Free press, free speech are too scary for some people
My friend Joey Kennedy was at the Word Factory, better known as The Birmingham News, yesterday when he had an epiphany. Take a look at this comical self-parody of how the times don’t always go a changin’.
I was reading the characteristically and predictably ugly comments on stories posted on al.com this morning, and I had a scary flashback. The flashback wasn’t triggered by any particular misbehavior on my part back in the 1970s but, rather, from a meeting I once had to cover.
It was probably 1975, and I was a cub reporter at The Houma Daily Courier in Houma, La. I was sent to cover a John Birch Society meeting. The John Birch Society is a very conservative organization that supposedly wants to help restore the U.S. as a constitutional republic, but when I showed up, the few members meeting weren’t too interested in freedom of the press. At first, they refused to let me enter the meeting. They eventually relented, then spent about an hour bashing the United Nations. (They truly were black helicopter people.) My editor decided there really wasn’t a story, and there wasn’t.
This morning, as I read through the comments on a couple of stories concerning the United Nations, I had my flashback. A labor union filed a complaint this week with the United Nations over Alabama’s immigration law.
Reader Libertarian4 is fairly typical: “I don’t give a flying crap what the U.N. thinks about our state’s law. It has no jurisdiction over my state. Now is the time to get rid of the United Nations. It is the biggest do-nothing group in history.”
The John Birch Society would have a field day recruiting members on the al.com boards if the commenters could be identified. But then, the John Birchers I covered weren’t big on the free press; they’re probably not crazy about free speech, either, unless it’s their speech.
Crimsonstaff brought me out of my terrifying flashback with this bit of common-sense insight:“When I was a kid, everyone complained to the U.N. about the Soviets. They built fences around their country, eavesdropped on their (people’s) electronic communications, strip-searched them at the airports and made them carry ‘papers.’ We didn’t want to live in a country like that.”
But we sure do now.
Photo courtesy of the Kaleidoscope