NYT mistakes right to speak for mythical right to be heard

In September of last year, New York Governor George Pataki rightly slammed the door on an attempt by certain liberal groups to have an “International Freedom Center” at the 9-11 memorial that would have essentially pinned the blame for all of the world’s ills on the US. A quick recap of the controversy:

The larger museum, the International Freedom Center, has sparked fears it will focus on acts of U.S. wrongdoing, like slavery and treatment of American Indians, while the Drawing Center, now based in SoHo, was exposed in The News as displaying graphic and vulgar art attacking America’s war on terror.

“Sure, there can be debate,” Pataki said when asked if his tough stance jeopardized free-speech rights. “But I don’t want that debate to be occurring at Ground Zero.”

Acting after a protest from family members – and word the Drawing Center had displayed art linking President Bush to Osama Bin Laden and portraying terror suspects as victims of American torture – the governor laid down the law to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.: “Contact the cultural institutions on the memorial site. . . and get from them an absolute guarantee that as they proceed, it will be with total respect for the sanctity of that site.” This was followed by a simple, stark threat: “I’m hopeful they are able to do that, and if not, then they shouldn’t be there.

Fast forward to now. Part of the IFC – the controversial anti-American Drawing Center – has found a new home, and the NYTimes couldn’t be more pleased. While expressing their pleasure, they also took the time to criticize the Governor for his stance on the IFC:

The Drawing Center, of course, was once part of other plans to rebuild Lower Manhattan. It was going to inhabit a planned cultural center at ground zero, until, in a memorable spasm of apparently unscripted patriotism, Gov. George Pataki made it impossible for the center to remain.

If nothing else, the battle over culture at ground zero made it perfectly clear that Governor Pataki favors free speech, but only if it takes place in another part of town.

It seems as though the NYT has confused the right to speak with the mythical “right to be heard.” They go further – you can almost hear the dejected sighs the editors likely exhaled as they wrote the following:

The real question is what ground zero has lost by losing the Drawing Center. The answer depends on many things, especially the perplexing fate of the memorial design and the character of the inchoate memorial museum. At best, ground zero has lost the ability to stand for freedom of speech, that most American principle. At worst, it risks becoming a deeply fragmented place, divided between mourning and shopping.

“Lost the ability to stand for free speech”? Again, the NYT displays an implied belief in that fantasy “right to be heard.” One wonders if the Times would be in favor of a museum devoted to them that contained a section on the Jayson Blair scandal and the ensuing brouhaha that followed with the resignation of their top two editors? I mean, why wouldn’t they be? Afterall, apparently the editors at the NYT believe that sites that are supposed to honor the memories of all who were lost in the WTC on 9-11 while emphasizing America’s greatness, resiliency, and will to overcome in the face of a tragedy of that magnitude should also contain “art” that contradicts and denigrates it as well.

Hat tip to Clay Waters at Newsbusters, who notes that Hillary Clinton was opposed to the IFC as well – of course the “newspaper of record” neglected to mention that.

(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)

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