"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
Is Alan Keyes Making Sense?
Conservative pundit Alan Keyes has never been one to shy from controversy, but his latest column for the Internet news and commentary site World Net Daily comes as quite a shock to those of us who believed that Ambassador Keyes was a strict Constitutionalist.
In his column, 'Shunning the Intolerable', Keyes writes in response to a comic strip by artist Ted Rall, in which Rall skewers the industry of 9/11 victimhood, and the associated greed that has overwhelmed the issue. One can understand Keyes discomfort with the satire. It is very direct, and Rall pulls no punches with what he obviously sees as an ambulance chase of epic proportions. Rall is known for his biting satire, and his hyperbole is more than evident in this strip. However, it is Alan Keyes' reaction to Rall's satire that is most interesting.
Keyes accuses Rall of 'an assault on the decent national sensibilities crucial to the war effort' for his act of, as Keyes perceives it, trivializing the tragic events of 9/11. Not satisfied with that, he then proceeds to crush the Constitution under one of the most contrived excuses for the suppression of civil liberties published by a conservative since the attacks took place. Examining the following excerpted quotes shows a disturbing willingness on Keyes part to use government to suppress free speech.
'Of course, an entire people cannot have so perfect an understanding as its statesmen of the causes that justify, even require, going to war. Human history has taught us time and time again that as the simple faith of the peasant necessarily lacks much of the precision of the theologian's doctrine, so the judgment of any nation will always lack much of the sophistication of the statesman's subtle reasoning.'
--- Just what is Keyes saying here? The American people are not ignorant peasants toiling in some remote fiefdom. We are supposed to be an informed electorate. As such, while we lack access to all of the information available to our national leaders (by their design, not coincidentally), we should certainly be able to grasp the overriding moral justification of committing to the act of war. What does Keyes believe endows our leaders with any degree of infallibility when it comes to the issue of committing America's youth to death on foreign shores, not to mention the act of killing foreign nationals as an expression of our foreign policy in the extreme? More to the point, would he be making these statements if Bill Clinton was still president, or is this simply because he has faith in a Republican administration?
'. . . the importance of such events, such images, as Pearl Harbor aflame and the Lusitania sinking beneath the waves. These events became slogans precisely because the proximate cause of a just war, which exemplifies the evil being fought, has to be remembered for what it was if the people are to maintain their steady judgment and purpose. Such events are essential icons of the people's faith that their cause is just.'
---This is absolute trash, especially when, with the benefit of hindsight, we understand the complexities of both the Lusitania attack (munitions being transported on passenger ships), and the well-documented suspicions surrounding FDR's advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In other words, unethical leaders could manipulate these iconic events so as to create popular support for an unjust war. The events and images do not, in and of themselves, create the justification for acts of aggression against foreigners. The word for that, I believe, is 'propaganda.'
Secondarily, if iconic images of unjust assaults against a sovereign nation were enough to commit the populace to war, haven't we provided plenty of those images to our own enemies in the past?
'. . . Mr. Ted Rall should have been fired immediately by those with professional authority over him, or in contractual relations with him. Such action in defense of the decent judgment of this people in regard to 9-11 would be more than sufficient to keep such as Mr. Rall from subverting our national resolve.'
--- Just how fragile is our 'national resolve' if it can be subverted by a comic strip? I see Rall's comic as political speech in the purest sense, and that should be protected speech, not lumped in, as Keyes does, with pornography, simply because he finds the satire offensive.
'But it is worth remembering that when serious and sustained attempts to undermine public opinion on a matter genuinely essential to national life cannot be resisted by other means, governmental action may be necessary. For governmental action is also the action of a free people. Such was the case, despite all the continuing petulant complaints of superficial 'civil libertarians,' when President Lincoln was obliged to suppress rebellion in some northern citizens (some of whom happened to be newspaper editors), so that the rebellion of many more southern citizens could be effectively ended, and our great Civil War to maintain the Union brought to a victorious conclusion.'
--- This statement is so shocking I am going to break it down:
'. . . when serious and sustained attempts to undermine public opinion on a matter genuinely essential to national life cannot be resisted by other means, governmental action may be necessary. For governmental action is also the action of a free people.'
--- What can Keyes possibly mean by this statement? Take 9/11 and George W. Bush's response out of the equation, and just read the statement straight up. Is Keyes saying that free political speech is limited by the degree to which it might possibly change public opinion regarding a course of action to which the government is committed? It would appear so. If the government senses that the opposition is gaining traction, then, Keyes insists, it is the responsibility of the government to act to suppress the offensive speech. Keyes then goes on to further state that 'governmental action is also the action of a free people.' That statement is so incredible it virtually defies comment.
Keyes subsequent support of Lincoln's atrocious suspension of American's civil liberties during the War Between the States is just an extension of his flawed logic. It is a frightening notion that Keyes, an individual who is seen as an icon of strict Constitutional interpretation and a defender of individual rights, would deem it acceptable for the President of the United States to incarcerate citizens of this nation because he fears their influence on the opinions of other Americans.
Once again, we are reminded how tenuous our civil liberties are, and how important it is that we remain constantly vigilant as individuals to their eradication by an overreaching and paranoid government seeking to use force to preserve itself against perceived enemies.
Is Alan Keyes Making Sense?
by Jef Allen