Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The Anti-Free-Speech Brigade

Last week 18,000 people signed a petition demanding that a publicly-funded television station ‘never again’ report on a particular point-of-view.

The satirical website,, has a great piece today titled FA launches ‘Let’s Kick Climate Change Denial Out of Football’ campaign.

The piece talks about football fans facing ‘stiff jail sentences’ – and the need to stamp out ‘for good’ speech that offends the sensibilities of environmentalists. While providing a giggle or two, the larger point is a serious one.

Last week more than 18,000 people apparently signed a petition that was sent to the ombudsman of PBS – an American television station whose full name is the Public Broadcasting Service. Here’s what that petition said:

Immediately investigate the NewsHour segment featuring climate change denier and conspiracy theorist Anthony Watts for violations of PBS standards on accuracy, integrity, and transparency, and recommend corrective action to ensure that such reporting never again occurs on PBS. [source, backup link]

If I were serving as ombudsman I doubt I would take seriously anyone who couldn’t make their point in a professional and polite manner. Was it really necessary to insult Watts, who runs the most-read climate change blog in the world? What purpose was served by labeling him a climate change denier and a conspiracy theorist? And shouldn’t people who hurl such accusations be required to supply some sort of proof?

Watts, like every other climate skeptic I’ve ever encountered, knows that the climate changes all the time. He doesn’t deny this for one moment. What he does question is the degree to which those changes can be blamed on human activity. It is inaccurate, therefore, to suggest that he denies climate change. Moreover, having read his blog for years, Watts seems to me to be the furthest thing from a conspiracy theorist.

In other words, the people who signed this petition are the equivalent of badly socialized kids in a playground. They have no argument. They have no evidence. Nor can they can’t utter a single sentence without being mean and hurtful. That the petition goes on to talk about accuracy and integrity would be hilarious if it weren’t so disheartening. People who toss around specious and erroneous insults have no business demanding accuracy and integrity from anyone else.

But here’s the scariest part of all. Eighteen thousand souls were prepared to attach their names to a petition that demanded:

corrective action to ensure that such reporting never again occurs on PBS. [bold added]

Because they personally disagree with Watts’ perspective on climate change these people believe the American public isn’t entitled to hear that perspective. Remember, the media outlet involved is the Public Broadcasting Service, which describes itself on its website as “America’s largest classroom, the nation’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world.”

These disturbing, self-absorbed, anti-free-speech petition signers want corrective action – in other words, an official policy – preventing that entire media outlet from ever again reporting on a particular point-of-view. They want to disappear that point-of-view. They want the television station to pretend it doesn’t even exist.

Wow. I’ve always thought that debate was normal and healthy. I’ve always thought that those wishing to squelch dissenting voices were pathetic losers who deserve to be shunned.

When some people start to believe that other people don’t even deserve to be heard we’ve got a serious problem. Those 18,000 petition signers should hang their heads in shame.

They should also start thinking carefully about what kind of world we’ll end up with when opposing groups start calling for their voices to be banished from the airwaves.


h/t Tom Nelson


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This entry was posted on September 28, 2012 by in ethical & philosophical, free speech and tagged , , , .