Saturday, January 15, 2011

Freedom of Speech Continually Threatened

The exponential growth of the Internet over the last several years has helped advance the technology greatly in a short time, but the threat to freedom of expression and exchange has become an omnipresent concern. Recent events in Arizona are just the latest rallying point for free speech opponents -- as these events unfolded, much of the Internet was already engaged in a discussion about the censorship of the American classic, Huckleberry Finn -- and make no mistake: These fascists truly support censorship and truly want to affect it.

While certain politicos and political efforts/organizations most certainly are guilty of heated and irresponsible rhetoric, and such nonsense absolutely can affect others (and does, and has), I'm not sure anyone can point to a case in which the contents of Huckleberry Finn, alone, caused this kind of furor. And the problem with conceding anything to these authoritarians is that they will abuse it; if we agree to temper the offensive political rhetoric, proponents of censorship will argue to extend and deepen those restrictions to everything they deem offensive.

Following the Arizona shootings, pundits immediately began blaming political rhetoric and Sara Palin in particular -- long before Loughner's extensively-documented troubled past came to light. On the surface, the accusations sounded reasonable and, to be sure, some of Palin's (and associates') politicking is in bad taste, but the truth is that Jared Lee Loughner was undeniably insane at the time of the shooting and documented evidence proves he had been suffering for a long time.

While heated political rhetoric certainly appears to have played a part in his "decision making process," make no mistake about it: said "process" was diseased! Loughner suffers from debilitating mental illness -- to the extent that he could not keep a job, attend school, nor maintain relationships -- and anything would have, in time, become the focus of this illness, be it music, religion, whatever. Loughner's is not a case for censorship; Loughner's is a case for better mental health awareness, outreach, and treatment.

And all of this was lost in the truly demoniacal rhetoric of those clamoring for censorship. In fact, less than a week after the shootings in Arizona, Canadian radio stations were told to quit playing Dire Straits' song Money for Nothin' because it contains the word "faggot."

I'm not certain that Huckleberry Finn or Money for Nothin' has ever directly prompted anyone to mass murder, or just general violence, but I'm 99% certain that if either ever did, the person who actually carried-out those actions was operating at less than full capacity. And the fact that both works considered classics in their fields, are technically "antiques," and have been in circulation in their unadulterated forms for all this time without more people having committed similar actions due to their exposure to them, proves my point.

Yes, rhetoric can be used to deadly effect and certainly does affect people, but if generally offending someone is all it takes to incite them to violence, then that individual is unstable! Of course, the media has been pummeling us non-stop with nasty political diatribe from all sides for months now, and that most certainly does fit the definition of "incitement," but without the freedom to speak-out against their abuse, we would have no way to educate others or combat it.

There is a pleasant medium and, for the most part, everyone except the politicians and media opt for it more often than not. As greater numbers of people come online, more of "mainstream society" is being exposed to material it considers offensive, and they are certain to decry it, but sweeping legislature is proven to be abused as quickly as it is put into place. Greater numbers of people also means greater numbers of mentally, and/or emotionally, unstable individuals, who can neither be used as examples of the supposed "harm" such material causes nor held completely responsible for their actions. The politicians and media who fuel this simmering incitement can, and should be (though they will never accept, nor show any, responsibility).

Attacking our Freedom of Speech is a "misery loves company" approach at throwing us all under the bus to avoid said responsibility; the politicians and media are playing the Westboro Baptist card.

Make no mistake about it: Telling you what you can and cannot say absolutely is mind-control, as you are forced to stop and consider your every thought in the context of how it will be received and affect those around you -- even if you consider their reactions extreme, ill-informed, or simply manufactured to draw attention -- under threat of punishment. This constant self-censorship wears-down the natural thought processes and taxes your faculties to the point that it becomes much easier -- even efficient -- to simply accept whatever you are told to say/think.

© C Harris Lynn, 2011

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