Free Speech vs. Objective Morality
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Not that my opinion means anything to you, but I, as a jew and pro Israeli, find your boycott of MSNBC just plain uncalled for. This is the same station that has Chris Matthews on it . You couldn't find a man more pro Israel if you tried! To demand the removal of any oppositional voice is to make Jews look like that there is no way to please us. Plus, you feed into the anti-Semitic perception that Jews run the media. Freedom of the press is an American right. Give the American public a little credit. If they watch MSNBC, they are informed and intelligent. The truth is out there.
Mesora: Going with your line of reasoning, let's say Matthews was not on MSNBC, nor were there any other pro-Israelis as you term him. Would you then agree that we are right to reprimand MSNBC for giving voice to Cohen? If you say no, you contradict yourself. If you say yes, then you agree that Cohen is in the wrong. Which means you feel Matthews, or any pro-Israeli "balances the scales", validating Cohen going uncensored. I don't understand how the presence of a good commentator can make a bad commentator good.
Regarding free speech, am I to allow Cohen, and even a Hitler, the right of free speech? Perhaps you feel the right of free speech is an absolute. I should even encourage Hitler to take on more speaking engagements! Would you defend communism being taught to your children in school? Where does this end? What parameters have you set up which condone or condemn various forms of free speech, and by what rules are you justified and allegiant? You must say that free speech is not an absolute - indeed, it is subjugated to the government of a system of morality.
We are forced by reason to clearly define "objective morality". How shall we proceed?
There is an objective morality for man. By definition, it must not be of man's making, but yet, very much within his perception. This must be the case, as man is a designed entity. As man has been 'given' a psychological design, he is thereby limited to this sphere of function by his Designer. His Maker has thereby said, "This is how I wish you function - this is your 'good' and 'bad'. I wish you to be happy, I wish this for each man. Therefore, you must be a harmonious race, each member working to preserve the happiness and well being of the other."
Reason teaches that we are bidden by our Creator to follow a set of rules which govern all areas of our life, starting with morality, which preserves life itself.
Objective morality is limited to only that which God teaches in His Torah, His guide for mankind. Outside of this system, all else are subjective, personal opinions. God's morality makes no excuses at all for the likes of Cohen. Just as we would not allow the free speech of those who seek to promote violence or teach terrorism, we also squelch and punish those who support it in anyway, as our president said.
Matthew's pro-Israeli comments provide no refuge for Cohen, nor do they indemnify the network.
Another reader wrote in with her response:
As for free speech, the argument is actually more complicated than that-- censoring even a Hitler, y'mach sh'mo, is no simple matter. It's too sticky to address head on.
I would argue instead that MSNBC is the one threatening free speech. They took off an honest, free speaker in favor of one who has been fooled by Palestinian propaganda (WITHOUT ratings as a valid reason).
While anyone can say anything just about they like, it is downright irresponsible of MSNBC to air viewpoints that have no foundation in reality. Even a cursory review of the facts (all of them, not just the ones publicized by the press) reveals that the Palestinians' claims are unfounded. And, they have created the current crisis by refusing to travel legitimate roads for their ends, and instead pushed Israel into the position it is in today. Clever, yes, terrorists, yes, pitiable, no!
So if Cohen wants to publicize ignorance and further fuel the misconceptions that deform the Middle East situation every day, he may legally be allowed to by the Constitution, but MSNBC should know that some people-- who care about truth and justice-- deeply object.
The writer of this letter says, "not that my opinion means anything to you," but that isn't fair. Precisely because his/her opinion matters is why so much effort is put into this website, to educate people.
And, the writer says, "Give the American public a little credit. If they watch MSNBC, they are informed and intelligent. The truth is out there." Unfortunately, this ideal has not proven true. So many people have fallen into believing the Palestinian lies that the truth is hard to determine. That is why it is necessary to attract some attention to the Truth with boycotts such as this.
We do not demand the removal of "any oppositional voice." We support the rare NON-oppositional voice. It is maddening to see to that the "oppositional voices," against whom noone has objected, have spoken so loudly that the media has granted many of their arguments as fact. Keyes is a rare voice in it being wholly fair to Israel. His unjust removal is something we cannot tolerate.
As Jews we should support the Truth, even though that sometimes makes people hate us.
As for those who think we control the media, isn't "the truth out there" that we don't?
- Ester Leah