I'm all for freedom of speech, but there are limits. Along with freedom comes responsibility, and the New York Post demonstrated the complete absence of responsibility with the publication of their cartoon depicting the assassination of the President of the United States.
While freedom of speech and expression are indeed a cornerstone of American democracy, it is against the law to shout "fire" in a crowded theater-and with good reason. It is necessary for a free society to protect itself from those who don't have the common sense to recognize that what they consider funny, or a practical joke, can get people killed. Thus, even in a free society it is sometimes necessary to jail a free citizen for behavior that amounts to criminal stupidity. While I'm not an attorney, I think they call it criminal negligence.
That is exactly the rationale that should be used to prosecute, and jail, all those responsible for the publication of this criminally ill-considered cartoon. Most of the criticism that's being lodged against this cartoon seems to have more to do with its incredibly poor taste. But it's one thing to be petulant, immature, and bigoted–we expect that from ultra-conservative extremists. But when you begin to advocate the assassination of the President of the United States, you've crossed the line–a line that separates merely stupid, from that which is criminal.
That cartoon literally sent a message out to every deadbeat, bigoted loser in the country that they can finally make something of themselves. They can finally find purpose in their previously miserable and lackluster lives by assassinating the President of the United States. Thus, what the New York Post is calling a meaningless joke is actually a clarion call to every bigoted fool in the United States. It says that there are people in this country who will consider you a hero, if you bring violence against the president–and they know it. Can you imagine the hue and cry coming from Republicans if the New York Times had run a cartoon depicting the assassination of Ronald Reagan?
The mere thought of perpetrating violence against the President of the United States shouldn't even be a part of the public discourse. It serves to desensitize the public to a possibility that should be unthinkable in a civilized society. But history has clearly demonstrated that one of the most lethal weapons in the conservative arsenal is subliminal suggestion–along with suggestions that aren't so subliminal–such as, liberals are aligned with drug dealers, criminals, and welfare cheats; Obama sympathizes with people who hate America and "pals around with terrorists;" and anyone who is against spying on American citizens, torture, or the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is un-American. Now we have this, and they're complaining, "What's all the uproar about? It was just an innocent joke."
We've had enough experience with neo-cons and radical conservatives where anyone with even an ounce of common sense recognizes that nothing is a joke with them-especially when they're out of power. They're dead serious, and they're desperate. Conservative Republicans know better than anyone that considering their atrocious eight years of governance, combined with President Obama's competence and responsible statesmanship, that the Republican Party faces an extremely bleak future. So they've gone to plan B, to eliminate Obama at all cost, and by any means necessary. As ugly as it seems, anyone who doesn't recognize that reality has blinders on.
Look at the facts. Their proven method of operation is to demonize, dehumanize, then eliminate. When the neo-cons decided to exploit Iraqi resources instead of going after Osama, as was the intent of the American people, they first began to demonize, then dehumanize Saddam Hussein–a former ally–in order to prepare the American people to accept the idea that it was necessary to take him out.
Now look at what the conservatives are doing with respect to President Obama. First, they portray him as a monkey, then they have two police officers (respected members of the community) killing him, with a caption suggesting that it was justified based on his political activity. Then here comes Allen Keyes slithering from under his rock, saying that "Obama is a radical communist," and that "He's going to destroy this country." He then went on to say, "We're either going to stop him, or the United States of America is going to cease to exist."
Again, it's a blatant attempt to call all fools to arms. His malevolent intent couldn't be more evident. He's effectively given every fool in America carte blanche, indicating that "stopping" President Obama would be an honorable and patriotic act.
The American people simply can't tolerate what's going on here. It's time to send these lunatics a clear message that we're not having it. This is not a third world country, and we're not going to allow them to turn it into one. So at the very least, we've got to insist that the people responsible for creating, and allowing that cartoon to be published, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Let them explain the humor of the cartoon to a jury.
In addition, congress should introduce legislation clearly outlining what constitutions criminal negligence in exercising our freedom of speech. We already have a precedent for it–while I do have freedom of speech, I can neither incite a riot, nor advocate the killing of my neighbor with impunity, so I'm amazed that we don't have something on the books about advocating the assassination of the president.
But of course, the New York Post's defense will be, "What's the big deal? We didn't mean it that way at all. The liberals are just overreacting." But presumably, there'll be a few older people on the jury with that quaint, but pointed wisdom that we tend to be losing in this nation. They aren't as caught up in technicalities as we are, and they have an adage regarding such nonsense. They'll say, "You're peeing on my head and trying to tell me it's raining."
So I'm confident that they'll send a message to both the New York Post, and the world of conservative anarchists in general. They'll make it clear that we don't find jokes about the assassination of our president the least bit funny. Then they'll make them pay, dearly.