The exploitation of authority to suppress ideas, in whatever form it may exist, is wrong. The ability to express an idea, whether it is true or false, righteous or morally reprehensible, is the most important right belonging to mankind. With that said, this right functions in multiple dimensions. As Noam Chomsky put it, "if we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all."
It is the inalienable right of any individual or group of individuals to criticize their government. This includes the fear-mongering dunces at Fox News. Glenn Beck had every right to call Barack Obama a racist. It is the freedom to utter ones beliefs, however misguided they may be, which enables an open society to exist. However, it is equally important for reasonable voices to prevail. This rationality came in the form of sponsors who dropped Beck and citizens who boycotted the show after the remarks.
Beck is again in the spotlight of the debate on political correctness in America. Recently, he has raged against the Obama administration for its failure to refer to the Fort Hood shooter as a "terrorist" or "extremist." He sees this failure as a perversion of political correctness. In truth, the administration is merely refusing to fall into the racist ideology, which causes all violence performed by those of Muslim faith or Middle-Eastern descent to be labeled as acts of terrorism.
In order to dispel this hideous perversion of thought, the true definition of terrorism must be understood. Terrorism is the use of violence, as well as the fear it causes, to achieve a political end. Even by this definition, Nidal Malik Hasan’s actions could not be likened to those of a terrorist. His motives were clearly those of a man on the brink of sanity, not one with any particular goal in mind.
As an interesting side note, the evolution of the word "terrorism" should be mentioned. Once used to describe any act that aims to coerce through fear, the word can now be used in relation to any threat to the status quo. This allows those wielding the might of the ideological majority, namely those at Fox News, to use the term to defame any who oppose them.
"This man was a Muslim extremist terrorist!" shouted Beck, describing Hasan. The words were uttered through a poorly concealed grin–the type Beck always gets when he believes himself to be expressing bravely some truth of which only he dares speak. That his words were in no way backed by truth, only by racist conceptions, mattered little to Beck. It is just this type of ignorant hate speech, thinly veiled as truth, which many conservatives consider to be the cornerstone of free speech. For, when criticized for such hateful language use, conservatives crawl back under the protective umbrella that is the First Amendment, tattered though it is by the Patriot Act that they, of course, supported.
Conservatives understand half of the truth. The enforcement of political correctness is undeniably a threat to liberty, in America and abroad. But they are not the ones at risk. In fact, they are the ones who exploit political correctness as a defense against criticism. Conservatives are the ones who claim that critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not supporting the troops. Conservatives are the ones who accuse critics of Israel’s imperialist foreign policy of anti-Semitism. It is conservatives, not liberals, who cripple free speech by insisting upon political correctness.