Monday, February 14, 2005

Is the Jordan Affair a Blow to Free Speech?

The bringing down of Eason Jordan by the blogosphere continues to spark broad-ranging debate on its meaning. James Miller has an article up at Tech Central Station arguing that the Jordan affair may have a stifling effect on free speech, though he doesn't quite have the nerve to say it in so many words. I find his argument to be riddled with flaws.

Miller begins by asking us to imagine that we could read everyone's thoughts, and all the bad things that lie therein became known; eventually, says Miller, we would have to learn to forgive evil thoughts that didn't lead to evil deeds. He uses this example to suggest that Trent Lott, Lawrence Summers, and Eason Jordan are victims. To begin with, exclude Lawrence Summers from this trio - his only sin was to dare to utter a sentiment that was politically incorrect. Perhaps the same argument could be made of Lott - but Eason Jordan is another story entirely.

Miller seems to long for the good ol' days pre-accountability. I quote:
Senators often praised old racists [sic] colleagues and the media had never previously cared. Jordan was speaking off camera to mostly like-minded fellows and he must have assumed that the media would never turn on one of its own for the politically correct sin of savaging the U.S. military. Both men were brought down by blogs that continually discussed their comments until enough Americans were angered such that the two could not keep their positions without harming their colleagues.
And that's a bad thing? We should give these people a pass because it didn't use to matter? People used to gather around the T.V. and watch Amos & Andy, but it wouldn't pass muster today. Does that mean we have regressed?

I suppose Miller's point is to compare the watchdog function of blogs with the intolerance of 'political incorrectness'. What happened to Summers was indeed wrong. When Miller says, however, that "I suspect most of us have made comments at work more offensive than the statements that got Lott and Jordan fired", I can only respond that most of us should have been fired, too, if that's the case. I certainly have never accused the United States military of killing innocent civilians on purpose, in private, public, or while talking in my sleep. It would be impossible for me to utter such odious sentiments because they would not cross my mind, nor, I wager, yours.

I shed no tears for Eason Jordan. He made a reckless remark, without foundation, about men and women who are dying to preserve the security of this nation, in public, in front of highly influential people, and not for the first time. If the blogosphere found that offensive enough to force him out, then God bless the blogosphere.

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