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Mark Cuban Takes Free Speech Too Far

By Mark Davis

A couple of months from now, I believe, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will bathe in the well-deserved glow of adulation that comes with winning an NBA championship.

But along the route to that love-fest lies an unfortunate roadblock of his own creation. It seems some retooling is under way for Loose Change, a twisted piece of filmmaking that is all the rage among the disturbed souls who believe that 9/11 was an inside job - namely, that our own government, not al-Qaeda terrorists, brought down the World Trade Centers in an act of deliberate murder.

Its distributor? Mr. Cuban's Magnolia Pictures, the same company that earned such praise in 2004 for distributing Voices of Iraq, the magnificent film showing actual Iraqis' widely varying attitudes toward the war.

Mr. Cuban deserves additional praise for the Fallen Patriot Fund, which he kick-started with a million-dollar pledge, to help the families of U.S. war casualties.

Now his company is poised to deliver one of the worst insults imaginable to those same troops, by aiding in the dissemination of lies that conclude that they are fighting and dying for a nation that slaughtered its own people to spark the war.

It must be stressed a thousand times that Mr. Cuban does not believe in these conspiracy theories. But in an act of stunning moral idiocy, he has adopted the mantle of First Amendment Hero, as if he stands as some guardian to protect unpopular speech.

We traded a flurry of e-mails Monday morning, and he delivered a lecture about the necessity of a free and open marketplace for ideas, the evils of censorship and the courage involved in standing up to the status quo.

One hundred percent true. And 100 percent irrelevant. I will join Mr. Cuban and other free-speech advocates in protecting anyone's right to make films, books or other art that is grotesquely offensive. But standing up for the constitutional protection of such items is one thing; actively participating in their propagation is quite another.

Using intentionally over-the-top examples, I asked Mr. Cuban if he would distribute a film called Slavery: It Wasn't So Bad or The Holocaust: The Jews Deserved It.

Mr. Cuban, who is Jewish, fired back: Yes, he'd consider it if they were "well produced." I picked my jaw up from the floor and awarded him at least a few points for intellectual consistency. To his mind, there is apparently no view that does not deserve a place at the table of rational debate.

This is open-mindedness to a crippling fault. Only chaos can result from such undeserved equivalence afforded to society's most pathological views.

It is a good thing to be willing to weigh even the most outlandish of assertions and give consideration to even the most challenging of ideas. But to afford such time and dignity to insane views no longer entertained by any objective person? That is, and I'm sorry to be so blunt, just plain stupid.

"Who is to judge?" Mr. Cuban asks. The answer is: rational human beings. Philosopher William James once wrote that wisdom lies in knowing what to ignore. The 9/11 conspiracy cult has been authoritatively, repeatedly slam-dunked onto the ash heap of shame. There is no ongoing debate about its rantings, no objective discourse about its bug-eyed assertions.

There is only the fetid debris of its practitioners, seen in outrages like Loose Change, which Mark Cuban sees no harm in distributing. He complained to me that he would surely feel the sting of hateful over-reactors as word spread of his shocking insensitivity to the sensibilities of millions of Americans who have a stronger decency compass than his.

Too bad. If America has to withstand the free speech of execrable creatures like the filmmakers behind Loose Change, then anyone aiding in the spread of such intellectual filth might have to endure the sting of those who properly view such a business deal as an unforgivable affront and a sad blemish on a history that until now had contained only positives.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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