Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Political discussion

It's said that political discussions should be avoided in polite company. Women, being polite company, were thus excluded from political debate. I, being an impolite woman, am actually rather fond of political debate--as long as it is conducted in a civil, respectful manner. For that reason, I try to be civil in my discussion of politics (not that I don't get emotional, I just try to keep it in check and basically avoid telling people they're dumb for a given belief. Keeps friendships more intact).

Which is why I'm perplexed. Remember this discussion? If not, in brief it's a discussion that was started on a listserv to which I subscribe when someone sent out a story about gay people attacking an LDS temple and I responded with my own, not so pro prop 8 thoughts. Shortly after I responded, that discussion was taken down from the listserv. Given how emotional some of the responses were (and some emails I received privately) I could see why that discussion was taken down, especially since the listserv was supposedly not exclusively for LDS women and therefore faith-based discussions were supposed to be avoided. I was still a little annoyed, given how many other faithful, LDS-centric posts get through the review of the moderator, but it seemed reasonable and I was new enough to the group to think I'd missed out on a rule.

This independence day I found the following posted on the listserv:

Hi Ladies,
A badly misnamed campaign finance bill, the Disclose Act, is currently under consideration in the Senate. The bill is toted to make corporate-donated campaign money more transparent but in reality it can be dangerously used to limit or even silence opposing voices. According to the American Family Association website (from which much of the following is taken), among the many special exemptions in the bill (which are very dangerous in and of themselves), there is a special exemption carved out in the bill for unions, the Sierra Club and the AARP, so the rules won't apply to them. Here’s the danger: the bill will go into effect just 30 days after it is signed by President Obama, just in time to silence all pro-family, pro-life and other conservative groups before the fall elections. The bill has already been pushed through the House, and will get pushed through the Senate in the next few days unless we intervene. To make sure it can't be challenged in court prior to November, the bill expressly prohibits expedited judicial review. This prevents a level playing field this fall; they want one tilted steeply in their favor. When the Founders gave us the First Amendment, they prohibited Congress from making any law “abridging the freedom of speech,” by which they certainly meant freedom of political speech. They knew that a representative republic can only thrive if it protects vigorous public debate during elections. These heaven-inspired principles of liberty are under attack, and we have an opportunity to raise our voices in support of them, if you see this as I do. The bill can be defeated in the Senate if our senators hear it loud and clear from their constituents. What a great way to celebrate the 4th of July and commemorate those wonderful Founding Fathers who sacrificed everything they had and held dear to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and to their posterity. An easy way to contact your senators and to learn more about the bill is to visit the American Family Association website at
http://www.capwiz.com/afanet/issues/alert/?alertid=15192516
and at the top of the page there is a link to enter your zip code and it’ll show you how to email your senators.

Thank you for your consideration and concern on these issues, especially as we remember the Lord’s hand in the founding of America.

God Bless America.

Sincerely,

(name removed)


to which I replied:

According to this,

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3295

the bill hasn't made it out of committee yet. Also, the ACLU hasn't taken a stance--pro or negative--against the bill. A bunch of corporations and conservative groups have taken a stance against the bill and a very few groups are for it (unsurprising--I suspect that's the case most of the time since it's easier to get people worked up against something than for something).

according to my reading of the summary, this bill would only prohibit contributions from government contractors, recipients of TARP money, and foreign-controlled corporations. Everybody else just has to declare their spending and declare over a larger window of time (which they already have to do anyway). This sounds like an effort to track-- not even really limit, just track--campaign contributions. I'm not sure why I should consider those restrictions bad or any infringement on political speech. Didn't the supreme court just rule signatures on petitions have to be disclosed? If my signature, and the speech that denotes, has to be a matter of public record, why shouldn't spending be the same?


I thought my reply was, while direct, not particularly inflammatory, or even especially political. Yet less than 20 minutes after I posted, both posts were taken down, with a reminder to keep political discussion off the listserv.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I feel like the only reason this discussion warranted a removal was that a liberal (me) responded. Plenty of other political notices are posted, including announcements for tea party gatherings. Nobody bats an eyelash until a democrat appears, at which point all evidence of the offending conversation must be removed with a stern reminder to keep discussions non-political.

It's crap.

Discussions are going to delve into politics simply because we're human beings with beliefs and many of those beliefs have political implications. Discussions that involve those beliefs are going to elicit emotions sometimes, even strong ones, but I would claim that's a good thing, not something to be shut down. As long as the discussion remains civil there's the opportunity to challenge beliefs, be they our own or those of another, with the end result being a strengthening of beliefs that are reasonable and based on a good foundation and erosion of less tenable beliefs (or so one would hope). Thus it irks me that only complimentary discussion (and by that I mean conforming to the majority viewpoint) seems allowable. Sure, it's a private listserv primarily for community service-type announcements, but when someone brings up something false, why should any of us be expected to sit on our digits simply to avoid political discussion?

***
update
***

I complained to one of my friends about the removal of the post so soon after I replied to it. Turns out she complained about the post to the moderator of the group, so I'm guessing the removal had more to do with that. Makes me feel much better about the situation.

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