Here’s a combination of the wrong reaction to the Park51 mosque controversy, courtesy of the Speaker of the House of Representatives herself, Nancy Pelosi:
The speaker questioned what was motivating the political opposition to the mosque, suspecting that the issue might be being “ginned up” by some to help Republican candidates.
“There’s no question that there’s a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some,” she said. “And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded.”
Madam Speaker, I’m with you when you say that the property owners have a right to build a mosque on their own property if they want, and I agree that at the moment, the only governmental bodies with any oversight over the issue are local. I am not entirely sure I agree with the idea that this is a purely local concern because the Governor of New York is getting involved trying to broker a land swap and the Federal government could get involved if it chose to — although I think that would be a bad idea.
But investigating people who feel differently than I do? That’s not just silly, it’s sinister.
While I disagree with people who oppose the mosque, they have every right to speak out on an issue that concerns them. And by calling this a “right,” that indicates that it may be exercised without sanction by the government. Being investigated by the government is most certainly a sanction. Congressman Lazio was wrong to call for investigation into the funding of Park51 because the owners have every right to build a mosque on their own land, and you are wrong to call for investigation into the funding of “opposition” because opponents of the mosque have every right to express themselves, too.
Pelosi seems taken aback at the breadth and uniformity of opposition to the mosque. Apparently she sees some sort of vast conspiracy, or an intentionally-controlled network of public opinion influencers. This is nearly as bizarrely paranoid as the content of mosque opposition itself. The explanation is simple and not malignant, Madam Speaker — a lot of people feel the same way about this and many other issues, and the media marketplace has, through the process of experience, found that catering to those people is a way to generate profits. The result may be an intellectual echo chamber and we might rue some of its effects on political discourse, but there is no vast intentional conspiracy behind it. Even if it were acceptable to investigate this, an investigation would almost certainly reveal that there had been nothing to investigate in the first place.
I suspect, though, that Pelosi is merely jealous that there is no similarly potent phenomenon helping out her side of political discourse — and if I’m right, do be careful what you wish for, Madam Speaker.
In any event, telling a private property owner that it can’t build a house of worship on land where it is legal to do so is an infringement on both free exercise and free speech rights. Telling people who find the building of that house of worship to be in poor taste and offensive to them that if they prove too politically effective at expressing themselves they will have the government pry into their finances is an infringement on their free speech rights.
This is the United States America, damnit, a nation founded on the idea of freedom — and it’s high time people started remembering that.