LOS ANGELES, April 10 (UPI) -- As Iraqis celebrate their newfound freedom to debate and question authority some Americans remain intent on depriving fellow citizens of the same right.
Call it ironic or call it absurd, but Janeane Garofalo's political enemies are doing their best to punish her for exercising her freedom to speak -- even as they cheer the U.S. campaign to secure that same freedom for the people of Iraq.
MSNBC gossip columnist Jeannette Walls has reported that ABC has been deluged with telephone calls and e-mail messages threatening to boycott the network and its sponsors if the network adds an upcoming Garofalo show to its prime time schedule.
Garofalo is scheduled to star in a comedy pilot -- yet to be shot -- called "Slice 'O Life," as a producer on a TV newsmagazine show. The pilot was being considered as a possible midseason replacement at ABC.
Network officials said Thursday that ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., would not comment on the MSNBC story.
A representative for Garofalo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One protesting e-mail sender, identified in the MSNBC story as Jon Alvarez, suggested that Garofalo was a traitor.
"We do not wish to see the faces of liberal Hollywood, particularly those that provided aid and comfort to (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein," he wrote. "We will stand up and fight for our right to request their exclusion from shows and sponsors that seek our attention."
The New York Post, which has been very energetic in its condemnation of high-profile critics of President Bush, picked up the MSNBC story and ran it with the headline: "The high cost of Bush-bashing."
The paper also reported that executives at Pepsi and Unilever are debating whether to air a commercial that the Dixie Chicks shot for Lipton Brisk. The ad was made before the trio's lead singer, Natalie Maines, landed on the American right's enemies list with a remark that the Chicks were ashamed to be from the same state as Bush, Texas.
Maines apologized, but forgiveness for the Chicks has been hard to come by in the world of country music.
Now comes word that the baseball Hall of Fame has canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of "Bull Durham," citing highly publicized anti-war statements by two of the movie's stars -- Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.
Robbins played the callow minor league pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh in writer-director Ron Shelton's 1988 baseball comedy. Sarandon played Annie Savoy, a baseball groupie who tutors LaLoosh in the ways of the game.
Hall president Dale Petroskey -- who once worked as an assistant press secretary during the Reagan administration -- notified Sarandon and Robbins that their opposition to the war could jeopardize U.S. troops, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger," wrote Petroskey. "As an institution, we stand behind our president and our troops in this conflict."
It is only natural that supporters of Bush and Operation Iraqi Liberty would be upset with opponents of the president and the war. Whether the war's opponents have engaged in treason remains highly debatable, but criticizing the president -- even in time of war -- falls considerably short of that standard.
And yet, president-bashing -- which was widely treated as sporting fun during the previous administration -- now seems to have joined a growing list of unforgivable political offenses in America.
Would any American seriously wish to live in a country where expressing a political point of view is a punishable offense?
The question -- which has been around for a while -- is getting quite a workout these days.