Relentless Inquisition vs Free Speech

by bauer on May 6, 2015

This morning I was watching CNN. Chris Cuomo was interviewing Ben Ferguson about the attacks in Texas. The issue of free speech was raised. Ben Ferguson made a series of statements concerning an unnamed conference where unnamed speakers had called for violent jihad. His point being that free speech protected these statements and that the Texas conference should be afforded the same consideration. I had never heard of this conference let alone these statements. I wondered if this was held somewhere in similar scale and prominence to the Texas event. Chris went on to make some statement that it seemed to be liberals that were the ones who didn’t think the Texas conference was so much free speech as it was hate speech. I can’t quite quote the specifics as I didn’t record the show. The specifics aren’t quite important. What happened next was.

I tweeted to Chris under my pseudonymous handle: “@ChrisCuomo don’t bother verifying @benfergusonshow Islamic anti-American conference claims yet feel free to paint left in broad strokes?” The point being it seemed like it would be pretty basic to ask what conference was being referenced yet a bit of a stretch to associate half of the political spectrum with having the same perspective on a first amendment issue.

Chris’ response was “ben will tell you I was testing his side as well. don’t confuse your bias with my line of questioning.” I could see Chris was doing just that and had no idea what point was being made about bias. I replied “I was asking for verification of the @benfergusonshow claims and restraint on painting left. How is this bias?”

Chris replied “being openly hostile is not a way to get verification. ask a question. please.” In the interim, both Ben Ferguson and another favorited Chris’ tweet about “confusing my bias”. I followed up saying, “really feel you misrepresented me, I was asking about journalistic practice - verification and characterization.” With no reply I concluded with “I just asked to verify what conference @benfergusonshow was talking about and what claims were made by whom. This is hostile?” No response.

I feel compelled to share this in public for the following reason. ISIS represents an existential threat to the entire planet. This threat is diabolically sophisticated. It is literally a matter of life-and-death that we get our facts straight and have the utmost self-awareness in our response. Setting us upon each other using our greatest strength - free speech - may very well be a deliberate tactic. This is why I’m acutely concerned about getting attribution and verification about who’s accusing whom of what. The free press stands our post here and needs to be particularly vigilant this time around. Frankly, the free press let us down the last time. Had they questioned those who spoke at the UN and not merely taken their word - as I seem to have been asked to do in this instance - then we might not be facing this looming peril in the first place.

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