It can, and does, happen here
Good news on the free speech front from Europe. Lars Hedegaard was acquited in Denmark of charges of saying true, but not nice things about Muslims resident in his country.
The hate-speech trial of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria is still ongoing though. Frau Sabaditsch-Wolff is facing similar charges stemming from… well it appears that in support of her xenophobic, racist, etc etc rants she (this is shocking but I have to say it) actually quoted the Koran
And in America a big-time Washington D.C. lawyer Paul Mirengoff, who happens to be a conservative blogger was made to grovel in public, take down a blog post, and shut up.
Mirengoff is a partner in the employment law group at the firm of Akin Gump, and one of the founders of Power Line blog.
The offending post was about the Tuscon tragedy. The specific offensive part concerned a prayer offered by a Yaqui Indian shaman. Luckily the post was preserved elsewhere – and now here. Take a half-minute and read the offending thing in its entirety..
In the post immediately below, I praised President Obama’s speech in Tucson this evening in honor of the victims of that horrific shooting spree. His speech was part of a larger ceremony which, on the whole, was rather a mixed bag.
The best thing about the evening, even better than Obama’s speech, was the news he delivered that Rep. Giffords today opened her eyes on her own for the first time since she was shot.
Other good spots: Daniel Hernandez, the intern who helped save Rep. Giffords life, gave a brief and impressive talk in which he insisted that he was not a hero. And Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano used their time at the podium not to deliever speeches but instead to simply reading from scripture. This may have been designed to keep things fresh for Obama’s speech, but it was appreciated nonetheless.
On the negative side of the ledger, I didn’t appreciate the president of the University of Arizona (and master of ceremonies) telling us how lucky we are to have Barack Obama as our president and Janet Napolitano as our homeland security chief. Nor did the frequent raucous cheering by the huge crowd seem appropriate at what was, at least in part, a memorial service.
As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to “the creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.
But it wasn’t just Gonzales’s prayer that was “ugly” under the circumstances. Before he ever got to the prayer, Gonzales provided us with a mini-auto biography and made several references to Mexico, the country from which (he informed us) his family came to Arizona in the mid 19th century. I’m not sure why Gonzales felt that Mexico needed to intrude into this service, but I have an idea.
In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.
That’s it. The unforgivable offense was to suggest that prayers for Christian victims might appropriately be… Christian.
I myself cheerfully accept anybody’s prayers for my safety, salvation, or good luck with the lottery. The good wishes of a good person may or may not help, but they certainly can’t hurt.
Of course, that’s not the whole story as you find out when you follow the money.
But that was not good enough for one of Mirengoff’s law partners, James Meggesto, who issued a sanctimonious statement saying he was “shocked, appalled and embarrassed” by Mirengoff’s “insensitive” “web posting” (emphasis mine):
“As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff, who posted on his personal blog an insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism of the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the recent memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona. As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com. Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.” ”
Meggesto doesn’t say who dropped the dime on Mirengoff. How this even came to the firm’s attention is surprising. After all, the paragraph in question was pretty mild, part of a larger post and not really much different than a lot of others were saying. Perhaps some innocent concerned citizen just happened to read Power Line that night and call Akin Gump, but it’s equally likely the watchers were behind it, directly or indirectly.
The criticism by Meggesto and Akin Gump was disingenuous at best. There was nothing in Mirengoff’s post which was a “criticism of the use of the Yacqui prayer”; Mirengoff was making a point about the absence of a Christian prayer at a memorial service for religious Christian victims.
And just what are Akin Gump’s “values”? The primary value at stake here seems to be money to be generated from representing Indian tribes and financial interests. Nothing wrong with that, but Akin Gump should have just said what it really meant: “We are afraid that left-wing bloggers and others who hate Power Line will make a big deal about this and try to use it against the firm to disrupt our relationship with clients who pay us millions of dollars in legal fees each year.”
If Akin Gump had justified its actions based on its own financial interests, rather than hiding behind words like “insensitive,” I would have respected its decision (although still disagreed with it). A law firm has a legitimate interest in maintaining client relationships. Instead, Meggesto and Akin Gump chose to portray Mirengoff at best as insensitive and at worst as a bigot, which conclusions were not supported by the blog post in question.
Mirengoff obviously feared for his position at the firm, because he issued a confession/apology worthy of a political prisoner in (insert name of tyranny here):
OK, I have to say I support Mirengoff 100 percent – but I can’t help but think he’s kind of a wuss.
Dammit shyster, couldn’t you have taken the hit and sued the bastards? That’s what lawyers do!
Maybe I should be more charitable, and maybe I’m not in the mood because I’ve just come back from Belarus where a friend and comrade was forced to make public statements by threats on the lives of his partners.
Mr. Mirengoff I’m sure you have a family to support, but that redskin lawyer (yes I’m being deliberately offensive, sue me) isn’t going to scalp your wife and children. “Attorney” is a portable skill you can take damn near anywhere. And if you have sons, wouldn’t you rather they saw their father as a man who stands up for himself, than a provider of new BMWs for graduation?
I’m living a lot closer to the margin of poverty than you are – and I’ll say whatever I damn well please on my blog PRECISELY BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE TELLING ME I CAN’T.