- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Free speech or free market?

In his Oct. 10 Commentary column, "Free speech on the casualty list?" Clarence Page makes the Chicken Little assertion that the First Amendment is falling simply because a few media persons have been disciplined appropriately. They made statements that were, at best, disloyal and disrespectful and, at worst, outrageous and dangerous.

The First Amendment protects Americans from government prohibitions on speech. It does not guarantee that one may say anything one wants free of the consequences such as public outrage, loss of employment or, for companies, loss of market share.

The media have been given a pass by the public for far too long. They wrap themselves in the First Amendment while expressing appalling distortions and half-truths in order to further their particular ideologies. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, some in the media finally were held accountable. However, they were held accountable not by the government, but the public and the market. That's the way it works in a free-market democracy.

Columnist Dan Guthrie's statement in the Grants Pass, Ore., Daily Courier that President Bush was an "embarrassment" for "hiding in a Nebraska hole" on the day of the terrorist attacks was not simply critical. Mr. Guthrie questioned entirely appropriate security measures in the midst of an attack that clearly was aimed at our government. I would much rather that the president manage the crisis than expose himself to attack. Were I in Grant's Pass, I might continue to read the Courier because it admitted its mistake and took appropriate corrective action by firing Mr. Guthrie.

ABC News, however, did not take similar measures after Peter Jennings made equally inappropriate comments. As a consequence, I have sold my stock in its parent company, Disney, and refuse to watch any show carried on that network.

"Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher should be grateful that he was only required to apologize for his intensely offensive comments. That no consequences have befallen academic Susan Sontag is simply a testament to her irrelevance.

I have watched with amusement as the majority of the media struggle to understand their continual loss in market share to more balanced organizations such as Fox News. Perhaps if more organizations were as responsible in responding to their customers' concerns as the Grants Pass, Ore., Daily Courier, people might begin to watch or read them again. That's not an assault on the First Amendment, it's just good business. It's called a market economy.


ROSS M. WILHELM

Newport, R.I.




Clarence Page writes that free speech and the truth are casualties in war and cites the firing of newspaper columnist Dan Guthrie after Mr. Guthrie wrote that President Bush was an "embarrassment" for "hiding in a Nebraska hole" on the day of the terrorist attacks. However, firing an incompetent or dishonest columnist is not a hit on the truth. It's a service to the truth. The true embarrassment is that some hacks in our media are so obsessed with partisan attacks on the president that they'll use anything even standard wartime safety procedures to attack him. Of course, it would be inexcusably stupid for a president to make himself a target while ersatz enemy cruise missiles are crashing into the Capitol. Likewise, it is inexcusably stupid or deliberate partisan dishonesty for a columnist to criticize a president for not making himself a sitting duck. He cannot lead if he is dead.

It's about time editors performed a little quality control, firing those hacks who put dishonest partisanship above true editorial criticism.


ERIC RICHTER

Wyoming, Mich.

Attacks are no excuse for missile defense fraud

Even if John Marston is right in his response to my Oct. 4 letter to the editor, "Canceling missile defense is 'decent' thing to do," and Osama bin Laden launches a missile from a country he wants to see destroyed, national missile defense won't work ("In wake of attacks, canceling missile defense would be stupid," Letters, Oct. 5 ). Multiple warheads, even Mylar wrapped around his missile, will cause this bogus defense to fail.

Do I feel safe in Alaska, as Mr. Marston suggests? Missile defense is to be based here, and I don't feel one bit safer. This project is a fraud on the taxpayer and, as a drain of billions, unpatriotic because legitimate weapons development and American defense will suffer.


STEPHEN CONN

Executive director

Alaska Public Interest Research Group

Anchorage, Alaska

Will Americans giving blood money have second thoughts?

I read your Oct. 9 Inside Politics column with interest especially the "Un-Oprah reality" section. I'm not naive enough to be shocked that Muslims in the United States send money to terrorist groups, but it did start me thinking about the future of other groups that support terrorism. As a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, will the Irish American from New York City think twice before he hands over his hard-earned dollars at an IRA fund-raiser at his local pub?

What about the ultraliberal New Yorker who is hit up for money by the Animal Liberation Front? Will she give money to an organization that fire-bombs labs, damaging property and lives? Will a black New Yorker give his dollars to the New Black Panther Party or some other hate group advocating revolution and hatred? Or, for that matter, will whites continue to support the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation, knowing that contributions to a similar hateful group helped kill thousands?

I'm not naive enough to think that the flow of this blood money will stop. I do pray to God that it will be slowed.


TROY HINRICHS

Amarillo, Texas

Loose immigration laws enable terrorism

My response to Cal Thomas' Oct. 10 Commentary column, "The next attack," is that I fear it is a little late to worry about immigration laws. During the past decade, we have flooded our nation with foreigners who do not share our values, our culture, our traditions or our language. Newly arrived immigrants are everywhere in our land. As a result, we will not return to pre-Sept. 11 America any time soon.

While the majority of immigrants may wish our country no harm, who can feel safe anymore? The walls have been moved. With millions living here in defiance of our laws, how can one remain complacent?

I am opposed to national identification cards for American citizens, yet I would heartily support such an approach for everyone else in our country. Unless the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), along with other law enforcement agencies, conducts neighborhood-by-neighborhood visa- and citizenship-verification sweeps, we will never have a true account of the makeup of our population.

Congress must demand a moratorium on all immigration until the overworked, understaffed INS can finally do its job. Millions have slipped through the cracks for decades. We are paying for this negligence and will continue to do so for years to come.


ROSALIND ELLIS

Baltimore

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