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March 31, 2005
Kennedy Follows In Krugman's Freaked-Out Footsteps

Earlier this week, Paul Krugman asserted that the greater political participation by conservative Christians would lead to politically-based assassination attempts, and blamed talk radio and cable news for the phenomenon. Never one to leave a hysterical rant aside, Dan Kennedy today picked up Krugman's paranoia and predicted that conservatives would one day murder Michael Schiavo, and the blame would fall on Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough -- all because they had the audacity to air a dissenting opinion about Terri Schiavo's diagnosis:

IF THERE WAS an emblematic moment in the religious rights crusade against Michael Schiavo, it might be said to have taken place on March 21. It was a Monday, three days after Terri Schiavos feeding tube had been removed. And William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who claims to have examined the all-but-brain-dead woman for some 10 hours several years ago, was a guest on Sean Hannitys radio show.

What Hammesfahr had to say was quite literally incredible. He told Hannity that Terri Schiavo was "completely conscious." That she "tries to communicate." That she was "a very, very, very aware, alive, vibrant individual trapped in a body thats preventing her from communicating properly." Hammesfahr wouldnt answer Hannitys question as to whether he believed Michael Schiavo was "trying to murder" his wife, explaining that he didnt want to get sued. But he did have this to say when asked whether Terri could recover from the state in which she had lain for some 15 years: "I would expect with treatment proper medical treatment I would expect her to be able to talk again at some point, and to return to her family and start to live her life again, be able to go out, see movies, enjoy life."

It was an extraordinary declaration. Just in case you missed it, Hammesfahr repeated it that night on Fox Newss Hannity & Colmes, and took his traveling media show to MSNBCs Scarborough Country, as well as to other outlets. Thus did the media help to advance the monstrous notion that Terri Schiavo is a fully sentient woman suffering only from a serious disability, a lack of treatment, and a husband and judicial system whod rather see her dead than rehabilitated.

Because of Hammesfahr, Hannity, and others like them, Michael Schiavo has reportedly received numerous death threats. Florida state judge George Greer, who has presided over this fiasco for many years now, is under armed guard. Last Friday a North Carolina man named Richard Alan Meywes was arrested and charged with sending out an e-mail promising a $250,000 reward for the murder of Michael Schiavo, and another $50,000 for bumping off Judge Greer. According to reports, FBI affidavits revealed that the e-mail, supposedly written on behalf of an unidentified multimillionaire, said in part: "It is my understanding that whoever eliminates Michael Schiavo from the planet while inflicting as much pain and suffering that he can bear stands to be paid this reward in cash."

Now, William Hammesfahr may or may not be sincere, but he is almost certainly wrong in his assessment of Terri Schiavo. Yet by spouting his views before every television camera and microphone that popped up, he helped contribute to an atmosphere of hysteria that placed the lives of Michael Schiavo and George Greer in danger.

Kennedy makes as much sense here as someone attempting to blame Democrats for Squeaky Fromme's assassination attempt on Gerald Ford, because the Manson Family somehow was emblematic of the Left. Nutcases are nutcases, and Kennedy completely succumbs to the bigotry against those who believe in religion. In fact, he goes farther than Krugman, associating those who believe in preserving life with nutcases who feel they can kill whomever they please to make a political point.

Kennedy also makes a chilling argument against freedom of speech. Did Hammesfahr get up and say, "We should stop Michael Schiavo by any means necessary"? No, and in fact he said nothing except that in his opinion, Terri could improve with therapy -- an argument the Schindlers had made for years. Other doctors have made the same argument, and others have disputed it. Does Kennedy now think that the purpose of the media is to give full reporting to an informed electorate -- or that it should only exist as a mouthpiece for the official government position? Because that is precisely what Kennedy argues here, and it's a mind-boggling screed coming from a journalist.

If some psycho attacks Michael Schiavo, then that person should be held responsible for his actions. Period and end of story. If Kennedy doesn't like debate or thinks it's too dangerous for the American public to hear, then he should find another line of work, or else explicitly state that he intends on only reporting one side of every issue from now on. We've heard plenty of screeching from the Left these last two weeks about the impending threat to the Republic from the Christians, but the mindless associations between debate and hypothetical violence made by irresponsible and irrational pundits like Krugman and Kennedy promise to do much more damage to our freedom than any prayer or faith-based morality can ever do.

The Boston Phoenix and the New York Times needs to tell us if they support free speech, or if they join in the conclusions of their featured writers that Americans will turn into raving lunatics at the mere hint of dissent from the media orthodoxy.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 31, 2005 1:20 PM

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