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DEFENDING POLITICAL SPEECH IN THE WAKE OF THE TUSCON TRAGEDY

Jim Bieber, Owner of Bieber Communications

January 14, 2011

[Publisher's Note:  We are pleased to offer this perspective piece from longtime friend Jim Bieber, owner of
Bieber Communications. - Flash.]

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While the mainstream media lead by President Obama are retreating from its knee jerk attempt to tar the Tea Party Movement as the source and inspiration for the 22 year old Tucson gunman Jared Laughner, Liberals are pressing ahead to re-write the history of political assassinations to demonize opponents of big government. 

The campaign to silence political speech from conservatives comes on two fronts.  Liberal activists are attempting to intimidate and shame conservatives into limiting their expressiveness and passionate anger at public policy and public officials.   Liberal legislators are calling for laws to regulate political commentary.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, wants standards put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage with a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.  Other members of Congress are seeking to ban the use of ‘threatening symbols’ in campaign literature.

In a recent letter to the Orange County Register, failed congressional candidate Beth Krom echoed the arguments of national liberals in attacking constitutionally protected free speech.  Krom would rather not, “…allow political pundits who rely on ignorance and disinformation to gain credibility.”   She also states, “Our democracy requires an informed electorate..”  I agree, but who shall determine the source and scope of that information? Krom continues, “Free speech is the corner stone of our democracy, but when irresponsible speech and the demonization of public officials lead to tragedy, the First Amendment is not a shield for accountability.”  The First Amendment addresses her sophomoric statements.  It does allow “political pundits” to gain credibility; it doesn’t “require an informed electorate.” I am assuming Krom wishes the public to be informed with her version of the facts.  Most importantly, the First Amendment (thankfully) allows for speech that others can view as being “irresponsible.”

If we were to concede to the argument that an ideological strain of political speech leads to political assassination and that some legislative action must be taken, it would not benefit liberals. 

It has become historical folklore that American assassinations of the late 20th century are the result of a negative political atmosphere created by “right wing haters” and not the acts of deranged individuals with their own motivations.    The only conspiracy surrounding the assassination of JFK has come from the media and liberal activists attempting to bury the background and motivation of the killer and create a myth that the political climate of the day led to his murder.  

Within hours of the Kennedy assassination commentators were speculating that JFK was killed by a conservative.  When Oswald’s background came out, Jackie Kennedy properly stated that her husband was killed by “some silly little Communist.”  Undaunted with who Oswald was and his motivations, liberals have never strayed from their mission to tar conservatives and continue to state that the conservative atmosphere of Dallas was to blame for the shooting.  Supreme Court justice Earl Warren, remarked on the "climate of hatred" in Dallas, due to the heavy concentration of Republicans in that city, that drove Lee Harvey Oswald to kill the president. 

In the 2008 elections, liberal operatives routinely brought up the specter of Kennedy’s assassination and went on to imply that current conservative rhetoric could lead to the assassination of Obama.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, "You remember when John Kennedy got off the plane in Dallas, Texas? There were people on the airwaves talking about doing violence to the president. And what happened?”  Also in 2008, Eric Boehlert of the liberal group Media Matters, “I’ve been thinking about Dallas in 1963 because I’ve been recalling the history and how that city stood as an outpost for the radical right, which never tried to hide its contempt for the New England Democrat.” 

In the wake of the Tucson shooting, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania drew comparisons to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.   She pointed to the political rhetoric and political environments of the day claiming that they helped fuel the assassinations.   The only comparison that can be drawn is that the killers were all demented individuals who had specific agendas.   Robert Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, was strongly anti-Zionist.  He stated that he planned to kill Kennedy after learning of his support for Israel.  Sirhan chose to kill RFK on the one year anniversary of the “Six Day War” between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  Martin Luther King’s assassin, James Earl Ray, was a career criminal who harbored a strong prejudice towards African Americans and worked on Democrat George Wallace’s campaign.

The liberals are calling for a return to the days when politics was free from vitriol.  The “good old days” have never existed in American history.  

From our country’s inception we have had political speech rife with heated rhetoric.  Two of our nation’s founders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, ran campaigns that attacked each other with charges that seem out of bounds by today’s standards.  Adam’s supporters vilified Jefferson as a “debauched deist.” Jefferson quietly funded attacks on Adams as a trader likely to reunite the US with Great Britain.   Later, Andrew Jackson’s camp attacked John Adams calling him “The Pimp,” based on a rumor about Adams coercing a young woman to have sex with a Russian Czar a decade earlier.  Adams’ supporters countered with a cartoon of Jackson hanging a man in a noose, a reference to Jackson’s time spent executing Seminole Indian sympathizers.

A Republican [actually, it's predecessor, Whig] pamphlet said Democrat Andrew Jackson was “a gambler, a cock fighter, a slave trader and the husband of a really fat wife.”  Congressman Davy Crockett accused candidate Martin Van Buren of secretly wearing women’s clothing: “He is laced up in corsets!” A Protestant minister campaigning against Grover Cleveland proclaimed that the Democrats were the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”  Harry S Truman proclaimed “If you vote for Nixon, you ought to go to hell,” while campaigning for John F. Kennedy in 1960.

While nothing can be done to stop the liberal smear machine from re-writing history, proposed legislation banning the use of ‘threatening symbols’ in campaign literature could criminalize political speech.   As a political consultant that specializes in producing voter persuasion mail, I often use imagery to convey or stimulate anger. For over 15 years, I have produced campaign literature that has played off some combat metaphor or some kind of conflict.    I have produced campaign literature that included graphics of bullet holes, angry mobs, boxing gloves, dunce caps, clenched fists, hammers, snarling dogs, bulldozers and even crosshairs from a gun scope without a single fatality attributed to the brochures that were mailed out.  If some liberals get their way, I or the campaigns that contract with me, would be reported and charged for engaging in the production of imagery that could be perceived as threatening. 

For those who value civil discourse and understand the need to tolerate speech we find angry, we need to reject proposals for political censorship that has been phrased as “turning down the political vitriol.”  
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Jim Bieber is the owner of Bieber Communications, a firm that specializes in the graphic design of political mailers.  He is the winner of numerous awards from the American Association of Political Consultants for voter contact mail.  Visit his website at Biebercommunications.com

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