“The only thing left for Barack Obama to do is to work like a 3rd world dictator and just put all these guys in jail.” – Harry Belafonte
This was said by Mr. Belafonte on MSNBC, and it was off the cuff. But the panel just laughed in agreement.
This is not a good thing.
People on all sides of American politics say ridiculous things. However, the casualness with which Belafonte’s words were taken, indeed the acceptance of the statement by Al Sharpton (who just recently met with the president) is of major concern. This is not something to joke about. We are talking about political imprisonment for speech.
Had Al Sharpton even just said something like “Well, I don’t think locking people up because of their political beliefs is a good thing.” Hell, had Sharpton just not laughed—I wouldn’t have cared so much.
But nothing was said and he did laugh.
Belafonte might as well have said that we should string up the running dogs of capitalism ala Mao.
And interestingly, he uses the words “lingering infestation” to characterise those who disagree with the president. Presumably, Belafonte is referring the 49% of the voters, and the 60%+ of voting age Americans who did not vote for Obama. Where have I heard this kind of talk before? Gee, think back. Where, where, where?
I do not count myself as an “opponent” of the president. To the degree that Mr. Obama embraces cronyism and special deals for the connected I will take him to task. But I am not an “opponent.” I oppose crony capitalism wherever it is—Republican, Democrat, or other—and it happens all over. But I wonder if I would be free of the gulag in Mr. Belafonte’s ideal world? Would Dennis Kusinich and Ralph Nader be shipped off too for their critisism of the president? Maybe.
That this statement was voiced and accepted on a news outlet that is deeply influenced by Media Matters, (a technically non-profit organization which has extraordinary access to the president) is a very bad thing for all those who value free expression and the 1st Amendment. Be one liberal, conservative, libertarian, or something else—free speech must be treasured. There is a reason why the freedom to speak one’s mind is first in the Bill of Rights.
And, Mr. Belafonte has every right to say the president should lock up his opponents. But I have every right to say that such a statement is against the very spirit of our country. And, that is the kind version of what I would say.