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Liberals vs. Free Speech

By Jack Kelly

Are there moderate Muslims? And if there are, why aren't they speaking out against the beheaders and the suicide bombers?

A lot of people ask those questions. Canadian filmmaker Martyn Burke set out to answer them. He made a documentary. "Islam vs. Islamist," which was financed in part by a $675,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mr. Burke hired journalists who reported from Denmark, France, Canada and the United States. There are a great many moderate Muslims, they found, but they don't speak out because they are intimidated by threats of coercion, ostracism and physical violence from the Islamists in their communities.

Mr. Burke's findings are important, but this column is about why the Public Broadcasting System chose not to air his documentary.

PBS had two objections, Mr. Burke told Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The first was that Mr. Burke showed "favoritism" to those Muslims who don't want to blow up their neighbors.

"Basically, the attitude...was that the Muslims we were portraying as the moderates were in some way, in their view, not true Muslims because they were Westernized," Mr. Burke told Mr. Steigerwald. "They felt the Islamists somehow represented a truer strain of Islam."

PBS also objected to Mr. Burke's co-producers, Frank Gaffney, a former assistant secretary of defense, and Alex Alexiev, a former RAND corporation expert on Islamic extremism.

"They demanded that I fire my two partners, because my partners were conservatives," Mr. Burke said.

PBS is the beau ideal of many liberals when it comes to free speech. Their point of view is subsidized by the taxpayers. Other points of view are suppressed.

In another triumph for the liberal view of free speech (free for me but not for thee), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled city officials may override the First Amendment if the exercise of free speech by some city employees offends the delicate sensibilities of liberals.

Some black Christian women who work for the city of Oakland, California produced a flier in which they said "marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values." This was treated as "hate speech" by the city government after another city employee, who is a lesbian, said she "felt threatened" by the sentiment expressed.

Defending marriage is now a firing offense in Oakland, where, however, city officials see nothing inappropriate about permitting gay rights groups to advertise "Happy Coming Out Day" over the city communications system.

Liberal intolerance of other than liberal opinions is behind efforts to reinstate the inaptly named "Fairness doctrine" in radio.

A think tank funded in large part by George Soros and headed by former Clinton aide John Podesta has noted with alarm that 91 percent of total weekday talk programming is conservative. Mr. Podesta attributed the gap between conservative and "progressive" talk radio to "multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system." He proposed new regulations to restrict conservatives and subsidize liberals.

But liberal talk radio is failing not because of "multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system." It's failing because hardly anyone listens to it. Expensive efforts like Air America with big stars such as "comedian" Al Franken flopped because the audience for liberal talk is tiny.

Talk radio is an interactive medium. There may be something in that format that is especially appealing to conservatives. But I suspect talk radio has become a conservative bastion chiefly because the broadcast television networks, two of the three cable networks, and a large majority of the nation's most prominent newspapers and magazines -- not to mention publicly funded PBS and NPR -- are in liberal hands. There are few outlets for conservative expression other than talk radio and Fox News.

Since liberals control most -- and the most important -- media, it is hypocritical of them to wring their hands over conservative domination of talk radio. But many liberals will not be happy until all viewpoints other than their own have been suppressed.

I see this every day at the very liberal newspaper where I work. Conservatives often write angry letters to the editor, criticizing the arguments made in an editorial, or what they perceive as the slant in a news story. Liberals unhappy with my columns often demand that I be fired. They object not just to my point of view, but to the fact that it was expressed. Scratch a liberal, and you'll often find a fascist underneath.

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