I note that an earlier subtitle of Jonah’s book referenced “the totalitarian temptation ….” Sean Penn is feeling the temptation:
First Amendment be damned . . . If Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn had his way, any journalist who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a dictator would quickly find himself behind bars.
Penn, appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday, defended Chavez during a segment in which he detailed his work with the JP Haitian Relief Organization, which he co-founded.
“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it” said Penn, winner of two Best Actor Academy Awards. “And this is mainstream media, who should — truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”
It was just the beginning of a busy weekend for Penn. When asked on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” about those who question his motives for his humanitarian work in Haiti, he said:
“Do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah. You know, but I’m not going to spend a lot of energy on it.”
Beyond the obvious “imagine a conservative had said it” observations, these remarks are important to notice. Sean Penn is a buffoon, of course, sort of Tim Robbins meets Daffy Duck, but his line of thinking can be found, in only slightly more sophisticated form, among those who wish to use the “Fairness Doctrine” to muzzle Rush Limbaugh, hate-speech codes to stifle religious expression, campaign-finance laws to restrict the ability of disfavored advocates in the political arena, etc.
Sean Penn wants to put people in prison for refusing to follow his speech code — but, ultimately, so do the Fairness Doctrine gang and the campaign-finance cops. So do Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin. The fact that elected Democrats are marginally less obvious about it, and willing to operate at a slight remove, does not make their desire to restrict speech and muzzle debate any less authoritarian.