Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Why Is the National Media Ignoring the Gruesome Murder Trial of a Philadelphia Abortion Doctor? Is Political Correctness at Work?
The national media, as we all know, has a penchant for scandal, the more gruesome the better.
Consider the case of Jodi Arias, the young woman on trial for murdering her boyfriend - allegedly inflicting 29 stab wounds, a slit throat and a shot to the head. She claims it was self-defense.
This case has saturated the media. Anderson Cooper seems to discuss it almost nightly on his CNN program. The cable network HLN airs a daily show entitled, "HLN After Dark: The Jodi Arias Trial." ABC News conducted a jailhouse interview with Arias and the case was featured on an episode of "48 Hours Mystery: Picture Perfect in 2008." Inside Edition also interviewed Arias at the Maricopa County, Arizona jail.
While the media has devoted itself to promoting the Arias trial, another trial was taking place in Philadelphia, with Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor, charged not with a single murder - as in the Arias case - but with killing seven newborn babies as well as a 41-year-old refugee from Nepal who was getting an illegal late-term abortion.
Dr. Gosnell is black and his clinic is in a minority neighborhood. Most of his victims were African-Americans. The facts of the case are shocking by any standard. Gosnell is accused of using unfathomable abortion procedures on his inner-city patients who were well into their third trimester at an unsanitary, bloody clinic called the Woman's Medical Society.
While he is only charged with killing seven live babies, prosecutors believe Gosnell killed hundreds of infants and destroyed related records, according to a grand jury report. During the trial, ex-clinic employee Steven Massof testified that he "snipped" babies'spinal cords to kill them after delivering them live. "It would rain fetuses," Massof said, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia. "Fetuses and blood all over the place."
Gosnell wasn't licensed to practice obstetrics and gynecology and illegally peddled painkillers during the day and murdered babies at night, according to the grand jury. In Feb. 2010, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies finally raided his facility, following reports that he had been writing illegal prescriptions. Here's what they found:
There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine in the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners with blood-stained blankets.
On Jan. 31, 1998, a then 15-year-old Robyn Reid, in the company of her grandmother, sought an abortion from Gosnell's clinic. Once in the clinic, Reid, an 87-pound teenager, changed her mind. Gosnell ripped off her clothes and restrained the girl. When she regained consciousness 12 hours later at her aunt's home, she discovered that an abortion had been performed against her will.
According to the Media Research Center, there has been no network coverage of the Gosnell trial on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC or PBS and only one brief mention on CNN [as of April 10].
It's unbelievable that Dr. Gosnell's trial for his actions inside his 'house of horrors' hasn't drawn one network story. . .
said the Media Research Center president Brent Bozell.
Forbes columnist Mike Ozanian said that the controversy surrounding Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice, who was shown in a video abusing players and using vulgar language during practice, had received far more attention than the Gosnell trial.
"What troubles me is why Rice and Rutgers deserve more attention from the media than the trial of doctor Kermit Gosnell," he said.
. . . How much of the story have you seen on the evening news? I bet not nearly as much as you have seen about Rice. Gosnell apparently made a fortune running a slaughterhouse.
The Washington Times notes that:
Not every murder trial receives prominent national coverage, but the Gosnell case would seem to contain all the ingredients of must-see television: a formerly respected community leader accused of unspeakable acts; the death of a young immigrant woman; a parade of former employees offering graphic testimony on the gruesome deaths of more than 100 just-born infants; and even the implication by the doctor's lawyers that the charges have been motivated by racism.
Perhaps a strange form of political correctness is at work here. Is there fear that publicizing this story would paint pro-choice advocates in a poor light? Is there a level of indifference to a story when both the victims and the perpetrator are black?
The trial is being covered by the Associated Press, and AP wire stories have appeared on network websites. The proceedings are also being covered by some religious websites, such as LifeNews.com, as well as newspapers and television in the Philadelphia and Delaware markets. Yet the story has been totally ignored by the national media [as of April 10].
Are Jodi Arias and Mike Rice really more interesting - and compelling - than the trial of Kermit Gosnell? Or is a strange manifestation of political correctness - and media bias - the real reason? The public is ill served if this is the case, as it certainly seems to be.
Ten Years After Iraq, Debate Is Finally Beginning in Earnest about America's Role in the World
It is now ten years since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Based on false information about alleged weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. embarked upon a war with a country which had never attacked us, and which had nothing to do with 9/11. It was as if, some pointed out, after Pearl Harbor we launched an attack upon Mexico.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress acted irresponsibly. They passed a vague Authorization for Use of Military Force instead of the congressional declaration of war the Constitution requires. The media - liberals and conservatives alike - displayed willful credulity, never seeking independently to discover the truth.
Now, Iraq is in chaos. In 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, formed a coalition government with parties representing Kurds and secular Sunnis. Since then, he has driven the Sunni Vice President into exile and the Sunni finance minister and Kurdish foreign minister no longer visit Baghdad. Iran's influence is growing. Iraq has been allowing Iran to fly weapons through its airspace to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Philip Carter, an Iraq veteran and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, notes that:
We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction on March 19, 2003, when the U.S. troops invaded. . . . The Bush administration compounded that error with its failure to admit the existence of the insurgency, let alone plan for it, and its failure to provide adequate resources. . . . Senior administration officials made matters worse with their arrogant statements about the war and the troops' plight - such as when then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz casually dismissed then-General Eric Shinseki's troop predictions as "wildly off the mark," or when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld glibly told troops scavenging for vehicle armor in Kuwait that "you go to war with the army you have."
Finally, voices are being heard questioning the aggressive use of American power abroad in the post-Cold War world, when who is an enemy is less than clear, and who is a friend is also uncertain. Republicans, who took the country to war in Iraq with the acquiescence of Democrats, seem particularly torn.
"A real challenge for the Republicans as they approach 2016 is what will be their brand?" said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former aide to the first President Bush. "The reason Rand Paul is gaining traction is overreaching in Iraq. What he is articulating. . . is an alternative."
The growing split in the Republican Party could be seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told the conference that the filibuster he conducted earlier in the month over the Obama administration's drone policy was aimed at the limits on presidential power and American power abroad. "No one person gets to decide the law," he said.
Neo-conservatives - the ones who led the country to war in Iraq and promoted the false notion of weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad - are concerned about voices such as Rand Paul. Dan Senor, the spokesman in Iraq for the Bush administration and a prominent neo-conservative voice, who now urges an attack on Iran, warned of a push to reorient the party toward a "neo-isolationist foreign policy. That policy, he said:
. . . is sparking discussion among conservative donors, activists, and policy wonks about creating a political network to support internationalist Republicans.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), another strong supporter of both the invasion of Iraq and a strike against Iran, another country that has not attacked us, has dismissed Sen. Paul and those who agree with him as "wacko birds." Other Republicans, however, have praised Paul and his filibuster. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) joined the filibuster. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, said Paul was "able to capture some national attention in standing up to the president. My view is that he is an important voice in our party."
Sen. Paul calls himself a "realist," not a neoconservative - and not an isolationist. "This is a divide that has been festering and deepening for a generation," said Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, says:
You are starting to see a bit of the split between the libertarian-leaning lawmakers and essentially what you see as defense hawks. We are a war-weary nation. While the GOP is still seen as the national defense party, what you are seeing is a rising trend of libertarianism. You are also seeing the Republican Party reset on where it is on national security. Essentially what the libertarians are saying is, "Hey, we have to be more careful about the future because we've just been through 10 years of war here."
Isolationism is a dangerous policy both for the U.S. and for the world, as is interventionism - especially based upon false premises, when U.S. interests and world peace are not directly involved.
Some neoconservatives are prepared to go to war haphazardly, as we did, at their urging, in Iraq, Embracing that philosophy has hardly proven wise - for the Republican Party or the country. But not taking a leadership role in the world is not a legitimate option for the U.S. It would make us - and the world - far less stable and secure.
As The Economist points out:
Not every problem is solved by America noisily taking charge. A sharper critique, as advanced in a new national-security strategy from the Project for a United and Strong America, a bipartisan group of ex-envoys and senior officials, compares the emerging world order to a fiercely competitive marketplace, in which Americans must invest, via engagement, to defend the open, rules-based international order vital to American interests.
With regard to the posture being taken by President Obama, The Economist argues that:
Speaking softly suits Mr. Obama. His desire to see other powers stop free riding on American security guarantees is understandable. In a world of shifting power balances, it is sensible to appeal to the self-interests of others, especially after the overreach of the Bush era. But he is taking a risk. Step back too far from big sticks, and when America speaks it may not be heard.
Finally - ten years after the misguided invasion of Iraq - a real debate seems to be starting about what America's role in the post-Cold War world should be. All of us will benefit from such a debate. It is long overdue.
The Assault on Ben Carson: Does Free Speech Exist for Black Conservatives?
Until recently, Dr. Benjamin Carson was highly regarded - and was widely promoted as a role model for African-American young people. Growing up in poverty in Detroit, he went to Yale and the University of Michigan Medical School, and at 33 became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. He gained fame for a series of operations separating conjoined twins, complex procedures that did not always succeed. His 1996 autobiography, Gifted Hands, became a movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.
"He is one of the acknowledged leaders of pediatric neurosurgery," said Dr. Donlin Long, a retired chairman of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, who first brought Dr. Carson to the department.
In February, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, with President Obama in attendance, Carson criticized the Obama administration's health care overhaul. Later, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he was interrupted by sustained applause when he said, "Let's just say if you magically put me in the White House . . ."
Since then, he has been the victim of vitriolic attack, particularly from black liberal commentators who still find it difficult to understand that an individual's race has nothing to do with his political philosophy and how he views the world.
MSNBC's Toure Neblett declared that:
When you're publicly admitting your party doesn't care enough about black America, then it's time for a new black friend. Enter Dr. Ben Carson.
And Cynthia Tucker, formerly an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and now at the University of Georgia's journalism school, said:
It's no wonder that conservatives have started to trumpet him as their Great Black Hope. Psychologists believe that romantic interest increases when people mirror each other's gestures. Carson perfectly reflects the beliefs of his suitors.
Commenting on the attacks upon him, Carson laments that:
That's what you can find on a third grade playground. White liberals are the most racist people there are . . . they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?
In speeches and writings, Carson describes growing up with a divorced mother whose education stopped at the third grade and who worked two, and sometimes three jobs. The New York Times reports that:
He was teased as a "dummy" because his grades were so bad. But his mother insisted that he and an older brother turn off the television and read, writing weekly book reports that she could only feign understanding.
Dr. Carson says that he was a "flaming liberal" in college and became conservative through his own climb to success. "One thing I always believed strongly in was personal responsibility and hard work," he said. "I found the Democrat Party leaving me behind on that particular issue."
With his wife Candy, Carson founded the Carson Scholars Fund, which awards $1,000 to students to help pay for college and has endowed Ben Carson Reading Rooms at schools that serve disadvantaged students. He belongs to a Seventh Day Adventist Church and draws on the Bible's description of tithing to argue in favor of a flat tax. He advocates an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Most people, he believes, could pay most of their medical bills through health savings accounts, with the government making the contributions for the poor.
One need not agree with any of Ben Carson's political views to recognize that an individual's opinion on public issues reflects that individual's considered judgment - not his race. Black Americans are as diverse in their views as are Americans of other races.
John McWhorter, a respected black academic, notes that:
. . . while Democrats seem to think they have the lock on racial enlightenment, it is actually often Republicans who have the larger understanding of what it is to assess people according to the content of their character. Take affirmative action, for example. To proclaim that it's okay to evaluate black and Latino college applicants partly on grades but also on their contribution to "diversity" - while white and Asian students are required to just put up or shut up - is racist.
In McWhorter's view:
That kind of policy makes sense only as a temporary fix, which is what it should always have been. However, to then slide into the idea that race-based admissions must continue until racism doesn't exist (i.e., never) is to essentially assert that blacks and Latinos are the world's first humans to require perfect conditions to succeed. That's racist, and the right understands that.
In fact, black conservatism is nothing new. It goes back to Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington through George Schuyler and Max Yergan - and more recently Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams - and a host of distinguished men and women committed to the principles of individual freedom and a genuinely color-blind society.
The current assault on Ben Carson is an attempt to stifle free speech and diversity within the black community. What some self-proclaimed civil rights spokesmen seem to fear is that Ben Carson and other black conservatives will expose them as speaking only for themselves and misrepresenting the constituency in whose name they repeatedly - and falsely - speak.
Free speech for Ben Carson, whatever one thinks of his views, should not be a controversial proposition.
The Heckler's Veto and Speech Codes Threaten Free Speech at the Nation's Universities
Americans used to frequently quote Voltaire's declaration that, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That is no longer the case at too many of our colleges and universities.
What some have called the "heckler's veto" has been one factor limiting free speech. Nat Hentoff once pointed out that:
First Amendment law is clear that everyone has the right to picket a speaker, and to go inside a hall and heckle him or her - but not to drown out the speaker, let alone rush the stage and stop the speech before it starts. That's called the "heckler's veto."
Now, even a hint of vocal opposition to a speaker seems to be enough to eliminate the possibility of that speaker being heard.
Recently, two respected individuals who were invited to be commencement speakers at Johns Hopkins University and Swarthmore College withdrew in the face of opposition from some vocal students.
In the case of Swarthmore, Robert Zoellick, an alumnus and former president of the World Bank, accepted and then turned down an invitation, after students objected to his support of the Iraq war and his record at the World Bank.
Zoellick, an official in George W. Bush's administration, withdrew after students started a campaign on Facebook calling him "an architect of the Iraq war" and a "war criminal." In fact, while Zoellick did support the war, he had no role in planning it. He was Bush's U.S. trade representative and later worked to resolve the conflict in Darfur as a State Department official. He ran the World Bank from 2007 until 2012.
As the attacks on Zoellick grew, Swarthmore's student paper, the Daily Gazette, mocked the political correctness that characterized the controversy. On April Fool's Day, it wrote that the school "would not be offering degrees to any member of the Class of 2013 who does not plan to found a vegan coffee shop after graduation," calling other professional choices "antithetical to Swarthmore values."
In the case of Johns Hopkins, Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, withdrew as commencement speaker after controversy over his statement in opposition to gay marriage, in which he lumped homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality, for which he later apologized twice. He said he withdrew because:
My presence is likely to distract from the true celebratory nature of the day. Commencement is about the students and their successes, and it is not about me.
Josh Wheeler, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia, notes that:
Overall, there seems to be an increased sensitivity to things in the past we might have let roll off our backs. Nowadays, people aren't afraid to express their objections, which isn't a bad thing, but people are more willing to censor [speech] to remove the offending speech or language.
Wheeler calls this phenomenon the "heckler's veto," the ability of a small but vocal group to limit the choices of a much larger majority. He argues that:
We shouldn't ignore [protest] but at the same time to allow a minority to determine what we see or hear is very concerning from a free-speech point of view. Too often, it's easier to eliminate the problem than deal with the controversy.
Many public figures - with a variety of points of views - have been treated in a similar manner. Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin faced protests from students and controversy over her fees when she was invited to speak at California State University-Stanislaus in 2010, but she went ahead with her appearance. There were weeks of protest by anti-abortion advocates preceding President Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame University in 2010. In April, protests flared at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law after it gave its "International Advocate for Peace Award" to former President Jimmy Carter. Some alumni called on the school's graduates to withdraw their financial support to protest Carter's criticism of Israel.
In March 2006, in violation of its own policies, New York University refused to allow a student group to show the controversial Danish cartoons of Mohammed at a public event. Even though the purpose of the event was to show and discuss the cartoons, an administrator suddenly ordered the students either not to display them or to exclude 150 off-campus guests from attending. "NYU's actions are inexcusable," declared Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education (FIRE).
The very purpose of this event is to discuss the cartoons that are at the center of a global controversy. To say that students cannot show them if they wish to engage anyone outside the NYU community is both chilling and absurd. The fact that expression might provoke a strong reaction is a reason to protect it, not an excuse to punish it.
Lukianoff declared that:
This is a classic case of the heckler's veto. NYU is shamelessly clamping down on an event purely out of fear that people who disagree with the viewpoints expressed may disrupt it.
Beyond the heckler's veto, many universities have adopted speech codes to suppress speech that others find offensive. Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, in their work "The Shadow University" (1998), refer to a number of cases where speech codes have been used by universities to suppress academic freedom, as well as freedom of speech.
In one case they describe, the so-called "water buffalo" incident at the University of Pennsylvania, a freshman faced expulsion when he called African-American sorority members who were making substantial amounts of noise and disturbing his sleep during the middle of the night "water buffalo" (the charged student claimed not to intend discrimination, as the individual in question spoke the modern Hebrew language and the term "water buffalo" or "behema" in modern Hebrew, is slang for a rude of disturbing person. Moreover, water buffalo are native to Asia rather than Africa). Some saw the statement as racist while others simply saw it as a general insult. The college eventually dropped the charge, amid national criticism.
Texas Tech had a speech code which prohibited "insults," "ridicule," and "personal attacks" and restricted free speech to a 20-foot diameter gazebo referred to as a "Free Speech Zone."
In Sept. 2012, Christopher Newport University in Virginia forbade students to protest an appearance by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. Students must apply 10 days in advance to demonstrate in the college's tiny "free speech zone" - and Ryan's visit was announced on a Sunday - two days before his Tuesday visit.
In a study of 392 campus speech codes, FIRE found 65 percent of colleges had policies "that in our view violated the Constitution's guarantee of free speech."
Incoming Harvard freshmen were pressured by campus officials to sign an oath promising to act with "civility" and "inclusiveness" and affirming that "kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment." Harry R. Lewis, a computer science professor and former dean of Harvard College, said:
For Harvard to "invite" people to pledge themselves to kindness is unwise, and sets a terrible precedent. It is a promise to control one's thoughts.
In 2009, Yale banned students from making t-shirts with an F. Scott Fitzgerald Quotation - "I think of Harvard men as sissies" - from his 1920 novel This Side Of Paradise - to mock Harvard at their annual football game. The t-shirt was blocked after some gay and lesbian students argued that "sissies" amounted to a homophobic slur. "What purports to be humor by targeting a group through slurs is not acceptable," said Mary Miller, a professor of art history and the dean of Yale College.
Recently, two gay activists at George Washington University demanded that the Rev. Gregory Shaffer, a Catholic chaplain, be fired because he supports his church's teachings about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
A 2010 study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities of 24,000 college students and 9,000 faculty and staff members found that only 35.6 percent of the students and only 18.5 per cent of the faculty and staff strongly agreed that it was "safe to hold unpopular positions on campus."
With speech codes and the heckler's veto - the First Amendment seems to be increasingly endangered on the nation's campuses. Voltaire would weep. *