling each other to "go BLANK yourself" on the Senate floor? We have "freedom of speech" after all!

    -There ya go again, Ms. Bobbin. Off on another tangent. What leads you to believe Mr. Kinderman DOESN'T get outraged when he hears curse words on the TV???And the reason why VP Cheney didn't do this is because he understands we should try to practice good mannerisms. Of course we all digress at times. Unlike you, the vast majority of us believe we should not leave our mannerisms at the door when entering a public forum.

  • Rick Houdack posted at 7:32 pm on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Rick Houdack Posts: 188

    Mr. Kinderman resists learning.

    Despite his near constant paranoia and his Tourette's-like outbursts asserting his right to say whatever is on his mind, no one has ever attempted to censor him. What kind of person claims he is being prevented from doing something WHILE HE IS DOING IT?

    The subject is the *public* backlash resulting from statements made by certain individuals that were interpreted by a segment of the population as exceedingly hateful or grossly inappropriate. You see, Mr. Kinderman is free to say whatever he wishes, but there is nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing him, or anyone else, protected status from the equally protected opinions of others. He, or others like him, are free to publicly rail against the 13th Amendment (as an example, he is free to substitute any topic of his choice), making what case he will for his position. Some may respond positively to his sentiments while others may feel differently and they might make their case against his opinion as they see fit. He is, for example, free to walk the streets of south Stockton making provocative, hate-inspired comments to passers-by he encounters while they, in turn, are free to respond. Do you understand now, Mr. Kinderman? You are free to speak and others are free to respond. Your rights do not trump theirs, there is an expectation of equality. They may speak, then you may respond. No one's rights have been tramples, have they? Now that we have successfully stripped away your deliberate obfuscation, we can clearly see your argument for the immaterial deceit it was.

    The definitions of "hate crime" and "hate speech" are only a Google click away and, if you would like, I would be glad to post them and explain them to you. By learning what those terms encompass, you will no longer labor under your gray cloud of confusion and resentment for them. Knowledge is a sin only in the bible, Mr. Kinderman; in the real world knowledge it is cool.

    God should obviously find no place in our political discourse, unless he speaks for himself. What we see, though, is conmen, liars and charlatans claiming to speak for god, to the gullible who believe them or the bigots who cynically side with them, because their god of choice hates the same people they do.

    But we see how theocracies work in world politics, don't we?; they are always unmitigated disasters.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:47 pm on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    It is amazing that those who claim that we should "return to the Constitution" actually have no idea what is in it and what later amendments have affected earlier amendments. I suppose if they had their way, everything beyond the 10th amendment would be eliminated and all Supreme Court decisions that have affected freedom of speech would be reversed.

    What about lewd and obscene language? Why do we not have the right to use "curse words" on TV and radio without them being bleeped out? Why isn't Mr. Kinderman outraged about that? Why don't our legislators follow VP Cheney's lead and start telling each other to "go BLANK yourself" on the Senate floor? We have "freedom of speech" after all!

    The terms "hate speech and hate crimes are NONSENSICAL?" A person would be dead just the same if they were randomly murdered rather than murder as a consequence of someone's hate? WHAT?

    Have you ever read the 14th Amendment, Mr. Kinderman? Do you know what "Equal protection under the law means?" It means that specific groups cannot be targeted - or do you think that we should return to the era of lynching blacks just because they are black? Or tying up and torturing and murdering a young man - Matthew Shepherd - because he is gay? Would he have had that horrible crime committed against him if he hadn't been gay? Or do you contend he would have been murdered no matter what?

    NONSENSICAL are the thought patterns of certain individuals on the right who have absolutely no common sense, no compassion, no thought for anyone who lives his or her life differently than they do. Bottom line for righties - If you don't live your life according to MY standards, you get what you deserve. Hate crimes and hate speech? Phooey!!!


  • Eric Barrow posted at 10:56 am on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    I imagine that free speech has more to do with criticizing your own government than it had to do with protecting someone's right to defame another based on their gender race or orientation. Also the left sees the First Amendment as protection from religion (thus no mention of God on the platform) as well as the protection of religion so no the left does not want to see those clauses removed.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 8:57 am on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    I do find the terms "hate crime" and "hate speech" quite nonsensical; especially in a nation that at one time believed that our right to freedom of speech was a prized possession. Clearly the Founders didn't include it to protect someone from utterances of ideas or statements that most would find acceptable. Indeed, it used to be a foregone conclusion that freedom of speech was to protect ideas or statements that are most distasteful or abhorrent to even the toughest of men and/or women.

    I find it nonsensical that someone should receive a harsher sentence because they might have had "hate" in their heart during commission - especially when it pertains to murder. After all, a victim isn't any more or less dead if the perpetrator of the homicide was or wasn't being hateful at the time.

    Political correctness is destroying this country. I am sure most liberals/progressives would like would the speech and religion clauses in the First Amendment lined out in their entirety. Clearly they are no longer relevant in a society bent on destroying people because of what they think and say as well as what they believe to be a higher power than anything on Earth within the human race. As for religion - well, they must believe that we've come such a long way since the 1700's that reasonably intelligent men and women no longer need the mythical god in the sky to help them with their daily grinds. In other words, we've absolutely outgrown God. I knew this to already be true of Democrats who had a hard time including Him on their platform during their 2012 convention. By the closest of margins, God was permitted entrance. I am sure He won't be welcomed in 2016.

    As for the rest of Mr. Houdack's 677 (more or less) words, no comment.

  • Rick Houdack posted at 8:22 pm on Wed, May 7, 2014.

    Rick Houdack Posts: 188

    It would seem Mr. Kinderman is unaware of the meaning of the terms "hate crime" and "hate speech" if, as he said, he feels they are nonsensical. There is a cure for his lapse and he would benefit by taking the treatment... By learning.

    He is fixated on the marriage of others and obsessed with who, in his view, should not be allowed to couple. He takes his authority for these judgments from a book which he claims to believe was authored by the creator of the universe and, with whom, he is on a first-name basis. So important are the admonitions in this book that they must be forever preserved and followed to the letter by those who believe and forcibly imposed on those who do not. His concern is that not a single one of them be lined-out, except for the ones Kinderman himself dislikes... Those can be lined-out. But perhaps the ones that humanity in general has disdained; anyone who has read a bible can instantly make quite an impressive list of them, like buying and owning human beings (and their children in perpetuity) and work them like beasts of burden, or buying multiple wives and treating them, too, as property, beating to death rude children, killing non-believers by any preferred means, killing non-virgin brides by stoving in their heads with stones, killing adulterers, requiring a rape victim to marry her rapist, killing those who worship different gods, killing all the humans and all the animals in cities in which non-believers reside, except for the young girls whom the crusaders can use later, killing those who revere idols, killing liars, killing thieves, ripping the wings off live birds and killing a multitude of livestock animals because for some reason it makes god happy to watch them die... The killing and shocking lack of morality goes on seemingly forever. Mr. Kinderman doesn't say so, but I grant him the reasonable doubt that he might agree at least a couple of theses holy edicts can be "lined-out".

    There would appear to be a compartmentalization of thought on Mr. Kinderman's part. All of this loving instruction is supposedly direct from the most high god so it must be true and, imperatively, it must all be followed. But how to avoid the nastiness of actually fulfilling them? Easy, they are secretly ignored without acknowledgement. But how to reconcile the obvious hypocrisy? Also easy; deny it and keep denying it. Deny that the holy instructions are actually heinous. Deny the book is actually a compilation of unrelated fables told for generations around campfires by hundreds of ignorant men trying to make sense of what they thought they saw and heard. Instead, perpetuate the myth of the book's supernatural origin, keep calling the admonitions perfect and holy and insist they be accorded reverential status. Insist they be codified into law and vote for politicians who cynically promise to do so. And above all, vilify other groups by pointing out their perceived sins while, at the same time, proclaim one's own piety and, indeed, to engender useful pity and provide needed cover, disingenuously assert one's own victim hood ("...a reason to toss me into jail or even put me to death?")

    It has been within living human memory that the Ku Klux Klan marched in stunningly massive parades in our nation's capital. Candidates for office ran proudly and openly in their Klan robes. Within my lifetime minorities were banned from sitting at the same counter or the same dining rooms, they were banned from sitting within sight of the white majority in theaters, they were effectively kept in "their place." Those times have passed and there is no shortage of those who regret its passing. They are instantly recognizable by the abhorrent things they say. You can tell them by their wails of victim hood when their reprehensible statements garner harsh attention. They avail themselves the freedom to say outlandish, hateful things but demand they be held unaccountable when the subsequent storm clouds gather and the lightning begins to strike.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 9:21 am on Wed, May 7, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    As usual, it seems that Steve Hansen has decided to tell only half the story in his "column."

    Let's take the issue of Paul Weston and Winston Churchill first. Here's what Weston quoted from the esteemed Churchill's book, The River War, published in 1899:

    "The passage from the book, written by the wartime Prime Minister and first published in 1899, focuses on Churchill's observations about Islam while serving during the Anglo-Egyptian reconquest of the Sudan.

    Mr Weston told his audience: 'Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live."

    What Hansen doesn't want you to know is what Great Britain was up to in the late 1800's, all the way up to post WWII. Yes - Great Britain was concerned with its IMPERIALIST actions in the Middle East, India, and Africa, etc.

    What do you suppose Churchill is going to say? That Muslims know perfectly well how to rule their lands themselves? Of course not! Muslims were a bunch of idiots to Churchill deserving ONLY of Great Britain's courteous rule to raise them from ignorance.

    By mentioning Churchill, Hansen makes us believe that ANYTHING Churchill said is OK - JUST BECAUSE HE IS CHURCHILL!!!

    That would be akin to proclaiming that Thomas Jefferson was perfectly justified in owning slaves, serially raping at least one of them, and forcing her to be his concubine and produce his offspring. OK, right? Because he's Thomas Jefferson!!

    Imagine a modern-day politician making a speech in which he/she endorsed Jefferson's actions. Yeah - some might love it. Others who realize that the world has changed would be outraged.

    Second, what both Hansen and Kinderman neglect to state is that Sterling is a billionaire, and losing the Clippers would in no way force him to "lose his livelihood." Sterling has many other (some very sleazy) means of maintaining his livelihood.

    As for "forcing him to sell the Clippers," what Kinderman forgets is that when Sterling became a team owner he signed a contract with the NBA that forces him to behave in a certain manner according to NBA rules.

    So, now the great defender of the free market and the capitalist system wants to claim that the NBA shouldn't have these rules and that team owners should be free to violate them?

    As a former attorney, Donald Sterling, I'm sure, is quite cognizant of his rights and has the ability to defend himself - not to mention the wherewithal to PAY FOR a great defense.

    In this day and age of social media and electronic devices and a public eager to hear any hint of scandal, no one's privacy can be guaranteed. If you don't want to be exposed, don't use Facebook or any of the other social media sites. And most of all, don't say things you might regret to a money hungry mistress.

    No one should be crying about Sterling or the right of free speech or political correctness if the facts are placed in context and not cherry-picked for the convenience of a columnist trying to evoke outrage.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 11:55 am on Tue, May 6, 2014.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Mr. Hansen - was your missing the mark by just a tad on purpose; or do you - as a columnist (albeit for a small-town newspaper) - really believe that our freedom to "speak" is limited to just "private" conversations now? I've read the First Amendment many times and have never gleaned from it that there is much limitation placed upon us. In fact, the adage heard and read so many times that "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" (as you included in your first paragraph that leaves me wondering if you actually believe it) is precisely what the Founders had in mind when adding it to the Bill of Rights.

    In fact, not only did you miss the mark there, but further on in you column you failed when stating that Mr. Sterling's "livelihood" was being threatened. But his property was as well. After all, doesn't he "own" the L.A. Clippers?

    This whole nonsensical issue of hate crimes and hate speech has no place in a nation that celebrates individuality. Do we really believe that hate (however it may be defined) will ever be obliterated? As a believer in God and His Son Jesus Christ, I've been called hateful simply because I believe marriage should be reserved to just one man and just one woman. It's getting serious when I am expected to line-out certain verses from my Bible simply because our society now believes it's just not politically correct (oh, how I've come to hate that term.) Uh-oh!! Is my admission of hatred now a reason to toss me in jail or even put to death?

    Finally, I think you're terribly wrong where you state that "No one is going to - nor should they - defend Sterling's remarks." Did that just flow from your mind or did you give it even a second thought? For one thing, an attorney should be expected to defend his point of view if anyone is going to try and take his property away. But beyond that, I will continue to disapprove of what he said, but will defend to the death his right to say it. Or could that be considered as "hating" something or another that should have me running for the border looking for a nation that resembles the United States of America I once loved?

    Loving and hating are things that we choose to do. Both are also valid emotions. Of course how we act upon those emotions might find us in trouble. But Donald Sterling did nothing illegal when he made his statements. As citizens of this country, we should simply take them for what they're worth and move along.

    We are all losing our way - or is it just a few who seem to be getting most of the attention with such stupid ideas about thinking and speaking? As for those "speech monitors," they're really not hard to find. Most sit on the far left side of the aisle in a country where "the media then simply becomes a mouthpiece for those in power." You know, the United States of America in 2014.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 8:06 am on Tue, May 6, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    Steve do you really believe his statement was unwittingly made?
    I can't agree with Steve I don't even think that sterling's firing has anything to do with the First Amendment. No one said sterling didn't have the right to say whatever he wanted and nobody has suggested jail. sterlings remarks were simply bad for business we are capitalist after all and there was no way that the NBA was going to sit around and do nothing while sterling expressed his racist views and it's own players were threatening a boycott of the playoffs. The problem with sterling's comments was not that they weren't politically correct but rather they were remarkable stupid coming from an NBA owner.


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