On Thursday's Countdown, two days after comparing Newt Gingrich's ideas on free speech and anti-terrorism measures to Naziism, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann aimed his latest "Special Comment" rant at the former House Speaker over a speech he gave at the Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, discussed in a Manchester Union Leader article, during which Gingrich had talked about restricting some free speech rights for those who incite terrorism. Olbermann used a number of charged words and phrases in hitting Gingrich, including "fascism," "barbarism" and "delusions of grandeur." He also referred to Gingrich as a "dangerous creature" and compared Gingrich to an "arsonist giving the keynote address at a convention of firefighters." Accusing Gingrich of "exploiting" terrorism to pursue the presidency, the Countdown host quoted a line from The Manchurian Candidate referring to Angela Lansbury's character who planned to seize power while "waving the flag every time she subjugates another freedom." (Transcript follows)
Olbermann concluded by proclaiming that he is "thankful" not to be with Gingrich in "that dark place" where "the way to save America is to destroy America." Olbermann: "What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America. I will awaken every day of my life thankful I am not with you in that dark place. And I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it, and that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea lurks there, and what a cynical mind, and that you are entitled to do all that, thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate."
Below is a complete transcript of relevant portions of the November 30 Countdown show, including several of the plugs leading up to the "Special Comment":
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Desperate House losers: The right wing goes ape[beep] and [beep] itself because Danny DiVito calls the President numb [beep] on television. That's all you guys got left? Not that there isn't the germ of fascism in that. Newt Gingrich's speech to the Free Speech Dinner about restricting free speech, and his dreams of 'seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be President, it will happen.' 'Special Comment' tonight on Gingrich's bid to exploit terror in order to restrict freedom and somehow sweep himself up into the White House."
Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:12 p.m.: "There is absolutely no excuse for Newt Gingrich's bid to curb free speech, especially on the Internet, especially with a new leak tonight of an uncorroborated al-Qaeda threat against, bingo, the Web sites of the stock market and the banking industry. A 'Special Comment' ahead."
Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:36 p.m.: "A reminder tonight that there is a reason the Orca's nickname is 'killer whale' as a trainer is dragged underwater by one of the massive animals right in front of a startled crowd. Speaking of dangerous creatures, Newt Gingrich and his call to somehow curb the First Amendment in order to fight terrorists. A 'Special Comment' on that ahead."
Olbermann, during commercial break at 8:40 p.m.: "It's a television cliche, but animals do attack. A killer whale going after his trainer, an alligator biting a Florida man, and Newt Gingrich trying to take a bite out of every American's freedom of speech. That's ahead. This is Countdown."
Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:47 p.m.: "Also tonight, using the imagery of an American city under assault, he has launched an assault on the First Amendment, part of his dream of being compelled in some way to take the presidency. My 'Special Comment' on Newt Gingrich next."
Olbermann: "And finally tonight, as promised, a 'Special Comment' about free speech, failed speakers and the delusions of grandeur. 'This is a serious long-term war,' the man at the podium cried, 'and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country.'
"Some in the audience must have thought they were hearing an arsonist give the keynote address at a convention of firefighters. This was the annual Loeb First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, NH, a public cherishing of freedom of speech, in the state with the two-fisted motto 'Live Free Or Die.' And the arsonist at the microphone, the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was insisting that we must attach an 'on-off button' to free speech. He offered the time-tested excuse trotted out by our demagogues since even before the Republic was founded: widespread death of Americans in America, possibly at the hands of Americans. But updated now to include terrorists using the Internet for recruitment. End result, quote, 'losing a city.'
"The colonial English defended their repression with words like these. And so did the slave states. And so did the policemen who shot strikers. And so did Lindbergh's America First crowd. And so did those who interned Japanese-Americans. And so did those behind the Red Scare. And so did Nixon's plumbers. The genuine proportion of the threat is always irrelevant. The fear the threat is exploited to create becomes the only reality.
"'We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find,' Mr. Gingrich continued about terrorists, formerly communists, formerly hippies, formerly Fifth Columnists, formerly anarchists, formerly Redcoats, 'to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech.'
"Mr. Gingrich, the British 'broke up our capacity to use free speech' in the 1770s. The pro-slavery leaders 'broke up our capacity to use free speech' in the 1850s. The FBI and the CIA 'broke up our capacity to use free speech' in the 1960s. It is within those groups where you would have found your kindred spirits, Mr. Gingrich. Those who had no faith in freedom, no faith in this country, and, ultimately, no faith even in the strength of their own ideas, to stand up on their own legs without having the playing field tilted entirely to their benefit.
"How convenient it is that we are told just today that the government has warned the stock markets and U.S. banks that it has learned of an al-Qaeda threat to penetrate and destroy their Web sites. That learning followed immediately by a statement from Homeland Security that there is no corroboration of the threat. 'It will lead us to learn,' Gingrich had continued in New Hampshire, 'how to close down every Web site that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear and biological weapons.'
"That we have always had 'a very severe approach' to these people is insufficient for Mr. Gingrich's ends. He wants to somehow ban the idea, even though everyone who has ever protested a movie or a piece of music or a book has learned the same lesson: Try to suppress it, and you only validate it. Make it illegal, and you make it the subject of curiosity. Say it cannot be said, and it will instead be screamed.
"And on top of the thundering danger in his eagerness to sell out freedom of speech, there is a sadder sound still, the tinny crash of a garbage can lid on a sidewalk. Whatever dreams of Internet censorship float like a miasma in Mr. Gingrich's personal swamp, whatever hopes he has of an Iron Firewall, the simple fact is, technically they won't work. As of tomorrow, they will have been defeated by a free computer download.
"Mere hours after Gingrich's speech in New Hampshire, the University of Toronto announced it had come up with a program called Psiphon to liberate those in countries in which the Internet is regulated, places like China and Iran, where political ideas are so barren, and political leaders so desperate that they put up computer firewalls to keep thought and freedom out.
"The Psiphon device is a relay of sorts that can surreptitiously link a computer user in an imprisoned country with another computer user in a free country. The Chinese think their wall still works, yet the ideas — good ideas, bad ideas, indifferent ideas — pass through that wall anyway, the same way the Soviet bloc was defeated by the images of Western material bounty.
"If your hopes of thought control can be defeated, Mr. Gingrich, merely by one computer whiz staying up an extra half an hour and devising a new 'firewall hop,' what is all this apocalyptic hyperbole for?
"'I further think,' you said in Manchester, 'we should propose a Geneva convention for fighting terrorism, which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians, are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism.' Well, Mr. Gingrich, what is more 'massively destructive' than trying to get us to give you our freedom? And what is someone seeking to hamstring the First Amendment doing, if not 'fighting outside the rules of law'? And what is the suppression of knowledge and freedom, if not 'barbarism'?
"The explanation, of course, is in one last quote from Mr. Gingrich from New Hampshire and another quote from him from last week. 'I want to suggest to you,' he said about these Internet restrictions, 'that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of if it weren't for the scale of the threat.' And who should those 'impaneled' people be? Funny I should ask, isn't it, Mr. Gingrich?
"'I am not "running" for President,' you told a reporter from Fortune Magazine. 'I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be President, it will happen.'
"Newt Gingrich sees in terrorism, not something to be exterminated, but something to be exploited. It is his golden opportunity, isn't it? 'Rallying a nation,' you might say, 'to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy.' That, of course, is from the original version of the movie The Manchurian Candidate — the chilling words of Angela Lansbury's character, as she first promises to sell her country out to the Chinese and Russians, then reveals she will double-cross them and keep all the power herself, waving the flag every time she subjugates another freedom.
"Within the frame of our experience as a free and freely argumentative people, it is almost impossible to conceive that there are those among us who might approach the kind of animal wildness of fiction like The Manchurian Candidate, those who would willingly transform our beloved country into something false and terrible. Who among us can look into our own histories, or those of our ancestors who struggled to get here, or who struggled to get freedom after they were forced here, and not tear up when we read Frederick Douglass' words from a century and a half ago?: 'Freedom must take the day.' Who among us can look to our collective history and not see its turning points — like the Civil War, like Watergate, like the Revolution itself — in which the right idea defeated the wrong idea on the battlefield that is the marketplace of ideas?
"But apparently there are some of us who cannot see that the only future for America is one that cherishes the freedoms we won in the past, an America in which we vanquish bad ideas with better ideas, in which we fight for liberty by having more liberty, and not less.
"'I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be President, it will happen.'
What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America. I will awaken every day of my life thankful I am not with you in that dark place. And I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it, and that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea lurks there, and what a cynical mind, and that you are entitled to do all that, thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate. Good night and good luck."