Right-wingers seem to have a problem understanding how this whole free-speech thing works. They seem to believe, for instance, that it's perfectly acceptable for them to say the most outrageous things imaginable as part of their rights to free speech -- but if someone stands up and exercises their free-speech rights by criticizing what they said, then by God, they're trying to take their rights away!
Like those brilliant minds over at the Right Scoop:
What is really at work here is the Left trying to control the speech of a small group of impressionable people – Republicans. They could care less about how civil the nation is but if they can keep the Republicans from name calling, they end up looking better than they would if Republicans constantly reminded America of their socialist agenda.
This idea intrigues Fox's Megyn Kelly yesterday morning, and so she invited Alan Colmes on to chew it over. She found she had more than she bargained for:
COLMES: When Sarah Palin responds to the State of the Union address and uses the acronym WTF, and says it was a 'WTF' speech, that is really uncalled-for and over the top. That is --
KELLY: Why can't she say that? What is the problem with saying that?
COLMES: I didn't say she couldn't say that. But I have a right to get on the air that's absolutely absurd -- let her say it! In fact, I want her to say more of that stuff! But we have the right to come on and say that's absolutely absurd and ridiculous! I'm not saying anybody should be shut down.
KELLY: Yes, but others are. You're not.
COLMES: Come on, who's saying anybody should be shut down?
KELLY: This call for civility.
COLMES: Wait a minute, Megyn. Who's trying to shut who down? Who's trying to shut anybody down? Who?
KELLY: Well, that's the question. The theory is -- the theory is that this call for civility in fact an effort to silence critics who -- let me just finish the theory -- this is from this article -- the theory is -- other conservatives have said this -- that they're trying to silence Republicans or conservatives or Tea Party people who have been -- who have been successful in winning back control of the House, winning back more seats in the Senate, and they're worried about how successful they might be in 2012.
COLMES: Paul Broun of Georgia, the congressman who said that Obama was just spewing his venom, said the reason Democrats wanted to sit with Republicans was to shut them down, to shut them off, to silence them. That's absurd!
This is a crazy conspiracy right-wing theory that somehow is accusing the Left of when they call for civility, what they really want is to shut you up? No!
What's wrong with just calling for civility for its own sake? So we should be condemned because people on my side call for us to be civil? And they expand this into some kind of bad evil plot to shut you down? That's crazy!
Let's stipulate, perhaps, that civility is a lofty but probably unreachable goal. But let's also stipulate that democratic debate itself is impossible when one side threatens, intimidates, smears, and invokes violent eliminationist rhetoric against the other -- especially if it simultaneously refuses to engage in a debate over the facts of the issues but instead devotes its energy to shrieking hysterically about false "facts" and conspiracy theories.
Civility would be great. But honest, clear debate without the cloud of violence is what we desperately need.