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"Anybody who deliberately propagandizes with lies should be held up to scorn and ridicule" - Al Franken
The charge of racism is a toxic accusation in our culture more damaging than the charge of "Communism" at the height of the McCarthy era. It is the contemporary version of the witch-hunt and the fact that its stigma can be applied so casually by leftists to conservatives in their line of fire reflects how instinctive this enterprise is to people who think of themselves as “liberals.” The witch-hunt may even be said to be instinctive to progressives who regard themselves as the avatars of human decency and reason, the rest us as turn-back-the-clock reactionaries and … well, racists.
Is there a conservative figure in our culture who has not been so tarred? Rep. Charles Rangel has described anyone who supports tax cuts as a closet Kluxer. With even more subtlety, Rep. John Lewis has called supporters of welfare reform “Nazis.” In the 2000 election, Democrats tarred George Bush as a lyncher.
There is no recourse for the individual targets of these gutter attacks, no national arbiter of fairness and balance. The libel laws will not protect a public figure falsely accused, and probably no private citizen either. The courts regard the charge of "racism" under the category of opinion, which is libel-proof in our First Amendment culture.
These reflections are inspired by an email I received after posting a blog about Al Franken’s take on his team defeat in the recent election. Franken ascribed the result to media failure to inform voters of the "facts." The reader’s email observed that Franken had attacked me in his best-selling book, Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them.
I had noticed Franken's attack when Lying Liars first came out but let it pass. I have become used to the instinctive viciousness of liberals and almost reconciled to the fact that their control of the institutions that determine public reputations leaves little recourse but to shrug off such outrages. As a result of this prompting, however, I have decided to take notice of Franken’s assault, and to experiment with a different kind of response.
The attack is actually a footnote to a broader slander of Sean Hannity, whose show I had been a guest on. Hannity had mentioned in a discussion of terrorism that under pressure from Democrats the CIA had been prohibited from assassinating foreign heads of state. The CIA’s hands had been significantly tied in other ways in the fight against terrorism, but Franken ignored these. Hannity also observed that Bill Clinton was given the opportunity to kill or arrest Osama several times, but because the liberals in his administration didn't think they had a “legal” case against the terrorist, took a pass.
There were several issues raised by Hannity, but Franken conflated them to simplify his task which was to identify Hannity and me as ignoramuses or liars or both. Franken recalled that Clinton had issued a directive to kill bin Laden, after the 1998 embassy attacks. For Franken this refuted everything that Sean and I had said. In fact, Clinton’s directive was issued two years after the offer to hand over bin Laden, making the directive irrelevant to the issue of whether the Administration’s liberalism weakened the battle against terrorism.
Although neither Sean nor I had said anything about the legality issue this was Franken’s attack: "The fact that Osama isn't actually a foreign head of state and that Clinton issued his presidential directive to assassinate him didn't stop Hannity from writing in his book about a February 2001 episode of Hannity & Colmes on the topic. Guest racist David Horowitz is quoted as saying: ‘We can protect ourselves from terrorist threats like Osama bin Laden. It would be nice if the CIA were able to assassinate him.’”
The “guest racist” bit, of course, was entirely gratuitous, It was casually interjected as though it referred to an obvious and widely recognized fact. This is typical fairness for Franken.
As it happens I marched in my first civil rights protest in 1948 before Al Franken was born. For more than fifty years I have supported minorities and defended their civil rights in public word and deed, and raised millions of dollars to help inner city minorities whom racism has scarred. In fact there is no single cause – except America’s wars against totalitarian foes – to which I have devoted myself more consistently that than that of racial equality. Not a shred of evidence exists to the contrary. I have written more than a million words on racial and political matters -- all of them public record. There is not a single sentence, or phrase, or comment of mine that could be cited to justify Franken’s attack.
Nonetheless, Franken isn’t alone. A cottage industry has sprung up on the Internet, which is a leftwing version of “Red Channels,” the infamous newsletter that provided lists of Communists in the McCarthy era. Sites like Public Eye, NameBase, MediaTransparnecy, People for the American Way and the Southern Poverty Law Center store up distortions like Franken’s and keep the witch-hunt going. This version of the McCarthy blacklist could be Franken’s source. Their métier is spinning policy differences into questions of character and basic human decency. Their side is the side of reason and virtue, ours that of venality and sin. No matter. My answer to Al Franken is this: I am going to post your photograph on FrontPageMag.com, which is viewed by a million visitors monthly. The photo will be identified with these words: “Al Franken,: Racist.” The photo will be prominently posted until you apologize to me publicly for this attack. When you have made an apology, I will disclose my evidence for characterizing you as a racist or withdraw the charge.
Click here to "Send Al a Message."