When you are in the minority, dissent is patriotic. When you're in the majority, it can be something of an annoyance. As disturbing as the tragedy in Tucson is to the national psyche, what is even more of a concern is the way in which some elected officials and commentators are using it as an excuse to call for curbs on our precious freedom of speech.
There are those, like South Carolina Democrat James Clyburn, a member of his party’s leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, who wasted little time in calling for the restoration of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in the aftermath of last weekend’s tragic events in Arizona. As heated as the political rhetoric sometimes is, the idea that a causal relationship exists between what politicians say and what Jared Loughner allegedly did is as silly as it is disturbing. [Take the poll: Is Political Rhetoric To Blame for Arizona Shooting?]
The calls for the suppression of arguably inflammatory rhetoric brings to mind the way in which Hitler used the infamous “Reichstag fire” to consolidate his political power. Though the analogy is far from perfect, the fact remains the fire was an act of political terrorism that was used as an excuse to justify the mass arrest of his political opponents—particularly members of the German Communist Party—and to suppress civil liberties. And it is those same kinds of civil liberties that we must now do our utmost to protect and preserve.
By linking the shootings with the political right, the American left is attempting to make the case that the concerns people may have over the size and scope of the federal government is somehow illegitimate and, therefore, in need of restriction. Rather than buy into this nonsense, the American people should—and the polling suggests that they do—see it for what it is: an attempt by certain elements on the left to muzzle the opposition in order to gain political advantage.