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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unequal opportunities

Not all hate speech is created equal. That's the clear message from the trashing of Helen Thomas by the hatemeisters of the right.

Let's stipulate that Thomas' remarks about Israel were hateful and thoughtless and marked an inglorious end to what had been a long and proud career. But the Globe's Joan Vennochi offers a thoughtful insight into the different levels of tolerance the United States.

Thomas, who became on opinion columnist after she left United Press International, leveled her hate from the left and the reaction was a resignation that was voluntary in name only.

Meanwhile, over on the right, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the entire Fox News Channel makes a living peddling intolerance, resentment and just plain old hatred. They rake in the cash by the millions even while purveyors like Limbaugh don't even practice what they preach on questions like drugs and the sanctity of marriage to one woman.

It's not even fair to say that Thomas is being held to a different standard because of the nature of her sin -- anti-Semitism. There's a long and not-so-proud tradition of tolerance for that particular hatred, in the very medium that nurtures Limbaugh and Beck today.

As Vennochi points out, Beck engaged in that very rhetoric while regularly castigating Thomas.
Before her retirement was announced, he questioned why Thomas was still employed with this observation: “You know, may I tell you this Jewish-run media, really, they’re really bad at running the media, if they are indeed Jewish. You know what I mean? The Zionist masters really suck at being Zionist masters.’’ Sarcasm or anti-Semitism? Call the PC police.
More likely the explanation is the strange imbalance between tolerance of and by the left and right. Those who lean to the port are often more sensitive to the slurs and slights than those who lean starboard. The right, after all, created "The PC Police."

And while American voters have picked more liberals than arch conservatives as President the United States, we seem uneasy with left-leaning ideology, especially in contrast to the tolerance of right-wing bile. And the history of intolerance -- from the Palmer Raids to the McCarthy inquisitions to the Southern "justice" toward African-Americans -- is heavily weighted to the right.

In contrast we can offer the excesses of a small segment of the "New Left," the Weather Underground, Black Panther Party and similar fringe elements, who were dealt with swiftly and often brutally.

It's fair to say we will continue to see the right continue to get rich pummeling the left -- showing zero intolerance for the crude racist slams at Barack Obama and continuing to offer myths and lies in place of serious argument.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of the freedom we all enjoy: some people are allowed to be more intolerant than others.

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