Thursday, June 12, 2008

Freedom of Speech vs. Harmonious Society

Adam Liptak at the NYT has an interesting article about freedom of speech and how it's defined differently in various democratic countries. His thesis: in the US the freedom is basic, it includes the right to lie, offend and even preach hatred though not to incite to violence; in other countries where history has had its ugly chapters freedom of speech is sometimes curtailed so as to protect those societies from the proven worst in themselves; and in Canada, where there is no such troublesome past, freedom of speech is unabashedly curtailed so as to promote societal harmony.

While his pride at the American exceptionalism is probably justified, it might be worth adding that the very-non-free-speech ideology of political correctness is an American invention, also. PC isn't enshrined in the Constitution, thank God, nor will it ever be amended into it, one hopes, but it certainly reflects a powerful strand of American thought.

Personally, I'm all for more freedom, not less. I say this in spite of the fact that too much of the lying, offense and incitement to hate is directed against Jews, and always has been these past 2,000-some years. (And will continue to be). The Jew haters should be given the freedom to unveil themselves for what they are, so that we'll know to recognize them and protect ourselves, and also so that we'll be able to talk back so that their audiences also recognize them for what they are. Shutting them up won't make them go away, it will merely make them harder to find and combat.

My position, however, assumes a market place of freely expressed ideas, and the ability of people to think. The ability is there more often than not, I hope, but it shows itself only if there are competing ideas with which it can do its thing. When the spewing of hatred happens in sealed echo chambers where no other voices are allowed (i.e. where there is no freedom of speech), then the endless incitement surely is dangerous. Freedom of speech requires real freedom in order to work.

(This, by the way, was my motive for challenging that non-Arab who called himself Ibrahim, and then anyone else. I don't need them to shut up. I dare them to stand forward in a free and open market place, where their ideas can be cleansed by the sunlight of close inspection).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

FROM CAROL HERMAN

Yup. In a famous Supreme Court decision on pornography ... the "taste limits" are there "when you see it." But it still hasn't been clearly defined. Which is a good thing.

In Israel, the military has been phenominal. But politics? Sort'a like temple politics in America. Sleazy for no reason. Petty for even less reason.

But what can you do? Jews really like Marx. Even though, in America, in the beginning, the ball began rolling around 1905, with Sinclair Lewis's expose on the slaughter-houses. Working conditions were very poor throughout industry, as well. And, poor working people began to believe in Eutopia. Heck, Sinclair Lewis was even a candidate for the presidency. So was Eugene V. Debs.

Those movements went nowhere. But, alas, for the reputation that Jews were "smarter" ... so they were more of a threat ... The USA cut off the "open borders" that had let in so many from Europe. And, at such a crucial time. In the 1920's.

A cousin of mine is a "folklorist." Which falls within the English Department of an American University. In one of her books, she opens with two black gals talking to each other. And, one of them states that when you "use your lip" you get beaten up. Free speech, after all has consequences, if not actual limitations.

Where we've lost seeing any free speech is in the analysis that once captivated the daily readers of newspapers. (You bought the paper that catered to your beliefs. But they were wild, and open, in their views.)

Not today. Not any longer. Today, all you see are games. Olmert is trying to survive. And, the "games" get played by the Likud, with their 12 seats. And, Ehud Barak, who really has only one. Wait and see what happens in the next election. Because Amir Peretz is gonna do his best to destroy Barak. Just in case Barak isn't dooing enough on his own, slip sliding around. Saying things that aren't really true. Or at least have very little basis in fact.

Meanwhile, in America, I kid you not. Morris Talansky got into a fight with his dentist. The 75 year old Talansky doesn't want to pay his dentist's bill. So, the dentist went to court. And, yesterday, Talansky DID NOT show up. There is now another court date set for July. And, if Talansky fails to show? The judge says he'll sign the order to have Talansky arrested.

All Omert has asked for, so far, is to let Talansky be cross-examined. Yes, he was entitled to postpone this; because the prosecutiton withheld their evidence.

And, believe it or not, in our court system; both in America and in Israel, the rules book says that the defense gets the prosecutor's materials, so that a clear defense can be mounted.

It seems the presstitutes aren't aware of this at all. They're still screaming, the way the press in America went about screaming, when the Monica Lewinsky story broke loose.

At that time? There seems to be enough Americans with compassion, that it became obvious THE PEOPLE wanted Bill Clinton to stay in office!

Oh, if only such a good thing can come about in Israel. Instead of the kookie stuff. Where Katsav can be accused of rape; and most Israeli men refuse, even, to make eye-contact.

Katsav raped no one.

Mazuz is abusing da' law.

And, if Olmert has to leave office, I suppose, then, all everyone will get will be the books. Which always comes afterwards.

They say Dan Halutz is writing one.

You think you won't learn something? I think your eyes, for the first time, will see things that somehow the Winograd commission couldn't find. Or? They just weren't looking.

So much for "political missions." In Israel, political missions are a bust. If not? I hope God is watching.

Anonymous said...

FROM CAROL HERMAN

I would like you to join me in hearing (I'm listening to the audio version), of David McCullough's 7-Part Miniseries: THE MAKING OF JOHN ADAMS.

Among his first points is tha men don't ride events; but that events, themselves are in the saddle.

I also know that slavery couldn't be resolved, even as so many things of genius takes hold. And, America, the tiny, wins the Revolutionary War against the British.

Yes, this story is far away from Israel. Ben Gurion didn't pick the American system. But here? The American system itself had growing pains. It didn't burst forward in one fell swoop. And, because of the framework of the US Constitution, it grew strength from division. So, you'd learn "harmonious" isn't your friend.

And, it's human nature to battle for positions.

In America? Well, the next big thing is that the country started off SECULAR. While the European world believed you need to bring in the religious folk. God knows why!

Also, what America has done is disprove the old Greek axioms; which is that you need "Swiss Cantons," or Greek City States, if you want a Republic. But it would never work over a large portion.

Not true. By moving to a secular world, America, as a Nation began. And, men had to depend on themselves. Pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

Today? Israel has been winning the wars, just like the old colonists did. Against all odds.

It may have been George Washington who said it. I don't remember. But "God doesn't have to be there, if you have the French on your side, against the British."

Making bed-mates has a lot to do with success. And, yes. Israel has been developing a lot of successful diplomatic steps. You're not surprised? I used to think that Jewish diplomatic pants dancers always wore the baggy pants, worn on the stages of vaudeville.

I think I was expecting too much of Ben Gurion. And, yes, the current in-fighting in the Knesset has bypassed the "circus" ... and landed instead deep in mafia country. Why?

When Jews lived on the streets of NY, where Italians couldn't avoid the family connections to the inbred mafiosa, the Jews weren't part of "that" problem.

Oh, yes. Anti-Semitism flowed out on Sundays, from the pulpits of many Christian Churches; with the worst being the Catholic's claims that "Jews killed their man that flew."

Today? You'd be surprised. But the old world's dead. And, the old systems can't re-grow all the customers they've lost.

Even the super-religous brain damaged fools, no longer have the clout those "grandmas" did, when they ruled their homes with rolling pins. And, their husbands, every Friday, dropped their paychecks on the counter. (In another story, these women, many not English speakers, invested. They did so, because in the 1950's the American government decided to tax savings accounts. And, these women had saved up money their husbands didn't know they had kept.)

You think I'm kidding?

In the old world, the men who sold stocks, didn't know what to do with women customers. And, you wouldn't exactly want to "churn" the mother of a mafioso. Anyway. But these women walked across the street from the Dime Savings Bank. And, when they spoke to a broker all they said were "BLUE CHIPS." So, you couldn't churn them, anyway. And, all that paper was saved in safety deposit boxes; back at the bank.

There are good things and bad things when you look back. But similar to the rule that you can't "step into the water at the same spot," because the water's in flux ... you can't look back and make the past re-appear.

Imagine this. THe American experiment worked! When it came to be torn apart, we got LINCOLN. What? 80 years after the start?

When I worry about Israel, I can use what I've learned here (in the USA), to understand that Israel is on good footing. And, that just like the British lost to the "rag tag" Revolutionaries ... so too can the arabs lose. They spend money by the bucketful. But they're still not in charge of discovering anything. Setting up a middle class that thrives, with schools and books. Even beginning to understand how the secular universe even works.

If you want to bet? They're not on a learning curve where they will make it.

And, both America and Israel, want to stay civilized. Sure. We can do damage. But that means "going savage." And, that's what would shut off the lights.

Morris Talansky isn't going to shut off the lights!

And, today's anti-Semitism has to contend with hitler turning out to be a clown. Heck, he destroyed germany's intellectual clout. If you don't believe me? Then you don't know how European Jews used to look up to German Jews as having "arrived." While those "beyond the pale," were peasants.

Our eyes are too small to see the big picture.

And, I'm proud Jews fight back! I'm less proud of the USA's "limosine liberals." But I don't view them as a hardy group.

It's stuff like this that gets inherited; and it's this stuff that eventually the new young generation, ahead, uses to reshape their worlds.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

We agree on that one, Yaacov. When democracies punish free speech, for instance through deportations (e.g. Ernst Z√ľndel's in Canada, or Norman Finkelstein's in Israel), the big loser is democracy itself.

I acknowledge and appreciate your true commitment to those ideas, which is evident in your allowing me to freely comment on your blog.

On onother issue, I see you've decided to dump Popper altogether and call me a non-Arab, dropping the word "probably" you formerly (and wisely) used, and dismissing the possibility that there are things about me you may not know.

Of course, you're wrong and I'm not a non-Arab. But I won't sue you, I believe in free speech.