Unremarked Censorship and Intimidation

I just witnessed a bit of censorship of American politics, the kind that goes unremarked and garners no more than a shrug. I purchased the sunday editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post at a local bookstore and saw the clerks removing copies of the anti-Kerry book Unfit to Command from the shelves. The reason was that somebody had gone through and ripped the “Un” from the word “Unfit” on the book jackets. They can’t be sold that way, so they were all removed from the shelves and displays. Now I have not read the book and have no strong opinions on what John Kerry did or didn’t do in Vietnam. (Nor do I really care.) But for the Kerry partisans (well, actually, since there don’t seem to be any, for the anti-Bush partisans), bad ideas just shouldn’t be allowed to be heard. After all, they’re bad ideas. I live in a neighborhood where I have yet to see one Bush sign in a window, although there are many dozens of Kerry (or “Bush — You’re Fired!”) signs in windows. I do not think that the neighborhood has no Bush supporters. I do think that they all decided to pass on the opportunity to have their windows smashed in, which is what almost certainly would happen. No doubt there are hateful Bush backers who steal signs from the yards of Kerry backers, but overall it seems that the real zeal for censoring speech this year comes from the Kerry (i.e., anti-Bush) camp, whose attitude is, “If you can’t say something that agrees with me, then shut the hell up!” And they’re willing to use force to carry that out, as I have learned from those who want to shut down Fox News and prohibit the showing of a documentary/infomercial critical of John Kerry. I have also heard people call for not allowing talk radio shows to be “biased,” for eliminating private broadcasting and substituting an NPR monopoly (a remarkably drastic way to knock Rush Limbaugh off the air), and so on. Moreover, the physical attacks on GOP offices and the intimidation of voters in Florida has gone almost without remark.

The ugliness of the present campaign was predictable enough. Whichever party had lost the last election, given the razor thin margins in Florida and New Mexico, was going to say “We wuz robbed.” But the ferocity of the anti-Bushies and their willingness to do anything to keep him from being reelected is disturbing. The willingness to believe anything bad about Bill Clinton on the part of some of the anti-Clintonites set the stage for the current intolerance, but the ferocious intolerance of most of the anti-Bushites puts them to shame.