Growing up in Northern California in the '70s, I used to read Herb Caen's column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Caen was a raconteur, his columns full of gossip and stories about the powerful, the famous and the not-so. One of his tales, which he claimed to be true, has stuck with me.
It seems that there was an airline employee, a Mr. Gay, who wanted to take a deadhead trip across the country. The gate agent told him to board the airplane, but that he would have to give up his seat if the flight was full. He was assigned seat 4C.
When he got to his seat it was already occupied by another man, so he took a seat a couple of rows back.
The flight was oversold, so a stewardess came down the aisle looking for him. She stopped at seat 4C and asked the man sitting there, "excuse me, are you Gay?"
The man looked surprised. "Why, yes I am," he said.
"Well," replied the stewardess, "you'll have to get off the airplane."
Overhearing, Mr. Gay spoke up. "Wait! I'm Gay!"
"I'm gay, too!" cried a third passenger, standing. "They can't throw us all off!"
Thirty years of standing later, gay people are well on their way to equality in this country. You can bet they will keep standing until they are fully accepted, and will speak up again if there is any backsliding.
The battle for press freedom has been going on for longer than for gay rights, long enough that some news outlets seem to have forgotten how to stand up for it. Michelle Malkin writes about the cowardly American media. Andrew Sullivan writes about the clueless Globe.
The mainstream press would risk much by standing up for press freedom. They have reporters in the field who could be kidnapped or killed, and they have offices that could be bombed. But they risk much more by remaining silent while the Jyllands-Posten is intimidated: their profession, their livelihood, their freedom. They should take a lesson from the story (and from European papers): if they all stand up, they can't all be attacked. Even if they were, it is no more than their predecessors suffered to create a free press in the first place.Posted by awm at February 4, 2006 04:25 PM