Times Overlooks Sun's Fascist Rant

The Times finally found space to publish a nice, chummy editorial bemoaning the death of the "lively.... handsome... muckraking" New York Sun. The loss of the neoconservative broadsheet is especially sad, the Times added, because internet journalism is very confusing and hard to navigate and just generally terrifying, unlike the Sun, which again is quite pretty and edited by a swell guy called Seth Lipsky. Glossed over was Lipsky's utter shortsightedness as both a civic observer and a businessman. And though the Times editorial board has long fancied itself a staunch defender of the First Amendment, it failed completey to note the Sun's revolting 2003 editorial calling anti-war protestors treasonous and saying they should be muzzled, spied upon and perhaps thrown in jail. Slate accurately labeled it "fascist" at the time, and a tipster this week reminded us of its existence. Some highlights:

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly are doing the people of New York and the people of Iraq a great service by delaying and obstructing the antiwar protest planned for February 15. The longer they delay in granting the protesters a permit, the less time the organizers have to get their turnout organized, and the smaller the crowd is likely to be. And we wouldn't want to overstate the matter, but, at some level, the smaller the crowd, the more likely that President Bush will proceed with his plans to liberate Iraq...

The protesters probably do have a claim under the right to free speech. Never mind that it's not the speech that the city is objecting to — it's the marching in the streets, blocking traffic, and requiring massive police protection.

So long as the protesters are invoking the Constitution, they might have a look at Article III. That says, "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

...the New York City police could do worse, in the end, than to allow the protest and send two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution. Thus fully respecting not just some, but all of the constitutional principles at stake.

To those concerned about civil liberties, we'd cite the pragmatic argument made last night by, of all people, the New York Times's three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning foreign affairs columnist, Thos. Friedman. "I believe we are one more 9/11 away from the end of the open society," Mr. Friedman told an American Jewish Committee dinner honoring the chief executive of the New York Times Company, Russell Lewis.

Lipsky should be thankful Times editors respect free expression far more than his own editorial page did. And he should be doubly thankful for their short memories.