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White House Reprimands Bill Maher...
September 26, 2001 1:40 PM   Subscribe

White House Reprimands Bill Maher... Remarking on Bill Maher's recent (and ill-timed) comments, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "Americans ... need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.''

Mr Fleischer: there's never a time for a comment like that from the White House.
posted by silusGROK (69 comments total)


 
How anyone ever thought that a prick like Ari Fleischer would make a good press secretary for anyone, let alone the President, is beyond me.
posted by monosyllabic at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2001


Ron Ziegler, anyone?
posted by mdeatherage at 1:47 PM on September 26, 2001


Wait a minute. If memory serves (I haven't been following the story) Maher's bad comment was something to the effect that it was more "cowardly" to shoot people far away with missiles than to deliberately crash a plane into something. Is that Maher's big bad? Cuz Susan Sontag said the same thing in the New Yorker:

"And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards. "

So is the White House gonna condemn her now too?
posted by dnash at 1:53 PM on September 26, 2001


So, I guess Ari feels that if there is never a time for criticizing government actions. How decidedly... un-American.
posted by holycola at 1:54 PM on September 26, 2001


"This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative." Ron Ziegler
posted by matteo at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2001


Here's a gentleman to add to the list of those who need to be careful what they say.
As posted on MSNBC:
'“If I see someone come in and he’s got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked.” Louisiana Rep. John Cooksey, in a statewide radio address.'
posted by mmarcos at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2001


Oh come now Mono, Bush's handlers thought long and hard about the type of idiot to put in the Press Secretary job. they wanted someone who would make their boss look good in comparison, and in Ari's case, he does.

As for Bill Maher's comments, he is damn right. The terrorists are not cowards. They are standing up for what they believe in and willing to die for it.

Many American's have died for things they believe in too. Things like freedom of seech. Mr. Fleisher needs to remember that.
posted by DragonBoy at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2001


holy crap - that was a mess-up - sorry for the triple post folks :(
posted by holycola at 1:59 PM on September 26, 2001


What's cowardly is trying to extract pseudo-patriotic mileage out of an ill-phrased remarked already apologized for and defended by everyone from Arianna Huffington to Rush Limbaugh.

I guess the Shrub never misspoke.
posted by RavinDave at 2:05 PM on September 26, 2001


So Maher should have free speech, but not Mr. Fleischer, eh? After all, he's not *compelling* anyone, but stating his *opinion* of what's good for the country. He's free to do that, as those of you who criticize him are free to shoot off your mouths without considering that he, too, has the same rights as Mr. Maher... and that, unlike Mr. Maher, he's part of a group that's doing something to try to keep us safe, and make things better... not just a petty celebrity with a large mouth.
posted by dissent at 2:09 PM on September 26, 2001


holy shit.

Well, I'll say this -- if anyone could have brought Maher back out of the doghouse and made him a hero, it was Fleisher. Bill Maher, the man who now represents every god-fearing American's right to criticize the country.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2001


Dissent, the difference is that Mr. Fleischer is the spokesperson for the government, and is speaking for the government. It's not like he stood up on a soapbox on the streetcorner - his job is not to promulgate his own personal views, but to communicate the policy of the exectutive branch of the federal government. Whereas Mr. Maher is a member of the media. Last time I checked, the government was not supposed to be placing limits on the appropriate topics for discussion by the media.
posted by Chanther at 2:17 PM on September 26, 2001


It is cowardly to strike women, children and civilians. If they want to die for their religion, fight our ARMY, not our UNARMED office workers!
posted by emorawski at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2001


Dissent: When he is standing on the podium with the big "White House" sign on the wall behind him, Mr. Fleischer isn't supposed to be 'stating his (personal) opinion'... he's there to speak on behalf of the President, the Administration, and by extension, the United States Government on matters of policy, etc. If Mr. Fleischer wants to state his personal opinions of what's good for the country, he should not be doing it in his official capacity.

As for some actual content to inject into this thread, here is Bill Maher's clarification of his comments in question, which apparently escaped Mr. Fleischer and the reporter who asked the question. (I was half-watching the press conference at the time this happened and only momentarily wondered why the White House was commenting on this in the first place...)
posted by SenshiNeko at 2:24 PM on September 26, 2001


I agree that it was a profoundly stupid thing for Fleisher to say, but I don't think it could be construed as unconstitutional or illegal. Nothing -- including the 1st Amendment -- prevents Fleischer (or George Bush, or any other government official) from offering his opinion on what a person should or shouldn't say, even when acting in an official capacity. What would be unconstitutional would be taking any governmental action on the basis of that speech (or taking any action designed to deter or prevent such speech in the future).

That said, most politicians are wise enough to conform their opinions to the constitution. Fleischer is not wise.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2001


Did Fleischer even chime in with an opinion on the infamous Falwell/Robertson remarks on the incident?
posted by RavinDave at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2001


Let's not discount the idea that Ari *was* speaking on behalf of the White House, and that this is the beginning of a deliberate movement to dismantle the first amendment in the name of unity.

Sure, you laugh and call me paranoid, but it's happened before.
posted by turaho at 2:42 PM on September 26, 2001


Why can't the administration say what is, in their *opinion* best for the country? As long as they do not compel, but merely bring social pressure to bear, they act within their rights... and within the *expected* responsibilities of those who would lead this nation. They can *criticize* speech... they can't (and wouldn't) *compel* it to be stopped.

And as long as it's not counter to the interests of the administration he represents, why should he NOT interject a personal note, even if it's just him? As if that's never been done by presidential spokespeople, in say, the Clinton years...

I think nothing good, in any light, should be said of the terrorists. I stand with one of Winston Churchill's comments of World War II, which was in essence, if not exactly, that if Hitler invaded Hell, he would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

Will I compel anyone to stop? No, I can't. But I *will* scorn them, and I will favor those who scorn them with me. And if the scorning is done from a position of high authority, so much the better.

It's social pressure, not legal. That's legally permissible and morally praiseworthy... and you can complain, but sensible people won't stop it. Get over it.
posted by dissent at 2:45 PM on September 26, 2001


Dissent, nobody is saying that the white house can't condemn this kind of thing. We're saying they should not. The White House should not censure american citizens for making comments critical of governmental policy. That is completely inappropriate. Fleischer was not commenting on Maher's statement concerning the terrorists, but, according to the article, Maher's stance on US military policy. I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that the White House should attack people for criticising our government.
posted by Doug at 2:54 PM on September 26, 2001


Bill Maher vs. the Ministry of Truth. Heh.
posted by holgate at 2:59 PM on September 26, 2001


"most politicians are wise enough"

yes they sure appear to be a bunch of wise guys.
unfortunately, this isn't an episode of The Sopranos.
posted by slappy at 3:11 PM on September 26, 2001


This whole thing is a matter of definitions, and different people have different definitions.

Suicide, in general, can be seen as brave (it takes a lot of guts to do something as major as killing yourself) or cowardly (it's like running away and shirking responsiblity for your actions).

Attacking innocent civilians has been called cowardly, but it really has nothing to do with being timid or fearful or lacking courage. Nor do bombers or cruise missles have anything to do with cowardice or courage, for that matter. They're both strategic choices.

If Hercules (first thing that came to mind, sorry) could have done a little dance in place of all of his trials, would he be a coward for doing the dance?
posted by whatnotever at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2001


The White House press secretary, 'Asshole Flesher' --when briefing the press in his official capacity as voice of the American White House-- should be electrocuted by microphone for spewing out such un-American garbage as an *official* White House statement.

I don't give a rat's ass whether or not people like Bill Maher ---he's just a tv talk show host and pseudo-comedian--- but when the core of our government starts talking like that, I think we may have a lot more to fear than just terrorists.
posted by blackholebrain at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2001



Yet more choice words from an even higher-level official: 'Berlusconi, after meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin, told reporters the West should feel confident in its superiority to the Islamic world. ``We should be conscious of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion,'' he said. ``This respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic countries,'' Berlusconi added.'

Confounding.
posted by mmarcos at 3:22 PM on September 26, 2001


whatnotever, Maher's comments have been discussed elsewhere.

as Doug wrote, it's not a matter of whether the Ari (in his official capacity) or the White House has a legal right to say something like that. it's a matter of whether they should say something like that. i answer with a resounding 'no.'
posted by tolkhan at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2001


I'm always fearful that I'm missing something when I read a story like this one. While the press secretary does speak on behalf of the Whitehouse during a press conference, not every utterance out of his mouth can be construed as being imbued with the voice of the executive branch. Ari Fleischer made it clear to the press that he and the President did not discuss this particular matter.

Today's Press Briefing shows a large number of other items ahead of it on the agenda, and shows the statement made by Maher couched in question in not quite the same context as when it was originally made:

"As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?"

Maher's original statement was of questionable taste, the question asked of Fleischer was questionably composed, and the news story was probably making more of the comment than it should have. I find it easy to believe that Fleischer was thinking of those who died when he made those remarks, and not of censoring those who would issue unpopular statements about government. But don't take my word. Read the whole press release for yourself, and not some snippet from yahoo.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:30 PM on September 26, 2001


From what I can see in the press briefing --and considering that the original Bill Maher statement was strictly considered an insult to the military (not the victims) by FedEx, as well as many others-- Ari Fleischer knows what Bill Maher said (which had nothing to do with the victims), and therefore his comments 'as stated' can only be interpreted as WAY out of line.

He IS the White House press secretary... what he says DOES matter... and when expressed in the context of a W.H. press breifing, what he says is not personal, but official W.H. opinion.

Instead, he could've said "This is a free country, and people like Bill Maher have a right to believe and say whatever they want. I may not agree with what he said, and I can only imagine how it makes the victims families feel... but Operation Enduring Freedom is not only about avenging the many thousands who died in the attacks on Sept. 11th, but it's also about preserving all that is American -- including the rights of people like Bill Maher to make just those kind of comments."

Bottom line? Bill Maher is not the official spokesman of the White House breifing the press in these post-attack, pre-war days... but Ari Fleischer is, and he should follow his own advice and think about how whatever he says might be interpreted before speaking.
posted by blackholebrain at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2001



Instead, he could've said "This is a free country, and people like Bill Maher have a right to believe and say whatever they want. I may not agree with what he said, and I can only imagine how it makes the victims families feel... but Operation Enduring Freedom is not only about avenging the many thousands who died in the attacks on Sept. 11th, but it's also about preserving all that is American -- including the rights of people like Bill Maher to make just those kind of comments."

I nominate blackholebrain as the new press secretary.
posted by mapalm at 4:06 PM on September 26, 2001


Here! Here!
posted by silusGROK at 4:18 PM on September 26, 2001


Where? Where?

Instead, he could've said...

How about if he had just said nothing?
posted by kindall at 4:23 PM on September 26, 2001


doesn't the white house have more pressing matters to attend to?
posted by jcterminal at 4:27 PM on September 26, 2001


blackholebrain: I may not agree completely with what you wrote above, but you definitely have a lot better answer for the issue than Fleischer did. Any thoughts on the other matters addressed during the press conference?
posted by bragadocchio at 4:30 PM on September 26, 2001


doesn't the white house have more pressing matters to attend to?

Yeah - but the issue was raised by the press, not the press secretary, and the way Fleischer fumbled the answer indicates that it really wasn't given much thought at all.
posted by bragadocchio at 4:34 PM on September 26, 2001


Kindall... it was a simple (albeit poorly worded) question. Having "no comment" on something so easy would have been ridiculous. Of course, the comment that Ari chose was even worse: draconian and inappropriate.
posted by silusGROK at 4:40 PM on September 26, 2001


I agree that what Fleischer said would be ridiculous if it weren't so terrible, but the headline of the article in the link irresponsibly makes it seem like it was an official statement of the White House. I watched the press conference and Fleischer was answering a question and speaking for himself and not the administration. He should make a huge apology. What he said was terrbily wrong. Too bad he didn't say what blackholebrain said. I can't wait to watch Maher's comments on this.
posted by missmerrymack at 4:42 PM on September 26, 2001


I've said it here before, and I say it again:

Ari Fleisher is a worm.

And anyone who uses a worm as his mouthpiece is WORSE than a worm.
posted by rushmc at 5:03 PM on September 26, 2001


Sure he could have said "no comment." Or, maybe, "I don't really think it's appropriate for me to comment on that in my role as an official spokesman for the President," which is a more explanatory way of saying the same thing.
posted by kindall at 5:29 PM on September 26, 2001


Feh. If you (collectively) can't understand, and sympathize with Mr. Fleischer issuing a rebuke to Maher, and let it pass, you deserve what you get if this situation turns as nasty as it can get.

The terrorists *are* cowards. They believed they would suffer no ill-effects from their actions, and would enter paradise by killing those who could not harm them.

Now, if they believed their actions would send them to *hell*, but for the greater good of those they loved, they purposely consigned themselves to the flames of hell (if you believe such exist, or they did) *THEN* I might admit they were not cowards.

Kill the defenseless... go to heaven. No, not a brave act. Their very belief condemns them as cowards. Risk failure in the act of attaining heaven... now, *that* could be brave. Maybe.

I'll accept that attacks on military targets can be the work of brave men, even when I oppose them and their beliefs. I can not believe that attacks on civilians are such, especially when the motivating factor is a spurious belief that's its a ticket to paradise.

And those who would grouse over a passing comment by someone defending those who will be defending us... and who *have* defended us...

They are rather short sighted.

The next time a liberal's in power, and *his* representative rebukes remarks like those made by those twits Fallwell and Robertson and says they are bad for America or UnAmerican...

Will you be complaining as much then?

Careful. I'll hold you to it.
posted by dissent at 5:29 PM on September 26, 2001


They believed they would suffer no ill-effects from their actions, and would enter paradise by killing those who could not harm them.

Yeah, that makes it real easy to kill yourself. I mean, never mind that every cell in your body is continually screaming out to live and that the thought of a grisly death is unsettling at a gut level -- it's easy to ignore that if you think you're going to paradise afterward.
posted by kindall at 5:34 PM on September 26, 2001


> Careful. I'll hold you to it.

Knock yerself out.

It's merely ironic that Maher was exercising one of the very rights that rightwingers claim they treasure.

You're defending a sort of a "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" mentality.
posted by RavinDave at 5:46 PM on September 26, 2001


Dissent... we're not talking about Maher's statement. That was (and this has been said before) discussed elsewhere.

If you can't stay on topic, the least you could do is be clever, insightful... well, anything besides obtuse would be nice.
posted by silusGROK at 5:48 PM on September 26, 2001


Feh. If you (collectively) can't understand, and sympathize with Mr. Fleischer issuing a rebuke to Maher, and let it pass, you deserve what you get if this situation turns as nasty as it can get.

Feh. If you (personally) can't understand, and realize Mr Fleischer was advocating a destruction of our first amendment right to free speech, you deserve what you get if you can't post your small-minded opinions on the Internet anymore.

Will you be complaining as much then?

Careful. Fleischer will hold you to it.
posted by dogmatic at 6:25 PM on September 26, 2001


It's merely ironic that Maher was exercising one of the very rights that rightwingers claim they treasure.

The right has never cared much for the First Amendment. It's the Second that gets them all randy.
posted by jpoulos at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2001


jpoulos -- you're right, and I could never understand why. Conservatives in congress (often in collaboration with their liberal counterparts) would be all to happy to regulate "offensive" speech into the abyss. The only conservative group that has shown a moderate interest in protecting the First Amendment is the U. S. Supreme Court (e.g., flag burning, pornography, "fuck the draft")
posted by pardonyou? at 8:00 PM on September 26, 2001


Isn't the name of the show "Politically INCORRECT"? Just a thought. Maybe FedEx should have thought that it wouldn't be apple pie and happy go luck conservative views being expressed before they bought advertising time.
posted by eljuanbobo at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2001


eljuan, don't you know, companies like FedEx don't pay attention, they just assume whatever they want and do and say whatever they want, where ever they want, no matter the context, and expect people to see it their way, good sense be damned. Kind of like people (like us) who post the wrong things in the wrong threads. Duh.

(Wait. Is he being saracastic? Did he get it? Did who get it? Is who sarcastic? Wait. I'm confused.)

(Mehopes both me an' eljuan is being sarcastic, at least as far as what we think this thread is about. Anyway I hope so and we hopefully avoid 4 more comments about what idiots we are. I hope.)
posted by mattpfeff at 9:19 PM on September 26, 2001


Damn, I'm sorry I missed this thread until now, since the response to Vis10n's question is so simple.

Mr Fleischer: there's never a time for a comment like that from the White House.

Yes there is: Every time a reporter is stupid enough to ask such a vapid question. We're in the middle of the hugest crisis in decades, and the best thing this member of the White House press corps can come up with is to ask for a comment about something a comedian said on a late night talk show? And which was said a week and a half ago, at that?

The question was beyond idiotic, completely pointless and called for a response of pure opinion. Fleisher provided it. Don't like it? Demand that the media hire people capable of asking better questions.
posted by aaron at 9:21 PM on September 26, 2001


mapalm: (ahem) Well thanks!! Hey, I may need another job shortly! >;]

bragadocchio: Intelligence discouse is what keeps me reading mefi --[and avoiding /. more & more]-- and your comments, as well as many others here, makes me think and that's what it's all about.

As far as other commentary, heh -- give me time and I'll always have something to say! But I've got nothing else at the moment... well, except to say that Jesse Jackson's just looking for any reason to get out of the house! [Jackson's wife "Uh-uh, Rev. Baby-maker... you're staying your happy pants right here"] >;]

anybody: Who was it that said "I may not like what you have to say, but I'll die defending your right to say it" ??
posted by blackholebrain at 9:21 PM on September 26, 2001


Also, this just in, and perhaps even more fucked up than Mr. Fleisher saying dumb shit:

Newspaper Columnist Fired After Writing That President Bush Showed 'cowardice'

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - The Daily Courier has fired a columnist who wrote about President Bush "hiding in a Nebraska hole" instead of returning to Washington immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


(from Romanesko's Media News)
posted by mattpfeff at 9:22 PM on September 26, 2001


Your point, matt? Unless that columnist owns the newspaper he was writing for, he has no right whatosever to merely spew anything he wishes.
posted by aaron at 9:38 PM on September 26, 2001


We're in the middle of the hugest crisis in decades

Yes, it begins to look as though we are...it is only tangentially related to terrorism, however.
posted by rushmc at 9:50 PM on September 26, 2001


Unless that columnist owns the newspaper he was writing for, he has no right whatosever to merely spew anything he wishes.

You would prefer that he merely recycle whatever position papers he may be handed by the editor? Do you like the idea of a world where only those who can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to put out a newspaper have a forum for their opinions?

Thank god for the internet.
posted by rushmc at 9:52 PM on September 26, 2001


Rush, as a constitutional matter, the owner of the printing press (i.e. the publisher) has the right to control what is said. This columnists rights were not violated because he has the right to buy his own printing press if he wishes. Or he can find a job with another publication whose opinions more closely match his own. The publisher had every right to fire him; he has no right whatever to complain.

Blackholebrain: Your quote is from Voltaire -- who, just incidentally, wasn't an American citizen.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:55 PM on September 26, 2001


hmm. Take it easy, aaron. Here's the point.

The guy was doing his job -- calling it the way he saw it. That's what a paper gives a writer a column for. Assuming he checks his facts and doesn't slander anyone, it's not in any way his job to second-guess his opinions. That's what his editor is for, when necessary.

If anything, the paper should publish an apology. Like the Texas City Sun did, on its front page, in a piece titled (aptly enough): Publisher apologizes for column. The publisher even says, in a separate editorial, that the column in question "was so offensive to me personally that I had a hard time getting all the way through it, and in fact, still feel ill from its effects as I write this."

But the City Sun didn't fire the guy, as far as I know, because while he made a mistake, it's one the paper has to take responsibility for (and does; the publisher acknowledges, too, that he believes that "one of our editors erred greatly"), instead of putting it all on one guy doing his job.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:58 PM on September 26, 2001


"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
was from S. G. Tallentyre, from Voltaire in his Letters, being a Selection from His Correspondence

The quote is often attributed to Voltaire, but was actually a summary of Voltaire's attitude towards the writer Helvetius when his book De l'esprit, side by side with Voltaire's On Natural Law were burned publically by the hangman.
posted by bragadocchio at 10:20 PM on September 26, 2001


Regarding Fleischer, it's not NOT NOT just this one time. He has a history as WHSP of issuing many of these threatening edicts to the press to "back off" perfectly valid stories, or threatening to blacklist specific reporters from the WH. That's what's so disgusting, of which this is just the latest- and fairly tame, by Ari's standards- example.

SDB: This columnists rights were not violated because he has the right to buy his own printing press if he wishes

Cool! Does that mean he has the guaranteed right to the millions it would take to buy/start a newspaper that wasn't just 50 photocopied leaflets from Kinko's? While technically he might not have the right to be a columnist at a newspaper, it's supremely fucked up if he gets fired for non-slanderous commentary that doesn't toe a certain Nationalistic line. Used to be the job of the press to act as the gadfly to government and financial institutions, keep them accountable to da people; used to be real journalists would be absolutely pissed about this sort of thing; unfortunately, real journalists haven't been seen in many years since we 24 hours a day of talking heads and scud studs. And if he did start his own newspaper to present an alternate viewpoint that doesn't toe the jackbooted line of the status quo, you know perfectly well what would happen: it would be roundly criticized by you and many others as being a pernicious example of the "liberal media bias". Sounds like you've sketched this out nicely: either you're a millionaire media outlet owner- and thus lean conservative and power/money worshipping- or you're an alternative media outlet and therefore nothing more than the pawn of Satan in the guise of lib'ral elites. Rock, meet Hard Place.

Christ, man, do you not get this basic fact: not everyone can own a major media outlet!! Indeed, until morons like Scalia et al trampled the Fairness Doctrine in the 80's, it was a long-standing opinion of the SC (and FCC) that since media outlets are by nature and cost very finite and limited, they have (had... *sigh*) the responsibility to present equal time and alternative viewpoints. Currently, we can't all own a newspaper or tee-vee station, even if we wanted to. There just isn't enough bandwidth or paper for 280,000,000 newspapers and teevees.
posted by hincandenza at 11:18 PM on September 26, 2001



emorawski: "It is cowardly to strike women, children and civilians."

Tell that to the American men who nuked two Japanese cities. Tell the American men who carpet-bombed Vietnam.
posted by pracowity at 11:26 PM on September 26, 2001


Tell that to the Marines!
posted by hincandenza at 12:47 AM on September 27, 2001


The question was beyond idiotic, completely pointless and called for a response of pure opinion. Fleisher provided it. Don't like it? Demand that the media hire people capable of asking better questions.

That would be the liberal media, right aaron? The liberal media with the corporate funding, is it?

While the question was stupid, there was no need for a representative of the White House to suggest someone's First Amendment rights be voluntarily or involuntarily suppressed. That he says Americans need to watch what they say or what they do is patronizing and just plain un-American.
posted by dogmatic at 4:54 AM on September 27, 2001


Excuse me. I'm from the "Mister Staw Man 2001" pageant. I was told I might be able to find aaron in here. The rehearsal hall is all set up for a run through of his skit - "Ask a Silly Question, Get a Silly Answer".
posted by Opus Dark at 5:01 AM on September 27, 2001


Hincadenza, there is no constitutional right of access for free speech and press. You have the right to speak but you no right to an audience. You have the right of press but you have no right to broad distribution.

(By the way, I don't believe I've ever before used the term "liberal media bias". Are you confusing me with someone else?)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:43 AM on September 27, 2001


Constitutionally speaking, Broadcast Television and Newspapers are distinct. In the case of broadcast television, channels are a limited resource and television is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Given a limitation on bandwidth and given that if it is abused it becomes useless (i.e. two stations in the same area trying to use the same frequency at the same time) the Courts have ruled that the US government has broad powers to control broadcast television. Interestingly, they do not have the same power over cable television because there are no such limits on bandwidth. (That's why it's not legal for the Playboy Channel to be broadcast but it's perfectly legal to carry it on cable. The government has broad censorship powers on broadcast TV but no such powers over cable.)

The Fairness doctrine applies to broadcast radio and television for that reason. But it is not a broad principle for all media. The Fairness doctrine does not apply to cable-only television, for instance, and it does not and never has applied to the print media. Some newspapers have adopted a policy of airing alternative viewpoints but they do not have a legal obligation to do so and many publications do not. And if a newspaper which had such a policy then revoked it and ceased to do so, there would be exactly nothing that the government could do about it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:50 AM on September 27, 2001


One thing leads to another and they all point towards the 4th reich, an American one this time. We are in for some interesting (as the Chinese say) times, folks.
posted by acrobat at 6:13 AM on September 27, 2001


We're in the middle of the hugest crisis in decades

nah. they're just telling you we are.

[the columnist] has no right whatosever to merely spew anything he wishes

did he make those statements in a factual article (i.e., was he a reporter?) or was he a columnist paid to write such columns in which he often expressed his opinion? seems to me that, if the publisher knows this, then he or she ought wither to be reading the columns before publication, or allowing the columnists to do what they're paid to do and write opinionated and possibly controversial columns. the publisher handled it the wrong way.
posted by tolkhan at 7:38 AM on September 27, 2001


I guess I think columnists will be more afraid of censorship from their bosses than from the government. As big of a jackass Fleisher is, his statements don't speak to any actual government crack-down on journos. But the publisher's action -- firing the writer -- quite possibly does indicate some real pressure on opinion writers to not go there.

Imagine if Watergate were happening right now. Would the Washington Post let its reporters pursue the story?
posted by mattpfeff at 10:25 AM on September 27, 2001


Also, in what seems to be a good sign (in that they don't support the statement) and a bad one (in that they aren't addressing it), the WH has apparently edited Fleisher's "watch what they say" statement out of the press briefing record. (see #18 in the anchor links at top)

The transcript indicates that Fleisher only said:

There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.

(this too via MediaNews)
posted by mattpfeff at 10:32 AM on September 27, 2001


Rush, as a constitutional matter, the owner of the printing press (i.e. the publisher) has the right to control what is said. This columnists rights were not violated because he has the right to buy his own printing press if he wishes.

Of course. But the Constitution is the beginning, not the end of our expectations of a free and open exchange of ideas--or should be. As I pointed out, suggesting that someone should "run out and buy a printing press to air their views" is specious and absurd given the costs of production and distribution. We rightly expect a certain amount of free expression in this country, and it is reasonable to expect it in a situation where someone has been hired for the express purpose of disseminating their opinions and viewpoints. Trying to control such a person is to present a mouthpiece, not a commentator.
posted by rushmc at 5:34 PM on September 27, 2001


    [sdb: there is no constitutional right of access for free speech and press]
I acknowledged that above; I said while technically one doesn't have that right, it's a fuckedsociety.com in which dissenting or alternate viewpoints are routinely booted from the major media outlets for daring to question the fonts of power in our country.

BTW, "fuckedsociety.com" is not available- that sucks! Also, I was writing my original responses while FSTV was airing "Fear and Favor in the Newsroom" in the background. So understand my vitriol was inspired vitriol...

    [sdb: By the way, I don't believe I've ever before used the term "liberal media bias". Are you confusing me with someone else?)]
Hm- quite possibly, maybe I'm confusing you with aaron. You libertarian/ conservative types all look alike to me. :) Re: the Fairness Doctrine. Actually, perhaps I'm mistaken, but until it was basically stripped away in the 80's, there was something the gov't could do about broadcast outlets not allowing equal time in broadcast media, because such equal time was considered part of their respnsibility to the community in return for their use of the broadcasting airwaves (and yes, I should have been clearer- newspapers were never part of the FD, didn't mean to imply they were).

    [sdb: The government has broad censorship powers on broadcast TV but no such powers over cable.]
Well, if that's the case I sure wish they'd stop exercising those powers they don't have. Hell, I just wish they'd stop exercising those powers they don't have on cable access channels! Oh, and on the porn channels like Spice- fuckin' REVEEL standard, my ass!
posted by hincandenza at 12:09 AM on September 28, 2001



Maybe Bill Maher should have asked any intelligent officer commanding troops in the field about force protection. Bill, here's one from the same people protecting your right to free speech: never send a combat soldier where you can send a bullet. Wise engagement of the enemy, plain and simple.

If that's what you call cowardly then bring your sideline ass on up to the frontlines: place a suicide bomber hat on your head, strap a bomb across your back and run into the Taliban Headquarters so they get the message you so eloquently attempted to convey.
posted by Justice31 at 9:16 AM on September 29, 2001


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