Naked City

Hometown Zeroes

The Austin American-Statesman, which otherwise treats UT faculty and administrators with kid gloves, took yet another cheap shot at journalism professor Robert Jensen on Sunday. In the Insight section under the heading, "The cost of free speech," the paper quoted a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by the New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook, who wrote, "Mr. Jensen's right to his expression -- clearly political and protected -- is absolute. But there exists no right to exemption from the reaction to what is said." The Statesman editors took the opportunity to stick in their own boot, characterizing Jensen's views thusly: "Jensen, who calls the United States a terrorist nation, asserts that American policy in Afghanistan is a 'war of lies.'" (Actually, that was the editors using Easterbrook's words as their own.)

Jensen is of course not alone in his assessment of U.S. policy, although to read the Statesman -- which even as a monopoly daily virtually never risks the "costs of free speech" -- you'd hardly be able to tell. Easterbrook most often confines himself to the pages of The New Republic, where he specializes in reassuring the neo-conservative intelligentsia that they needn't worry about environmental problems (such as they are) because the free market will make them disappear. In his WSJ piece, Easterbrook first caricatures Jensen's views as knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and then denounces these anti-war views as akin to speeches by murderous racists. "No one expects the KKK to speak without a price," writes Easterbrook. "Its price is ostracism. Why should repugnant speech on foreign policy or terrorism be any different?"

That is what passes for non-repugnant political commentary in the Wall Street Journal, earning the imprimatur of the hometown daily. Only a week before, editor Rich Oppel complained that Lloyd Doggett is rhetorically too rude to Republicans. Physician, heal thyself.

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