Silence sucks!

Kirsten Powers is one of the sharpest commentators on Fox News Channel. She is good-natured, quick-witted and, now, accomplished author of The Silencing. She identifies herself as a liberal Democratic, but truly she is an independent thinker. For instance, she supports the Unaffordable Care Act, opposes the Iraq war and the Fairness Doctrine; she is pro-life, opposing the death penalty.

book box

Describing Fox News, Powers provides viewership statistics showing Fox lead among Democrats and independents, not just Republican, viewers. Yet liberals are bashed by persons she calls “illiberals” for the offense of appearing on the number one-rated cable news network. Gloria Steinhem told Powers she shouldn't appear on Fox. I went to see Ms Steinhem speak many years ago, when I lived in New York. I would like to see her on Fox News, not hiding on MSNBC.

The bashing is but a part of an Orwellian climate of intimidation that extends from the media to academia.

She writes that “…the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense.” The person who is “most offended” has the power, where faux outrage prevails, a theme Greg Gutfeld explores in his books, too.

In a great turn of words, Powers refers to “her fellow illiberal left travelers,” who want to curb her freedom of speech, even though she usually agrees with their message, if not their tactics. One fracas she highlights involved feminists silencing an abortion debate. Here is an excerpt:

Oxford undergraduate Niamh McIntyre gloated, “I helped shut down an abortion debate between two men because my uterus isn’t up for their discussion.” She argued that “Feminists are all too used to encountering… [the] indignant assertion that ‘Free speech is a vital principle of a democratic society.’”

Brendan O’Neill, one of the scheduled male participants, wrote in response, “Orwell must be kicking himself in his coffin for not thinking of putting such doublespeaking words in the mouths of his tyrannical characters in 1984. Just as they insisted that ‘war is peace,’ so today’s Big Sisters on campus claim ‘censorship is freedom.’”

Orwell did suggest it, with the overlooked:
  Freedom is slavery.
    War is peace.
     Ignorance is strength,

the latter intimating that “censorship is freedom.”

Kirsten Powers is what used to be known as “one tough dame” but, selecting correctitude over accuracy, I will write that I am not worried about how she handles an onslaught from the left in response to her book. She is accustomed to deflecting the muck tossed at her by the right. The Silencing does distinguish between healthy disagreement and demonising those with whom you disagree. And on Fox News, Kirsten deflects unfair criticisms deftly and wittily, although no one there is calling her evil, or challenging her claim to be a woman.

At this point, I fully disclose having been a Speech major at Emerson long ago. That curriculum includes training in debate, where you learn that you can argue on facts or with reasoning, not with personal attacks, which prove only that you are mean-spirited and slimey.

I am not a liberal, by today’s skewed definition. Powers reminds us that liberals supposedly encourage free speech and open debate. She demonstrates on television that she is no idealogue. She has a liberal bent, without being a cypher. For instance, she does not tow the party line on abortion. Many feminists frame the debate as being between no-cost abortion up until the baby is delivered and those who oppose abortion unconditionally because they hate women, even if they are women, leading to remarks like, “you are not pro-life, you are anti-abortion.” Of course, this slogan misses the point that declaring yourself pro-choice is a bit deceptive as well, particularly when you are for choice on only one issue. Some “pro-choice” advocates will not allow women any choice on the complicated abortion issue.

In her well-written book, Powers illustrates how some “illiberals” try to silence women and minorities by insisting that all Blacks must hold the same views, all women, Asians, Latinos and so on. Fighting for representation is senseless if, once you get it, you are not free to form your own opinions. A Republican who is Black [I won’t say “Black Republican,” which is racist.] is still Black. He or she is not a traitor, or misguided, or deserving of any other derogatory term used by attackers on the left. Sometimes Republicans point out that Blacks, in general, would benefit more from Republican policies, without suggesting that they are traitors or anything worse than misguided for being Democrats.

Republican women, even liberal women who deign to appear on Fox News, are criticised not for their ideas, but for their physical appearance. Joni Ernst was compared to a flight attendant on MSNBC. She's a US Senator and distinguished veteran. Would Ronan Farrow compare Hillary Clinton to a waitress, or John Kerry to a bellhop? Of course not. And Kerry would probably make a worse bellhop than secretary of state.

Blacks who associate with the enemy, like Juan Williams, are viciously attacked just for appearing on Fox, as he documents in his book, Muzzled. You can’t complain that Fox is totally conservative, then battle their liberal commentators. How many conservatives work at MSNBC? Someone should ask their dozens of viewers that.

The double standard is glaring on religion. Those who criticise anything Muslim are Islamophobic. Those who support Christianity are intolerant — hate gays, women, the poor, and so on. That wouldn’t be so bad, if Muslim states were not brutalising women openly and systematically.

Kirsten addresses the college rape epidemic hysteria, where you can agree with the claims or have illiberals calling you a “rape apologist” for questioning them, ending the debate. A Yale Law Professor, Jed Rubenfeld, wrote that those accused of rape deserve some protection, being innocent until proven guilty, under American jurisprudence. He was attacked. Jessica Valenti wrote in the Guardian, “The worst offense is Rubenfeld’s apparent belief that there is a debate to be had — as if there are two equal sides, both with reasonable and legitimate points. There are not.” Next people will be telling us we can’t argue about the science of global warming, I mean climate change. It is settled. Case closed!

If this book strikes a chord, a good companion piece would be Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson, which explores network biases, including their collusion with Washington politicians to hide the truth. The former CBS investigative reporter found that digging up Republican misdeeds was appreciated far more than revelations about Democrats.

Fox News Watch

I never watched TV news for long. I assumed it was because I am print-oriented, and still prefer reading, where there is more likely to be a thoughtful presentation, and you can reread seemingly shaky statements.

Nowadays, you can pause and replay TV, so there is less ability to slip something by, although I fequently caught those unlikely assumptions soiling the airwaves. Having grown up during the Vietnam ‘war,’ my bullshit detector trained on Republican and Democratic reformulations of the truth.

Fox News present various views of events. There are more conservative and/or Republican faces, but there are many dissenters on the left, libertarians on the cusp. Fox even give air time to radicals, like Bernie Sanders, now a Senator and presidential candidate. Ideas are presented for viewers to evaluate. (The slogan is accurate: you decide.)

Sometimes I empathise with liberals on shows where they are outnumbered, or the host obviously disagrees with their groovy ideas, but there are tough, intelligent persons, like Ms Powers, who can blast through the right-wing talking points. Nor are conservatives monolithic in their views, not to mention real and faux libertarians.

The old media were consistently disappointing. I watched “60 Minutes” for awhile, until I saw Mike Wallace interview Willie Brown. I expected fireworks. Rather, it was a lovefest for, arguably, the most powerful politician in California at the time, as well as the most controversial. Wallace never raised one issue, like how Brown could be a highly-paid lawyer while Assembly Speaker, without a conflict of interest. Or how he could afford better suits than Mike Wallace. I worked with many Democrats who were suspicious of the Speaker, but all we got was how Brown was a poor boy from Texas, who became a wealthy lawyer and politician, possibly a valid narrative, but hardly what we expected from hard-nosed journalist Wallace. All we got was Mike Wallace, the Democratic partisan.

I returned to reading for my news and opinion.

It is true that many of those who hate Fox News and don’t watch it have never watched it. They’ve formed their impressions from out-of-context clips or from second-hand comments. Fox may air views you detest, but also feature those who agree with you. That is free debate.

I like that Kirsten Powers defends Megyn Kelly, whom illiberals regard as another Fox babe. It takes a lot for a news anchor to impress me, but Kelly does, and not only with her looks. She is sharp, intelligent and fair. She isn’t afraid to take on fast-talking, slick men from Bill O'Reilly to former Congressman Carlos Danger. When I read or hear someone slight her because she’s too attractive or has sexy legs, I figure that person is a clod, who probably hasn’t seen her in action.

Following the issues, I’ve found that mean-spirited, anti-free speech rhetoric affects my views, which it shouldn’t. I used to think, sure, abortion is fine if the woman wants one. Partly because I’m forbidden from believing otherwise, my views have moderated. Likewise with same-sex marriage. I never had strong feelings about it, one way or the other, but being told that I cannot object to gay unions without being some kind of homophobic monster gives me second thoughts. I certainly would not condemn someone for believing what, until quite recently, was considered a reasonable position by prominent lefties, Democrats and many, if not most, gays.

As an unflagging libertarian, I follow free-speech news avidly, so most of Kirsten’s examples are familiar to me. However, she ties them together in a neat package that, unfortunately, those being highlighted will reject. No doubt, some will say her views are poisoned by working at Fox News and hanging out with demonic conservatives, but that is disrespectful to a highly intelligent, principled thinker. Kristen Powers’s fairness solidifies her status as a trustworthy liberal icon.

In one of the best quotations in the book, George Orwell states that, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” While I sometimes disagree with Ms Powers, I always want to hear what she says, respectful of the cogitation she puts into her arguments. After reading her book, you will, too.

Unless your mind is closed for business.

The Silencing cover
26 May 2015

backtop of the page Home Next