Yesterday, Sarah Palin’s website came under attack from pro-WikiLeaks hackers angry at her criticism of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Palin e-mailed ABC News and said, “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.” Her spokeswoman added that Wikileaks supporters claim to be “in favor of free speech yet they attack Sarah Palin for exercising her free speech.”
While shutting down Palin’s website is both illegal and inappropriate, Palin is hardly one to call out free speech hypocrisies. Her Facebook page, for example, is strictly policed for content that Palin doesn’t find appropriate. Time magazine writes in its current issue that “eight Palin lieutenants scattered across the country were quietly given the job of policing her site. To this day, they scrub anything that is threatening, pornographic or unfit for children; that questions Barack Obama’s citizenship or the parentage of Palin’s toddler son Trig; or that hints that the government was behind the 9/11 attacks.”
As Slate’s John Dickerson noted recently even polite disagreements with Palin are regularly expunged:
The comments on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page offer a relatively unbroken chain of adulation, applause, and approval: “Tell it LIKE IS MRS. PALIN.” “God Bless you Sarah!! Thanks for all you do!!” “Palin 2012!!!!” No matter the topic of her posting—an endorsement of a candidate or a remark about energy policy—scores call for her to run for office.
[But] there are a host of benign posts deleted from supporters who simply disagreed with the person Palin chose to endorse in a particular note. A typical one addressed her endorsement of Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire for U.S. Senate: “I can’t believe Sarah endorsed Ayotte. Ayotte is not a Momma Grizzley, she’s just another progressive in Rep. clothing. The 912 group I belong to and some of the other groups in the state are disappointed by this endorsement.”
This [deletion] caused a little stir among the commenters. “Why are the few comments expressing disagreement with this endorsement being deleted?” wrote one. “Just because some of us disagree with the endorsement doesn’t mean that we don’t follow Sarah Palin.” Alfred Petross wrote, “I just wish you would listen to me as a resident of the 3rd Congressional District. All I am doing is voicing my opinion and my posts keep getting deleted….” (These comments were then deleted.)
Palin’s definition of free speech has long been fungible, and essentially extends only to people who agree with her. For example, during the 2008 presidential campaign, reporters began to described Palin’s continuous comments about Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright as “negative attacks” on Barack Obama. Palin responded that “[i]f [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” Glenn Greenwald noted at the time that “Palin here is also giving voice to the standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it’s inherently unfair when they’re criticized. And now, apparently, it’s even unconstitutional.”
Given Palin’s history of being worried about free speech only for herself and complete ideological allies, her current whining about First Amendment rights sounds a lot like the governor who cried wolf.