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The civility conspiracy

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Are we unconscious fellow travelers in the civility conspiracy? After all, we did write about the Interfaith Alliance civility letter, although it hit the political right and the political left alike.

The Interfaith Alliance is about religion, and former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord argues at The American Spectator that there’s a conspiracy of religious institutions and the FCC aimed at silencing talk radio and Fox.

Although it pretends to be about “hate speech” and its contributions to “hate crime.”

Which is apparently not a concern for talk radio stars like Rush Lumbaugh, who has accumulated his own PolitiFact.com page. Not for Fox. Nor for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land, who is preoccupied with finding and raising the alarum about echoes of Nazi philosophy he may contrive to find in Democratic discussion of health care reform. Nor is factual accuracy a concern for them or for Fact Free Land.

Even so, hyperventilating rhetoric and inaccuracy do concern some of the rest of us. Hence the call by the National Interfaith Coalition for Media Justice for an examination of the use of the public airwaves to foster incivility. They are [shudder] asking folks who agree with them to sign a petition [oh noes]:

As a participant, you will be asked to sign a petition to the Federal Communications Commission asking that it open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media. We will also urge the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to update its 1993 report, The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.

Note the last two words: “Hate Crimes.”

They’re not calling for censorship. They want to know whether hate speech over the public airwaves is in fact giving rise to violence.

The petition-associated letter is of necessity specific. The most specific example it cites is strained. It says:

The possible correlation between hate speech and violent crime gives us great pause. Immigrant, minority, and religious populations are often targets of hate speech before they are subsequently the target of physical hate crimes. For example, in June 2006 four teenagers posed as federal agents and asked two Mexican men [on a jetty in Rocky Point, N.Y.] for their green cards. The teenagers then beat and robbed the two men, while accusing them of stealing jobs from U.S. citizens. This incident occurred after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Mexican immigrants [on March 27, 2006], regardless of legal status, “a renegade, potential crime element that is unwilling to work.” According to the most recent FBI hate crimes statistics, while hate crimes against all other groups have been holding steady or attenuating, hate crimes against Hispanics have been increasing over the last four years. Moreover, electronic media have a strong influence on children and teenagers since they are not yet fully developed cognitively.

The general issue has nonetheless attracted concern from several religious denominations, and Lord has by dent of hard work and considerable imagination spun together from their concern and the concern of others a conspiracy:

There is an organized campaign now afoot, a carefully planned, well-funded systematic assault on talk radio and Fox News that involves at least seven major liberal American religious denominations. All of whom are apparently planning to spread the gospel that talk radio and Fox News personalities are spreading hate speech. This message will be spread to their parishioners’ children, in adult education materials, in sermons and through lay leaders — people like me.

That conspiracy is very much like Richard Land’s discovery of an attack on his First Amendment rights in objections to his use of Holocaust metaphors and allegations of budding Nazism to attack efforts to provide health insurance to people who need it. There was no such attack on Land’s rights in this nation where some 45,000 people die a year for lack of appropriate health insurance. Censorship isn’t afoot here. Allegations of censorship are being used as part of an effort to mask legitimate debate.

October 23, 2009 - Posted by | Churches, Politics, Religion | , ,

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