Thursday, August 19, 2010

David Horowitz' inadvertent conservative case for Cordoba House

David Horowitz' News Real Blog has published what have to be the two worst arguments I've heard in favor of the government intervening to prevent the construction of what is alternately called Cordoba House or "the ground zero mosque". The blogger, who for understandable reasons conceals his identity, calling himself "Joe Blough", argues that the First Amendment applies only to Congress, not to municipal or state governments or to the other branches of the federal government. Addressing the president, "Joe Blough" writes:

(C)ongress isn’t making any laws about the matter so that settles that. Thank you Mr. Assistant Professor in Chief. Unfortunately there is nothing in there preventing the president from insulting the intelligence of the public.

He's right about one thing, and lucky for him. If there were a law against insulting the intelligence of the public, "Joe Blough" and David Horowitz would be fugitives from justice. The question of whether the Bill of Rights applies to state and municipal governments is settled law, as the vast majority of constitutional thinkers including the entire Supreme Court would undoubtedly agree. The editors of News Real Blog seem to think otherwise, choosing to advocate in this instance an extremist States Rights position advocated by opponents of federal civil rights laws against discrimination on the basis of race or religion.  By this line of thinking, the states and municipalities would be free once again to mandate segregation and prevent oppressed groups from voting.  Can David Horowitz really be supporting this extremist argument?

Having summarily wiped the First and Fourteenth Amendments and a massive corpus of Supreme Court decisions from the books, Horowitz' blog goes on to take an extremely odd stand for a purportedly conservative blog. It argues that property rights should not apply because the municipal government already regulates some uses of private property. For some reason, the argument rests on the fact that the city regulates traffic and prohibits smoking in public accommodations such as offices, restaurants, train stations, etc .

Consider the non-smoking rules so dear to (New York City Mayor) Bloomberg’s heart. There are people, loud persistent people, in NYC that don’t like cigarette smoke. And based on that dislike — a mere dislike — property owners, leasors and leasees of all sorts around NYC must prevent their customers from smoking on their property or face the wrath of the city. Property rights in NYC are such that hanging a sign over your door that says “Smokers Only” will not defend you. You have no say in the matter, your rights are not recognized. And that is only one, blatantly obvious example.

NYC is very well practiced at limiting one person’s rights to accomodate the comforts of another.

Public property in NYC is handled with the same high handed flippancy, as if it belonged personally to New Yorkers’ alleged representatives. For example, traffic down Broadway is now slowed to a trickle, because some genius in the administration thought it would be nice to have little parks in the middle of Broadway rather than all those nasty smelly cars. The rights of the public that jointly own that avenue? Not even a consideration.

And here again, why make little parks in the middle of one of NYC’s busiest streets? Because little parks appeal to somebody’s feelings, whereas cars do not.

To be fair, some might argue, perhaps even with some justice, that that is just what local ordinances are for. To legislate matters that in an ideal sense, impinge on individual rights, for the sake of accomodating local sensibilities. But, were that correct, the Bloomberg administration would only stand more deeply damned.

Bloomberg and his functionaries could have found a dozen, perfectly plausible and normal ways to dictate that the mosque could not be built less than than some arbitrary distance from ground zero. They have all the tools they need.

The government of NYC and Mr. Bloomberg, can, will and do legislate and regulate on the basis of feeling. The only question is whose feelings. What we learn is that the feelings of most of the voting public, indeed the feelings of the families of the dead and survivors of the 9/11 attack, do not count. What matters are the feelings of Mr. Bloomberg and his leftist friends.

And believe me when I tell you, those are not feelings of love. Not for America. And not, gentle reader, for you.

The internal contradictions of purported conservatives arguing in favor of more government limitations on both the free exercise of religion and private property rights are so apparent as to scarcely merit counter-argument. The right ties itself in knots with such lines of thinking. Horowitz' blog inadvertently makes this clear by supporting what it itself comically refers to as "arbitrary" restrictions, an argument which should be laughed out of the court of public opinion, regardless of either the conservatism or anti-Islam bias of that opinion.

By publishing this post, David Horowitz has done a tremendous service to conservatives looking for reasons to support the Cordoba House project. Regardless of conservatives' emotional reaction to the project, Horowitz has made clear by the weakness of these arguments in favor of arbitrary government limitations on personal liberties that supporting Cordoba House is a great way for conservatives to stand up for their ideological principles.

read here: 9/11 Victory Mosque: Another Reason the “Rights” Talk is Bunk | NewsReal Blog

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