Steve Bouser, the op-ed page editor at the Southern Pines Pilot, has been listening to NPR again (and the kookiness is a-flowing from the pages of our local Pulitzer-Prize winning thrice weekly rag.) :
Suppose the government said you could worship as you chose, as long as you did so in an out-of-the-way church that no one could see from the main drag.
Or what if officials told us at The Pilot that we could print whatever opinions we wanted to in our paper, as long as we sold it only from coin racks in remote neighborhoods that hardly anyone ever visited?
Leaders of both parties give a lot of lip service these days to the Constitution of the United States. And the framers of that document thought so highly of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” that they enshrined it right there in the First Amendment, along with freedom of speech and the press and religion.
But how much meaning can such expression have if the people to whom it is directed are out of earshot, enjoying a deceptively friendly welcome from a carefully screened crowd of admirers? One remembers the question of the proverbial tree falling in the forest and whether it makes any noise if no one is there to hear it.
Granted, security concerns are a big part of this growing desire to sequester candidates and elected officials, and such anxieties are not to be brushed aside lightly. George Wallace, Ronald Reagan and Gabby Giffords — all were shot by deranged individuals emerging from crowds.
But think about that for a moment. In none of those cases, as I recall, did the shooter emerge from a crowd of protesters. The surface appearance of those gatherings was more benign. Indeed, a noisy, angry mob would appear to be the last milieu a sneaky person bent on assassination would choose, knowing that security at such scenes would be extraordinarily alert.
After all, the Secret Service seems to have relatively few qualms about letting President Obama appear before and mix with 20,000 admirers in a stadium. They just make sure to check all comers for weapons first. Couldn’t the same thing easily be done by subjecting a relatively small group of demonstrators to airport-type screening?
No, the security thing in these situations mostly seems bogus. Instead, the goal usually seems to be to allow public figures to avoid having to be subjected to rowdy, unwelcome messages (or “petitions”) they’d rather not hear.
Why do both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, despite all their other differences, presumably share a willingness to look the other way in the face of this example of the stifling of expression? Because both have a vested interest in projecting their desired media image at public gatherings, without being subjected to the kind of annoying heckling that the president had to endure from a jerk “reporter” the other day while announcing his new immigration policy.
Jerk “reporter”? Are you suggesting that Mr. Munro, of The Daily Caller news web site, is not a real reporter? Steve — The Daily Caller has MORE readers than your web site and print edition combined TIMES TEN. Maybe we should refer to your newsroom staff as “reporters” — in quotes.
Also, how honest is it to refer to Mr. Munro’s question to the president as heckling? You’re pretty old, Steve. You’ve been around. Surely you remember Sam Donaldson and that battle-axe Helen Thomas screeching at Presidents Reagan and Bush (41). It’s apparently valiant service in line with The First Amendment when its done to a Republican president, but abhorrent when done to The Messiah, himself , Barack Hussein Obama (MMM — MMM — MMM.)
I’m aware that few readers are likely to get very excited about all this. It’s hard to work up much sympathy for rude and noisy tea-partiers on one hand or unkempt occupiers on the other. But that’s just the point: If we extend freedom of expression only to those whose views we’re comfortable with, what kind of freedom is that?
This time, Steve heard about an outrage on NPR: that protesters will be fenced in at the Democrat National Convention. We’re not talking about protesters like the polite little old folks you see at the Southern Pines Post Office every Tax Day or the small gaggle you saw at that Occupy Moore event in downtown Southern Pines. We’re talking about folks like THIS:
This photo is NOT from Kabul or Baghdad. This is from SEATTLE, WASHINGTON circa 2000. These kooks show up to protest WTO meetings, NATO meetings and many other major gatherings. A lot of these hooligans — last seen tearing up Chicago during this year’s NATO summit — said they planned to be in Charlotte for the DNC. (Fencing them in sounds like a much better idea now, doesn’t it?)
Note the commie flag in the background. Definitely NOT a bunch of Tea Partiers or Young Republicans.
Mr. Bouser apparently has a difficult time seeing the difference between THESE folks and the Tea Partiers. Google news footage and wire photos of these anarchist and Occupy protests, Steve. Check the arrest reports from those locales.
Compare THAT to what you see down the street from your offices every Tax Day, Steve, and tell me if you HONESTLY still can’t see a difference. I doubt you can find one credible story about vandalism or any other criminal activity initiated by a participant in a Tea Party event.
Also, Steve suggests these people will not be seen and heard if they are fenced off somewhere else. (The practice has been going on for at least 20 years, by the way.) In the age of blogs, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, et al., can you really suggest that with a straight face?