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"Let Cash Registers Ring"

Reported by Judy - November 30, 2004

When a book has the word "freedom" in its title, I usually expect to learn a little bit about freedom, or at least what the author believes freedom to be. With Sean Hannity's "Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty Over Liberalism" (New York: ReganBooks, 2002), however, a reader must work hard to find out what the author thinks freedom is.

Hannity's idea of freedom turns out to be disappointingly narrow, limited almost exclusively to the realm of economics and government and lacking any notion of personal freedom, a right to privacy, a right to be different, or a right to disagree. As a Fox News personality, Hannity employs the usual array of Fox tricks to make his case that liberals are threats to his notion of freedom.

Hannity uses the word "freedom" repeatedly throughout the book as if he were invoking the name of a deity. On page 287, for example, we read of "this enduring experiment in freedom," "individual freedom," "people who have never tasted freedom," "people [who] will take enormous risks to be free," "the great gift of freedom," and the desire "not just to be free but to live free." None of that freedom-waving sheds any light on what Hannity means by freedom.

Elsewhere, however, he says that "maximum personal freedom" for Americans means the ability "to make choices and pursue opportunities that improve their own lives and the lives of others." Hannity places so much emphasis on freedom to make economic choices that he mentions "our freedom to invest and use the money we earn" along with "our freedom to worship as we please" as the two important freedoms which must be protected. I have never heard of the "freedom to invest." Is that something one of those activist judges read into the Constitution?

Hannity also speaks of "having the freedom to pursue whatever goals you set for yourself." Again, he signals that he means freedom in the economic realm, as he relates a favorite conservative parable – the parable of the poor immigrant, in this case, a Czech immigrant who came to the U.S. with nothing and within two years owned two houses and several vans and ran a business cleaning offices. That, to Hannity, is freedom.

Hannity also alludes to other aspects of freedom, i.e., that "real freedom is only possible by imposing restraints on government," that freedom "was the idea that inspired our Founders, that moved them to break free of an oppressive regime and envision a better system of government," and that Americans "have a basic right to enjoy freedom in our lives—including freedom from governmental interference." But those are useful only insofar as they allow Americans to make as much money as they want.

Hannity turns other elements of freedom on their heads. He claims to support the right to dissent, but then imposes conditions that make it nearly impossible to exercise that right. He favors having school children recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day, teaching children about what a great country this is, and banning flag burning. After being indoctrinated with patriotism through thirteen years of school, how do citizens stumble across the realization that they have a right to think differently? How does someone learn they have a right to practice anything other than Christianity if they confront the 10 Commandments, "under God," and "God Bless America" at every turn? Hannity's view is that Americans have the right to dissent but the majority has the right to use schools and public assets to smother potential dissent with an unrelenting discourse about the glories of the white, Christian, capitalistic order that is dominant in America.

Although Hannity claims to support the idea of freedom from government interference, he does not recognize a right to privacy. Government may interfere with people's private (as opposed to economic) lives in numerous ways, by banning abortion or gay marriage, snooping through people's library records, tapping their phone conversations, and so on. Hannity leaves these aspects of freedom out of his discussion (except for abortion, which he reinterprets as a fetus' right to life.)

Liberals, of course, are undermining everybody else's freedoms by insisting on such things as freedom of expression or the right to dissent. Although he claims to believe that the "vast majority of liberals are good, sincere, well-meaning people," Hannity demonizes liberals throughout the book with his choice of words. Liberals are "rich and powerful," "elitists," "unpatriotic," "disgruntled," "out of step," "protesters," and "radical." They "whine," "went ballistic," "were hyperventilating," promote policies that are "reckless," "indefensible," and "irresponsible," and have "revulsion" for American ideals and "an aversion to God." They have a "bizarre mindset," engage in "perverse thinking," and make "illogical leaps." They even "have a disturbing habit of winking at evil." But amazingly, Hannity still LIKES some liberals. He is so magnanimous towards the poor, benighted liberals that Hannity goes out on a limb to say, "Liberals are not responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001." At least, not in the sense that the hijackers were card-carrying members of the Democratic Party.

Hannity preaches his Gospel of Freedom for the Almighty Dollar with every trick taught by Fox News, including fear mongering ("a suitcase bomb with nuclear materials" could be the next terrorist attack); use of phony Democrats (Dick Morris as an expert on the Clinton White House), echoing the Republican message (using as sources GOP and White House press releases, Heritage Foundation studies, the Washington Times, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, transcripts of his own show, and so on); omission of key details (it was Republican Gerald Ford, not a Democrat, who instituted the ban on assassinations of foreign leaders); and outright falsehoods (Reagan never raised taxes). Hannity also is incredibly ignorant. He claims that the U.S. Constitution laid the basis for doing away with slavery. Guess that's why we needed four years of war AND a constitutional amendment to get rid of slavery for good.

Hannity's book is useful only because it sheds light on how little he really understands about freedom and civil liberties. If those who voted for George W. Bush share this vision of "freedom," we do indeed live in a scary world.

{Note to Readers: This is the first of a series of reviews of books written by Fox News personalities or promoted on the news channel. Please feel free to suggest books for review in the future.)

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