(The Rude Pundit is reviewing The Silencing, which is not the title of a serial killer movie but is columnist/commentator Kirsten Powers' new book, subtitled, "How the Left Is Killing Free Speech.")
As mentioned yesterday, the biggest problem of The Silencing is the incredible lack of anyone actually being silenced. Challenged, annoyed, harassed, insulted, debated, yeah, sure. But someone being denied the ability to speak or someone losing a job? Not so much.
In fact, here's a list of a bunch of examples in the book where the end result is not silence:
Page 29: Alec Baldwin tweets racist things about conservative pundit Michelle Malkin. Others tweet racism, too. Malkin did not lose her column.
(Side note: Powers relies a great deal on things people tweet. If you rely on Twitter for examples of ugliness, you may as well just say, "Yeah, most of Twitter" and be done with it. Just because Twitchy and Huffington Post think tweets are important doesn't mean they are.)
Page 31: Ed Schultz, Bill Maher, and Keith Olbermann said sexist things about S.E. Cupp and Sarah Palin. And we never heard from them again.
Page 34: Chris Matthews and others say that people who oppose Obama are racist. Then Matthews had them all killed, as is his way.
Page 36: Paul Krugman and others say that Rep. Paul Ryan was racist in what he said about "inner city" men and women.
Page 39: Some feminists think women who are against abortion rights are not feminists. Some feminists believe there is a GOP War on Women.
Page 46: Some blogs thought that National Journal editor Ron Fournier, late of AP, was unfair in his criticism of Barack Obama in 2008.
Page 59: Some religious organizations wanted to opt out of requirements that they not discriminate against LGBT people if the organization wants government contracts. Liberal blogs thought that was discrimination.
Page 107: The entire chapter is about how President Obama and his administration seek to discredit Fox "news," which, as we know, was totally taken off the air. (Really, was Powers under some kind of contractual obligation to defend Fox? Because there is a "doth protest too much" feel to this whole part.)
Page 123: Media Matters says mean things about Fox. (Indeed, Powers seems to believe that David Brock is the King of Liberal Media, which, as far as the Rude Pundit has heard in his secret underground cabal meetings with every other lefty blogger, is not the case.)
Page 142: Only Fox covered the story of killer abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, which would be totally true if it wasn't completely false.
Page 154: Some women writers accused Mitt Romney of "mansplaining" things. Obviously, that's why Romney lost the 2012 election.
You get the idea. Time and again, Powers' examples are ludicrous, like the worst whining of right-wing blogs and Newsbusters. She invokes Joseph McCarthy several times, but when she does, it's just shorthand for "people said shit that was unfair," not "someone lost everything because of their beliefs."
To be fair, the section on college campuses does contain real, genuine, disturbing censorship by the left. Like Powers, the Rude Pundit found the treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis somewhat appalling. Even if he disagrees with her, an angry mob shouldn't determine who gets to speak. And he couldn't agree more that the UC-Santa Barbara incident where a professor tore up the signs of an anti-choice protester on campus is messed up. These are acts of silencing. Women being mean to Mitt Romney is not.
Powers believes that liberals should"know better" than to attack people with language more befitting, one assumes, conservatives. But this grasping at every time liberals - the phrase that Powers coins and uses endlessly is "illiberal left," which is about as meaningless as it sounds - say something bad means that Powers ignores actual silencing that is done repeatedly by the right, aided and abetted by Fox "news."
Remember the story of Shirley Sherrod? She was viciously attacked and hounded out of her job at the Department of Agriculture by right wing blogs and Fox for something she said, purely and simply and totally reported wrongly, as even Fox had to admit.
Or how about how ACORN, an organization devoted to helping poor people, was destroyed by the same bad actors (with scumsucking piglet James O'Keefe) who put out lie after lie, all based on falsely represented speech. How many people lost their jobs? How many voices of advocates were silenced?
There is this myth that conservatives like to tell, about intolerance on the left. To be sure, there are excesses. To be sure, speech codes and trigger warnings deserve examination and criticism. And there is a debate to be had over balancing religious freedom with non-discrimination, a debate that the Rude Pundit would be happy to have with Powers.
But, looking at the history of speech in this country, including McCarthyism, the victims of genuine silencing are usually the ones who Powers tries to make the villains.