Fridays the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment submitted by Thelma T. Reyna, commenting on “Tea Baggers, Ku Kluxers, and Red Shirts” by Berry Craig. Here’s Thelma’s comment:
I agree with Marshall that our right to free speech is one of the most inalienable rights in our nation, and we must always protect this. What distresses me is when this right is twisted into an excuse to slander innocent people, to spread vicious lies far and wide very publicly (to the detriment of our American society, such as the lies about “death panels”), and–most especially–when the vitriolic exercise of this right of speech foments potentially deadly dangers to our rightfully elected President of the United States.
Facts clearly show that death threats to President Obama are hugely greater than those toward any other president in our nation’s history. They are tremendously greater in number and frequency than toward President GW Bush, for example, despite the latter’s unpopularity. Death threats toward our president are so great, in fact, that our protective services are reportedly concerned that they cannot keep up with tracking and investigating them…for the first time in our history. This is frightening but not surprising in the ambience created by extremist folks exercising their “right of free speech.”
When Sarah Palin tells her fans to “reload,” when she uses rifle scopes to depict pictorially her political enemies, when her rhetoric in Tea Bag rallies is filled with gun/violence imagery, one needn’t wonder for too long if this might have an effect in encouraging an extremist or two to shoot the man the majority of us voted into office. You don’t have to have a psychology degree to know the power of mob “groupthink” and how it can easily spur people to violence. History and research prove the deadly effectiveness of such “mob psychology.”
So, yes, free speech is vital to our democracy. Terrorist threats, racism, and slander are not protected by our nation’s laws or the implicit codes of human civility and decorum.