Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Terrorism or Free Speech

This is why the Bush administration is so desperate to curtail civil liberties. From today's New York Times:

In bringing the case against Mr. Arian in 2003, the department relied on the easing of legal restrictions under the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act to present years of wiretaps on the defendants in a criminal context.

In the conversations cited by prosecutors, Mr. Arian was heard raising money for Palestinian causes, hailing recently completed attacks against Israel with associates overseas, calling suicide bombers "martyrs" and referring to Jews as "monkeys and swine" who would be "damned" by Allah.

There are things about our freedom of speech that I'm deeply uncomfortable with. I'm deeply uncomfortable with neo-nazi propaganda. I'm deeply uncomfortable with right-wing Christian condemnation of homosexuality.

What do you guys think? Here are some deeply, deeply disturbing links to aryan-power and neo-nazi sites. Don't click, if you're uncomfortable doing so. I read friggin' everything, and this stuff turns my stomach.

Have we passed the place in our cultural history where it is either necessary or wise to continue to allow this stuff? Does freedom of speech still have a place? Does it still need to apply to these extremes?

I would argue absolutely, yes. I'm curious, though, what y'all have to say about it.


Babsbitchin said...


Lisa Spangenberg said...

Yes, free speech applies.

I want to know what the idiots, the hate-mongers, the Bill O'Reillys and Neo-Nazis think.

I want to know how to avoid them--and control the damage they would inflict on innocent bystanders.

And if we start restricting the speech of the idots, the nutters, the hate mongers, then who's next? People who want to wish others a happy holiday instead of a joyful Christmas?

Jean Marie said...

I'm really tired of hate, period. I chose not to click on any of those sites, Mac, I can't handle it. I know what they're about, what they believe, I'm not oblivious-I can't deal w/ reading/hearing it on a regular basis, it's too upsetting for me. It's an extreme visceral reaction for me and it gives me nightmares-seriously. I've always believed there's evil in this world, but, I can't always look it straight in the eye.

The above being said, yes, even "they" deserve freedom of speech. It's a good reminder that, there but for the Grace of God go I.

Merry Christmas to everyone and a special one to you, Mac.

Dawno said...

I found a brilliant speech given in 1955 by Alexander Meiklejohn about the First Amendment and freedom of speech. I encourage you to read it.

This quote (found in section 4) really spoke to me: "the First Amendment is not, in the first instance, concerned with the "right" of the speaker to this or that. It is concerned with the authority of the hearers to meet together, to discuss, and to hear discussion by speakers of their own choice, whatever they may deem worthy of their consideration."

Mark Pettus said...

Mac, I'm sure you know that I'm a reporter. Freedom of speech is not an abstract thing. It is simple, and practical, and it is both practiced and under fire every single day. We have to fight for the right of those we disagree with, because if we're honest, then there are those that disagree with us.

I am very afraid for our rights as Americans. If the goal of terrorists is to frighten us so much that we abandon our principals and foresake our freedom, that they terrorize us into becoming something other than the great experiment in freedom and democracy, then bin Laden seems to have won, and our government has surrendered.

I can't blame Bush, or the Republicans without spreading the blame across the isles. Following 9/11, there was no "opposition party". Everyone abandoned their principals in the face of public fear. The only real advantage to having a representative democracy is to avoid rule by a panicked mob (which destroyed the original democracy in Athens), but when our representatives become the panicked mob, all is lost.

I hope we see the repeal of the Patriot Act after the next general elections, and I hope we remember why we limited the power of the FBI and the CIA, and put those limits back into place, to protect ourselves.

Remember, when one man can sit in prison, charged with no crime, unable to defend himself from the accusation that he is a terrorist, any man can, any woman can, any of us can, and we'd be powerless to do anything about it.

Kira said...


Thanks for that great link. I'd add my own comment, but really, yours summed up everything I wished to express.

Frank Baron said...

Nicely said Mark.

Mac, I didn't click on the links either. 50-some years on the planet has exposed me to enough crap. I don't need to go looking for more.

Yeah, we need to let whackjobs operate in daylight. They're more dangerous when they work in the dark.

Mac said...

Terrific Link, Dawno--thanks.

Mark, Frank, I completely understand not clicking--and that's why I warned folks. I felt an obligation to link, to offer evidence regarding my distaste for some of the sites in question.

It's scary for me that I do actually encounter those on the far left who believe that censorship of those they disagree with is both appropriate and defensible.

As writers, words are the last thing we can afford to be afraid of.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

For all that I cannot stand what some people say about race and religion, I personally think freedom of speech has to apply to everyone. Period. Even those who might speak hate for my country, ought not to be deemed 'terrorist' because of their speaking their views.

This reminds me of someone who lived in Germany in WWII, who recounted how things worsened over time by the gradual taking away of people's rights. The person said that they never complained about their neighbors being taken away by the Nazis. They never complained and never complained, until finally the Nazis came for them. By that time, as the person recounts, "There was no one to speak up for me."

Knowing Human Nature, It's understandable that that's just as much a possibility with the U.S.A., as it is with Nazi Germany. It's simply a matter of getting the wrong people into the Government at the wrong time.

This is why I hold to the view that we must allow freedom of speech for all people, whether we like their speech or not. If one person's freedom to speak their views is taken away, what's to stop the Government from taking everyone's rights to speak their views, away from them?