Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Editors Miss Shoe Assault's Meaning

Today's Wall Street Journal editorial celebrates the violent attack on the US President during a news conference:
On Sunday, as everyone in the world now knows, a young Iraqi TV reporter named Muntander (sic) al-Zaidi took the opportunity of a press conference to throw his shoes at George W. Bush and call the President a "dog." Congratulations, Iraq: You really are a free country...
Earth to Paul Gigot, Bill McGurn, James Taranto and other Journal editors: Throwing shoes at people is not a sign of freedom, any more than rioting or looting.

It is a violent act, it incites further disorder, it is disrespectful to the peaceful exchange of ideas, and it undermines the democratic process.

Not to mention that the Baghdad shoe-throwing has diminished American prestige globally.

In addition, as pointed out in a post below, it is a federal crime punishable by a fine and up to ten years prison time in the United States.

Do Journal editors really believe that the US is not a free country? Or have Journal editors not realized what freedom of speech means? What part of "speech" don't you understand? For example, "fighting words" are not protected speech anywhere in the USA--much less throwing things at people. That's not speech--that's violence. Look at the velocity behind those thrown shoes in the video. Luckily, President Bush has good reflexes. But throwing those shoes was no different from throwing a couple of punches.

There is a world of difference between words and things.

Are Journal editors seriously suggesting reporters start throwing things at Barack Obama? How do you think the Secret Service would react if the Journal's Washington Bureau Chief threw his shoes at the President-Elect at a press conference?

My own "Golden Rule" for Journal editorial writers: Don't advocate that others do things you would not do yourselves....

BTW, Journal editors might note that the shoe-thrower reportedly was inspired by Che Guevara, not known for his love of a free press:
Alternatively described by sources as a leftist, and a nationalist, his brother said, “Muntazer is a nervous guy especially, whenever he sees violence and Iraqi people dying, but he calms down very fast afterwards. “We as a family hate occupation in all of its forms. And Muntazer hates it too. We all have the same attitude regarding the American forces occupying Iraq. I think that Bush did destroy Iraq and he did kill Iraqis.”

With pictures of Che Guevara hanging in his bedroom, Al-Zaidi’s mom told France24 that it was always her son’s dream to hit Bush with a shoe, “and he did fulfill his dream in the end,” she said.

Dirgham says that what his brother did gave back a sense of dignity to all Iraqis who had been affected by the U.S. occupation. “The behaviour of my brother was very spontaneous. It reveals what all the Iraqi people want, which is to humiliate the tyrant. My brother hates everything that has to do with American occupation as a fact and the Iranian occupation as a concept.”

Another source that did not want to reveal his name, and worked with Muntazer at a local Iraqi channel called Al Diar, said that Zaidi promised a lot of journalist friends that he was going to throw a show at Bush when he had a chance. But no one believed him.