Mark Steyn highlights a right that Americans have that most of the rest of the world doesn’t, Freedom of Speech. As it’s enshrined in the First Amendment, most Americans are taught about it from an early age–or at least, they used to be.
Now, Americans are taught that some speech is free. Other speech is “hate” or “objectionable” or, on the internet, “spam”. Especially if the person doing the labeling of the speech disagrees with it.
Americans have been lectured over the last six years that we “were out of touch” with the rest of the world, especially the European democracies. This supposed disconnect with the rest of the world was used as evidence that changes were needed.
One of the critical differences between America and the rest of the west is that America has a First Amendment and the rest don’t. And a lot of them are far too comfortable with the notion that in free societies it is right and proper for the state to regulate speech.
He then goes on to list some of the countries Americans normally think of having free speech and how those countries have recently dealt with speech they considered ‘disagreeable’.
* The response of the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security to the Danish cartoons was to propose a press charter that would oblige newspapers to exercise “prudence” on, ah, certain controversial subjects.
* The response of Tony Blair’s ministry to the problems of “Londonistan” was to propose a sweeping law dramatically constraining free discussion of religion.
* At the end of her life, Oriana Fallaci was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland and sundry other jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely disagreeable but criminal.
* In France, Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other “anti-racist” groups who believed opinions held by a fictional character in one of his novels were not merely disagreeable but criminal.
* Up north, the Canadian Islamic Congress announced the other day that at least two of Canada’s “Human Rights Commissions” – one federal, one provincial – had agreed to hear their complaints that their “human rights” had been breached by this “flagrantly Islamophobic” excerpt from my book, as published in the country’s bestselling news magazine, Maclean’s.
He provides a chilling look at the Canadian government’s method of dealing with disagreeable, upsetting speech. He also provides for the defense of his best-selling book, America Alone, which has upset Muslims north of the border.
If the Canadian Islamic Congress wants to disagree with my book, fine. Join the club. But, if they want to criminalize it, nuts. That way lies madness.
America Alone was a bestseller in Canada, made all the literary Top Ten hit parades, Number One at Amazon Canada, Number One on The National Post’s national bestseller list, Number One on various local sales charts from statist Quebec to cowboy Alberta, etc. I find it difficult to imagine that a Canadian “human rights” tribunal would rule that all those Canadians who bought the book were wrong and that it is beyond the bounds of acceptable (and legal) discourse in Canada.
As I say, I find it difficult to imagine. But not impossible. These “human rights” censors started with small fry – obscure websites, “homophobes” who made the mistake of writing letters to local newspapers or quoting the more robust chunks of Leviticus – and, because they got away with it, it now seems entirely reasonable for a Canadian pseudo-court to sit in judgment on the content of a mainstream magazine and put a big old “libel chill” over critical areas of public debate.
The “progressive” left has grown accustomed to the regulation of speech, thinking it just a useful way of sticking it to Christian fundamentalists, right-wing columnists, and other despised groups. They don’t know they’re riding a tiger that in the end will devour them, too.
Hate speech, hate crimes: the whole idea that some groups or speech have a “special”, extra-constitutional right to protection, oftentimes at the expense of the rest of society. That this speech, these groups need more protection than the Consitution itself can provide, is a recent one in America.
The entire category of hate crimes should offend Americans. It attempts to criminalize thought processes in a manner that smacks of political correctness and thought-policing. The criminality of murder springs from the loss of life, not from the motive. Regardless of whether a husband hates a wife or a stranger hates a minority, murder remains murder, assault remains assault, and all should be vigorously prosecuted regardless of apparent bigotry or lack of same.
Congress shouldn’t expand hate-crime categories; they should eliminate them. Crimes like murder, assault, and the like don’t belong under federal jurisdiction in any case. The states have jurisdiction over these crimes, unless someone can prove a violation of the Constitution, which usually applies to such crimes committed under color of authority.
But surely, losing freedom of speech couldn’t happen in America? Not with our First Amendment?
Think about it the next time an aggrieved group trots out the label “hate speech”.
Think about this the next time a college or university disciplines, expels or suspends a student for saying something the college thinks will “foster an unfavorable environment”.
Think about it the next time the NCAA disciplines a college sports team for using a Native American nickname–whether the tribe in question approved it or not.
Think about it the next time protesters disrupt a meeting, debate or speech– conservatives are the targets at the moment, but it could be liberals in the future–by physically attacking them.
Think about it the next time some group calls on Congress or a state legislature to designate disagreeable speech as a “hate crime”.
Think about it the next time Environmentalists compare any dissenting opinions, research or information that runs counter to “Global Warming” or “Man-made Climate Change” to Holocaust Denial, i.e., “hate speech”.
Think about it the next time the headlines scream “Man Arrested for Child Porn” and a closer reading finds that his crime was not possessing any child porn, but images that “appeared” to be of the offending material.
And lastly, think about it VERY hard the next time you hear of a law being considered to outlaw various speech on the Internet–arguably, the freest forum left where Americans and others around the world can speak their minds.
It can’t happen here in America?
Think about it.