Tag: free speech

Semi-free Speech

I try to avoid the whole WWJD game.

And I don’t apply this rule solely to Jesus. I also avoid asking what would Gandhi do, or Abraham Lincoln do, or Jimi Hendrix do.

The reason is that we can’t possibly know what these individuals would think of modern problems because they are so very, very dead. And whenever someone asks that question, the answer is inevitably, “Well, Jesus would agree with my exact political views, of course.”

However, I am going to break my personal rule by asking what would MLK think of last week’s Trump rally in Chicago, where fistfights erupted, some crazy old lady flashed a Nazi salute, and the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for president cancelled his speech.

trump rally

As I understand it, Martin Luther King was in his fair share of tense situations. And yet I don’t recall hearing of a single time when he shouted down someone who disagreed with him, or reveled in acts of violence. He simply didn’t do that.

And yet, I see plenty of liberals out there who insist that we “won” in Chicago. What kind of odd reasoning is this?

Shutting down one bigot for one night is hardly a victory for tolerance and respect. Because “even the most ardent anti-Trump among us should lament that a political speech was canceled due to fears of violence.”

Yes, I know that Trump is loathsome and would happily take away your freedom of speech if he could. That’s not the point. The issue is that “no matter how right you think you are, you are never so clearly right, never so without fault, never so pure, that you have any moral authority to shut down the other side with violence.”

So preventing Trump from speaking in Chicago was not a bold cultural statement. It is also not going to change anyone’s vote in November.

All is did was make leftists feel good about themselves for a couple of hours.

Now, I understand the frustration. And I don’t know why apparently rational Americans are supporting a man who loudly proclaims his bigotry and misogyny.

Maybe it’s what the late, brilliant monologist Spaulding Gray believed, which is that there are times and places where malevolence just appears. As Gray said, there is “perhaps an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia… and America.”

 


Quick on the Draw

Recently, I wrote how everyone (except for you and me) is prone to furious outbursts of racist invective at the slightest provocation.

That got me thinking about a related issue.

Namely, why are conservatives so quick to defend someone who spews racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful speech?

After all, it wasn’t liberals who said, “Hey, that’s cool, Mr. Oldman. Tell us more about your sophisticated sociopolitical outlook.”

bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman1

Nope, it’s primarily conservatives who say it’s no big deal, or that the First Amendment protects such language, or that it’s time to take a bold stand against the insidious forces of political correctness.

Now, I’ve written entire posts about how pulling out the First Amendment or bashing PC is a loser’s lament, so I’m not going to repeat those points here. And to be clear, there are plenty of conservative libertarians who support the right to free speech. Just as there are plenty of liberals who would like to see Bill O’Reilly legally forced to shut up. However, these perspectives are not so closely aligned with the general philosophy of right wing and left wing.

What I’m talking about here is your basic social conservative, particularly when it comes to hate speech. It is a bit disturbing how swiftly these individuals rush to defend — or even praise — idiotic, racist bullshit.

I would like to think conservatives are earnest lovers of the concept of free expression. However, in many cases, these are the same people who threaten legal action if someone says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And remember back during the Iraq War, when up to 40 percent of conservatives believed that protests against the conflict should not be allowed (and that was constitutionally protected free speech, no less).

In fact, there is some evidence that this issue pops up in the ultimate justice-is-blind venue: the US Supreme Court. A recent study found that “liberal justices are (overall) more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” and that “conservatives on the court are far more inclined to bias than their more liberal colleagues.”

Conservatives have historically shown little love for the idea of allowing people to speak their mind, and in truth, live and let live is not traditionally associated with the conservative movement. Whether it is gays getting married, or a mosque being built down the block, or some anarchist burning an American flag, there are usually conservatives there denouncing and demanding and denigrating. Rarely do you hear a Fox news anchor defend such actions.

But if some washed-up action star says that Mexicans are wetbacks, then conservatives abruptly clutch the flag to their chests and say, “It’s his right, damn it.”

But once again, we have to ask, why is this?

Well, maybe it’s because defending morons gives conservatives the perfect opportunity to appear principled and astute. Or maybe it’s because so many of their heroes are actually, well, racists. Or maybe it’s because these comments reveal what so many of them are really thinking.

Damn, I hope it’s not that last one.

 


We Don’t Need No Education

When I was in grade school, the principal or some other authority figure would occasionally pepper the morning announcements with a dose of Spanish. He or she might get on the PA to say, “Today is Monday, or lunes,” or inform us that hola means hello.

Well, that kind of commie prank doesn’t fly in Texas, where almost 40 percent of the population is Latino.

Recently, the principal of a middle school in the city of Hempstead told her students that they were forbidden from speaking Spanish anywhere on the school property, even if it was a private conversation.  And yes, she announced this policy via the PA system, just to make sure everybody knew she wasn’t fucking around about it.

Microphone_studio

Clearly, this was an attempt by a government employee to make English the official language at a government-funded institution (which is unconstitutional) and to limit the free speech of US residents (which is way, way unconstitutional). So the school board, in the parlance of the day, responded by declining to renew the principal’s contract.

That means her ass was fired.

Of course, it’s always interesting to note how true patriots are quick to eliminate other people’s rights because that’s, you know, the American way and everything. Such individuals rarely have any knowledge or interest in the US Constitution, which is the document they supposedly revere.

But in case there were any people in Hempstead who supported the principal’s attempt to be a one-woman language police force, they may have been brought up short by the man at the school board meeting who “read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).”

So it’s clear that this idea goes against the Founding Fathers themselves. Damn, what’s an English-only aficionado to do? Certainly, they cannot take comfort in the fact that “there’s no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and…in most of the rest of the world, it’s common to speak two or more languages.”

In essence, kids in Hempstead can keep jabbering away in English, Spanish, Spanglish, French, Latin, Elvish, or whatever else they want.

Good for them.

 


Listen Up

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

—The First Amendment

We’ve seen some ugly incidents aimed at Latinos in the past year, such as the racist girls from Arizona and the marching band that chanted slurs.

Incidents such as these provoke outrage from people who point out, rightly, that such behavior is offensive. But then some flustered individual will defend the racist girls or the marching band or whatever by proclaiming, in full-on righteous fury, “Whatever happened to freedom of speech in this country?” The implication is that daring to criticize someone for vile behavior is antithetical to American values, and maybe even illegal.

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