Here is an email I received from Kirsten Lombard of the Wisconsin 9/12 Project In Madison. We thank them for their support and applaud them for their courage and understanding of this issue. We may have differences on some issues, but this is a principle everyone in our movement should understand!
FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS: The Wisconsin 9/12 Project Stands with the Rock River Patriots
I find Mr. Belling’s refusal simply to issue a correction more than regrettable. I’m also bothered by his assumption that local grassroots groups do not have a right to inform the voters about what they find in relationship to candidate vetting. You’re precisely right in pointing out to Mr. Belling that he is advocating–or at least indicating his preference for–a curtailment of your 1st Amendment rights. I wonder how he’d like it if someone told him that as a radio host, he should only speak about certain things in sanctioned ways. That day may be closer than he thinks, so perhaps we’ll find out.
In any event, when followed to its natural conclusion, Mr. Belling’s argument shakes out thus:
As a radio host with a bully pulpit, he has the right to say whatever he wants about issues, candidates, or whatever. We, on the other hand, as Tea Party groups, are useful only for certain purposes and should therefore keep our mouths shut unless the topics about which we decide to communicate meet with the approval of…whom exactly? Himself? The Republican Party of Wisconsin?
I’m not sure how he would fill in the blank. But Mr. Belling is not the only conservative (I will resist the urge to put that word in quotes) radio host to make similar ridiculous statements. In fact, there seem to be a few shared and rather pernicious talking points. As organizer of the Wisconsin 9/12 Project, I, too, have been specifically targeted by local talk radio–and my words and actions shamefully misrepresented. I have shrugged it off with no comment. But I do find it odd and ironic that the very people who accuse liberal progressives of bending the truth and trying to silence people…regularly do the same when it suits their particular purposes.
Based on the comments I have seen and heard from certain hosts, I have no doubt whatsoever that if the Rock River Patriots were preaching the strengths/merits of Mr. Johnson–rather than what was certainly quite a measured expression of concern about some noteworthy weaknesses of which voters should be aware–that would be just fine with Mr. Belling, and he would not have gone after you. The hypocrisy is wildly apparent, and NONE OF US should be cowed by what is, frankly, straight up bullying on the part of people who should know better.
BIG NEWS: When you further a party position and start telling those who differ from it in any way that they should shut up or start slandering them as something they aren’t, that not only makes you a hypocrite on the 1st Amendment, it reveals you as a shill. How embarrassing for Mr. Belling…and others. As I mentioned, he’s not alone.
Last time I checked, conservative talk-radio hosts–however great a service they generally do the community–were not the arbiters of free speech.
I’m very glad, Dan, that you and your group are as forthright and committed to the Constitution as you are–and that you are standing your ground, insisting that you be represented properly, and refusing to bend to the nonsense.
As for the Wisconsin 9/12 Project, it will continue to exercise its natural right to free speech as it sees fit. I support the Rock River Patriots wholeheartedly in doing precisely the same. While these two groups may not agree on everything, we agree on much, and I am personally grateful for your friendship.
I have no doubt that the above comments will come back to me in the form of more criticism from certain corners.
So be it.
Bring it on.