I am hereby violating my regular blogging practice. Ordinarily, I resist commenting on short-term outrages in the news. And I also avoid snark. Also, this may be the first time I have ever found myself agreeing with a take from Sean Hannity.
First, the snark: By Joe Biden’s criteria, Whoopi Goldberg is more qualified than Laurence Tribe—to pick a name on the left—to fill the pending Supreme Court vacancy. End of snark.
Her comments on the Holocaust were erroneous and in bad taste. But as a free-speech absolutist, I defend her right to say things that are erroneous and in bad taste. And as a Jew, I am ashamed of the Jewish establishment leaders who pounced on her remarks and helped cause her employer to “suspend” her for two weeks.
The charge that was immediately made against Goldberg, and to which she later pleaded guilty, is that the remarks were “hurtful.” This is a red flag that the critics are crybullies. Whenever the criticism of speech is that it is “hurtful" to some group, I say that it is time to defend the speaker and criticize those who find it “hurtful.”
Granted, the label “hurtful” can be applied to speech if it is directed against an individual. An individual is entitled to a remedy for slander.
I can understand how people could hear Goldberg as belittling the killing of Jews because Jews are white. But consider the remark attributed to Henry Kissinger during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s that “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose.” People could hear that as belittling the killing of Iranians and Iraqis because they are Muslim.
My final thought is that the demands for apologies from Goldberg, and her suspension, are likely to increase rather than diminish the rise of anti-semitism. That is why the answer to free speech is more speech, not censorship.