Reactions to My Chris Hedges Item on The Huffington Post:

I posted my item on Chris Hedges' call to suppress speech from "the Radical Christian Right" on The Huffington Post, where I have (rarely used) posting privileges. The resulting comments were an interesting mix.

Quite a few commenters agreed that Hedges' call was unsound. Some suggested that I misinterpreted Hedges' position, though I'm pretty sure I didn't. Some, as is common (both from people on the Left and on the Right) just assumed that I only condemn left-wing calls for speech suppression ("Where were you when your fellow travellers were doing exactly what you decry here?"); still, that's just ignorance about me and hostility towards the person they assume me to be, not necessarily endorsement of Hedges' suggestions.

But a bunch seemed to endorse, expressly or implicitly, Hedges' proposal. Naturally, commenters on a blog aren't representative even of the readers of that blog, much less of any broader movement. Yet it seems pretty clear that there are people out there who share Hedges' view.

My favorite item, though, was this:

jesus, Volokh, RedState's down the hall and to the right. whyncha go peddle it there?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the comment, but it seems to me that it's worse than agreement with the call for speech suppression: It suggests that calls for speech suppression coming from the Left are none of the Left's concern. People who complain about such calls shouldn't "peddle" them on the Huffington Post, you know; right-wing sites are the only fitting place for them.

In any case, have a read; Hedges is not alone, though I doubt that he represents a vast movement.

This is the comment I noticed:

You're kind of disingenuously mixing two different pieces. In the second piece, the NPR interview with Hedges, he's obviously consistently talking about speech which advocates the actual killing (extermination) of others. That's where he's arguing for specific laws. You may not agree with that proposition, but its a more specific argument than what he's discussing in the first excerpt, and I think you're being a little shifty in trying to make it an "A-HA!" or "gotcha!" moment for Hedges' intentions in the first excerpt. Frankly, it just makes me want to read more of Hedges book for the actual full context.

1.30.2007 2:54pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Centrist: Yes, that at least was a substantive argument that didn't clearly agree with Hedges (though note that even an exception for advocacy of killing others would change existing First Amendment law, and would justify suppression of much revolutionary advocacy). But it's a mistaken argument, since Hedges later in that interview goes on to make clear that his argument is about much more than just advocacy of extermination:
I mean, we're not going to turn a cable channel over to the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the kinds of things that are allowed to be spewed out over much of Christian radio and television essentially preaches sedition. It preaches civil war. It's not a difference of opinion.
I particularly like the reference to "sedition," which also reminds me of this view of the First Amendment.
1.30.2007 3:05pm
CJH (mail):
"Nice try, but this kind of hate-mongering is unworthy of protection. Yes, we do trust the government -- as long as it's not the Bushies -- to provide adequate oversight. In fact, we demand it."

A truly frightening idea. I can't help but wonder how little thought goes into such a statement.
1.30.2007 3:13pm
rarango (mail):
I dont listen to "Christian Radio," and am not a church goer, so I simply dont know what is said there. But I really do find anyone's desire to suppress speech quite ominous. And "Fairness?" praytell, how in the world would that idea be operationalized? Would a pastor need a wiccan, or atheiest, muslim, hindu or buddhist standing beside her on the pulpit? Fairness doctrine as a "remedy" seems even more ominous than suppression.
1.30.2007 3:16pm
another anonVCfan:
My favorite comment:

"This is not about suppressing free speech. We have laws against slander, inciting violence and sedition."

(emphasis added)
1.30.2007 3:18pm
Colin (mail):
Blech. A depressing and deplorable reaction.
1.30.2007 3:26pm
rarango (mail):
VCfan--The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were repealed? Who knew!
1.30.2007 3:46pm
You mean left-wingers---er, I mean "liberals", aren't really for liberty??? WOW! The scales have fallen from my eyes!
1.30.2007 3:46pm
BobNSF (mail):
Irrational, stupid, closed-minded posts on the web!?!?!


Still, if you think there's insight to be gained from examining web posts, go to and post pro-gay rights.
1.30.2007 3:49pm
BobNSF (mail):
Ooops... left off a hyphen
1.30.2007 3:50pm
But BobNSF, the people on do not claim to be liberal.
1.30.2007 4:10pm
Rattan (mail):
Hedges is totally off-base. The best (and only) protection against the kind of nonsense Hedges is complaining about is to allow other religions, beliefs and lifestypes the same privilege. If Muslims call for extermination of non-Muslims and Christians rail against not-so-pure rest of use while Hindus rant about a million Gods and insults thereto and Jews take an extra day off to organize without moving a muscle, then it is perfect. It shows their warts nicely. Let them rant. People are not so foolish as to fall for rants.

And, if they are so foolish, restrictions on speech are not going to save anyone's hide, it will only make it easier by setting a bad precedent that stuff can be banned without empirical evidence of actual harm to prevent imaginary harms. Hedges would be a Nazi darling until the very moment they shoot him for sport.

In our world, no speech restrictions, but the first one to strike or act goes to the high security facilities where solitary is a way of life and there is plenty of opportunity to reflect on choices life throws one's way. then there is conspiracy. The enforement possibilities are endless as Guantanomo Bay shows in lurid detail.
1.30.2007 4:45pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Hedges' bit on indicates that he feels 80 to 100 million people are under the sway of the people who must be silenced. His argument there was that christians are basically too stupid to resist calls to revolt, so the people that might make such calls need to be placed under prior restraint.
1.30.2007 5:30pm
James Dillon (mail):
Isn't this sort of a fish-in-a-barrel post? Hedges's argument is obviously nonsense, but is it really surprising that a non-negligible number of people say crazy things on Internet message forums? You get some crazy comments here from time to time, too, but I doubt that you'd want yourself, personally, or any of the political or ideological groups with which you identify to be judged by the weakest-link specimens of those who agree with your views.

On a somewhat related note, I've frequently wondered lately if the reduced cost of self-expression made possible by the Internet will reveal in time that the "liberal," "enlightened" values that supposedly have characterized Western civilization at least since the eighteenth century have really not been internalized outside of the intelligentsia (which happens to have been, until the last few years, the class most likely to express itself in widely-published media) to the degree that has been generally assumed?
1.30.2007 5:40pm
ed o:
as a former top of the line genuine NYT reporter, do you think his attitudes on these issues differs greatly from the majority of the reporters and editors there? the campus speech codes did not spring from the conservative movement-why should Hedges attitude be in any way shocking.
1.30.2007 6:07pm
Colin (mail):
I've frequently wondered lately if the reduced cost of self-expression ... will reveal in time that the "liberal," "enlightened" values that supposedly have characterized Western civilization ... have really not been internalized outside of the intelligentsia ... to the degree that has been generally assumed? - J. Dillon

That's an interesting thought. It is just as possible, though, that easier and cheaper expression will heighten the value of freedom of expression for people who previously had either relatively little to say or, more likely, relatively few practical ways to say it.

as a former top of the line genuine NYT reporter, do you think his attitudes on these issues differs greatly from the majority of the reporters and editors there? - ed o

Yes. I do think that professional writers and publishers would reject his attitudes. And I'll go out on a limb and guess that you have no factual basis for believing otherwise. I cannot imagine, however, that you'll let the purely imaginary nature of your conjecture slow your roll one bit.
1.30.2007 7:26pm
Take Mr. Hedges comments and substitute "Radical Islam Extremists" for "Radical Christian Right". I wonder if Mr. Hedges, and others on the left, would have a problem with the substitution. Interesting.
1.30.2007 7:33pm
ed o:
you think so-is that why deans of college schools of journalism are in the forefront of combating campus speech codes?
1.30.2007 9:05pm
William Patry (mail):

I love you dearly and only wish you would supress your too precious speech on such an unspeakable site as as the alleged Huffington blog.
1.30.2007 9:14pm
Sounds like some people need to read John Stuart Mill before they make a fool of themselves.
1.30.2007 9:44pm
Colin (mail):
you think so-is that why deans of college schools of journalism are in the forefront of combating campus speech codes?

Weren't we talking about professional journalists at the NYT? Why the shift to "deans of college schools of journalism"? It seems almost as if, when challenged on the substance of your comment, you shifted topics to a kneejerk attack on academics as liberals. If I ask you for something to support your insinuation that "deans of college schools of journalism" support speech codes, will you start complaining about Hillary Clinton?
1.30.2007 10:27pm
jgm (www):
Hedges' curious view of the First Amendment reminds me of Ward Churchill's as well--by no means the sole resemblance between the two, as I point out (sorry for the self-linkery--delete if you must this old gray head) here.
1.31.2007 12:17am