The Corner

‘Free Speech Is Only Okay If It’s Money, National Review Guy Explains’

That’s the title of a post over at Gawker responding, in its way, to my earlier thoughts on the Komen backlash. (For the uninitiated, Gawker’s imperative role on the Internet is that of the mother bird, partially digesting the work of others with the enzymes of bored irony and the gastric juices of sarcasm, and regurgitating stub articles fit for the consumption of the shrieking, featherless hatchlings that comprise my doomed generation.)

But the ‘conservatives think free speech only applies to money’ canard won’t cut it here. I never say, or imply, that anything PP or its allies have done is illegal or should be. Rather I hold with Buckley, who liked to note that not everything legal is reputable, and my language was normative, not juridical. The words I used were “creepy” and “despicable.” In case it was unclear why I think those words apply, let me be more explicit.

1) the Komen backlash lacked any sense of proportion. Planned Parenthood is a billion dollar a year industry. Komen has an operating budget in the neighborhood of $90 million. The amount of grants issued by the latter to the former totaled less than $700,000. Planned Parenthood successfully fundraised in excess of that amount within 24 hours on the argument that Komen was hurting women’s health, a scurrilous argument that — combined with Komen’s botching of the PR operation — has undoubtedly hurt women’s health.

2) The anti-Komen backlash operated under the assumption that PP was somehow entitled to the Komen grants. A healthier, more proportionate response might have been for PP to thank Komen for its years of support and urge donors to make up the difference. What happened instead is — functionally if not intentionally — hard to distinguish from a shakedown. I can’t see how it is in any charity’s long-term interest to be seen as publicly cajoling donors who have the audacity to stop writing checks.

3) Some of the methods employed by PP supporters were downright filthy. Hacking the Komen web site with a smear about running over poor women on the way to the bank? Maliciously editing Komen’s Wikipedia page with similar lies? United States senators calling on Komen to reverse its decision on the floors of Congress? I don’t know if that’s legitimate free speech, but I know its despicable.


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