The Selective Censorship of Speech
Since this country's inception a variety of our rulers have, from time to time, impinged Americans' freedoms of expression. For example, John Adams' Sedition Act outlawed critical writing and speech against the U.S.; a 1907 Supreme Court decision favored nationalism over property rights and free expression; in 2001, a reporter was interrogated by the Secret Service for writing an editorial asking Jesus Christ to smite George W. Bush; and in 2006 a man was jailed for assault after telling Dick Cheney U.S. policy in Iraq was reprehensible. While there have been numerous governmental freedom faux pas, the truth is we are blind to the true stewards of censorship -the American public.
Granted, our public servants make much better boogeymen, but it is our own cowardice that facilitates the further erosion of freedom. Every time we say, "There ought to be a law," apologize for expressing ourselves or use our right of expression to stifle someone else's views, we are guilty. Perhaps it has always been this way. Maybe somewhere along the line a great many people simply decided they have the right not to be offended. They took donations, formed groups and greased the palms of those who passed legislation on so-called hate speech and decency legislation when all these citizen tyrants needed to do was ignore the insulting material, thereby removing its power.
First they changed "manhole cover" to "person-hole cover," and "chairman" to "Chairperson." The next thing you know, retarded people are no longer retarded, they're mentally challenged. And while I'm still white, blacks are now African American--regardless of whether they were born in Idaho or Sudan. And while I was born in America, I am not a native American, and I'm still not sure whether to refer to Indians-feathers, not dots-as Indians or Native Americans.
In his book N*gger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, Randall Kennedy discusses the controversy over who can and cannot employ the so-called N-word. The idea that there exists a race-specific license on what words one can and cannot use is nearly as frightening as it is ridiculous. And, as asinine, juvenile and repulsive as I find people who dislike others based on race, religion or sexual preference, they have every right to engage in free speech, even the hateful kind. As with every other infringement on liberty, those oppressors claim to stifle us for our own safety and mental health. Of course, the result from subjective enforcement is an evermore skewed sense of who can say what and when.
Even more contradictory is the disparity between epithets the PC police will and won't allow. While I can get away with saying "Redneck, whitey, cracker, Canuck, pollock, flapdragon, frog, limey, Mohawk and mongrel," no one would stand for me calling an Irishman a "mic" or an Italian a "wop." And before you break out the "Death to Gohs" stationery, I'm not dropping slurs just for the hell of it. My job consists of words, language and the nuances therein. And few things terrify me more than being told I am barred from using certain aspects of the language simply because I may offend someone. If I cannot write or say one word today, then what won't I be able to write or say tomorrow?
I'm not calling for people to start dropping F-bombs or N-words willy-nilly in newspapers, on TV or radio, and I'm certainly not begging Buddha to bugger Bush, but when a radio shock-jock loses his job for saying, "Nappy-headed hoes," or anti-freedom zealots 'round the country scream for the head of the editor of a college rag who used "Fuck" in a headline, political correctness has gone too far.
I doubt not for a second that Imus' poor word choice hurt some feelings, but if he would have made nasty comments about fat people, white people, Canadian people or gays, he would today remain unscathed-Now where is the decency in that?
Like Spencer Tracy's character Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind" said, "I don't swear for the hell of it. Language is a poor enough means of communication. We've got to use all the words we've got. Besides, there are damn few words anybody understands." Following is a three-step emergency plan for those of you easily offended by free speech:
1. Stock up on tissue paper - Warning: Excessive weeping may require something more absorbent such as a beach towel or bedspread.
2. Do not turn off the radio nor close the offending book or newspaper - the side effects of doing so include personal responsibility and diminished indignation.
3. Punch yourself in the stomach, because you are a whiny little dork and I don't have time to do it for you - Repeat as necessary.
Even with all the expletives, slang and jive on the planet, there is nothing more damaging to the fruition of ". . . liberty and justice for all" than the censorship of free expression.
It's Not About Freedom, But Whose Freedom
Freedom is the ultimate double-edged sword. It can allow us to reach our dreams or construct our nightmares. It allows people to make something of their lives or make their lives a mess. It allows governments to become havens for happiness or dens of despair. It permits politicians to wax eloquently or spew rubbish. Freedom allows us to be informed and entertained or deceived and indoctrinated. It can provide our children with a better future or no future at all. It cannot be destroyed; it can only be redistributed.
Liberals love to wail on about freedom of this and freedom of that, waving a litany of freedoms we are on our way to losing it we do not blindly follow their lead. That litany typically includes freedom of speech, freedom of lifestyle, freedom of choice, freedom from religion and so on. As usual, liberals live by presenting themselves as saviors of freedom, noble knights out to slay the intolerant, racist, greedy and insensitive dragon of conservatism. Conservatives eat our freedoms for lunch, the liberals tell us.
We are warned of phone-tapping, violations of privacy, random searches, profiling, invasions into our private lives and bedrooms and all manner of foul and sinister wounds on our freedom at the hands of conservatives. At the end of the day, liberals are nothing but sly mechanics who wave a little oil in the finger as a sign that we need major car repairs and we better have them service our car at regular intervals as well. They are not about where our freedom can take us but rather how our freedom can be taken from us. Oh, by the way, they are the ones taking our freedom. Ironic, isn't it?
It is About Redistribution
I have come to believe that freedom is never lost from the scene; it is merely redistributed. The freedom you lose is the freedom someone else gains. If I put you in prison or stop you from expressing yourself, I am taking your freedom from you but using that freedom for myself. I am creating a freedom, albeit destructive, for myself to confine or shut you up.
The liberal will tell you that freedom of speech should be protected, but he will therefore protect and defend speech that harms someone else's freedom from vulgarity, treason or invasion of their family unit. Meanwhile, that same liberal will use his freedom to censor someone else's freedom of speech should that speech offend the liberal. In the end, it is not about freedom at all but rather redistributing labels and concepts as needed. Hate speech is what I hate to hear. Intolerance is when you do not tolerate my views. Diversity is my kind of diversity.
In the end, liberals are not fighting for freedom. Rather, they are merely fighting to redistribute your freedom back to themselves, giving them the right to control, censor, moderate and define the issues, conversations and path that our national debate takes. You can dispel any doubts on this point by asking yourself if liberals are interested in conservatives being free to express their views on any topic. The next time a liberal tells you that he is about freedom, mention The Fair Use Doctrine.
It's My Freedom and I Can Cry If I Want To
We have been told many times over that liberals are intellectual babies, that they think that they are always right and that they want things their way or no way at all. Since liberals have convinced themselves that conservatives are simple-minded, superstitious hicks holding a Bible on one hand and moonshine on the other, it should be no surprise that they wonder why anyone should be exposed to any conservative's opinions about whiskey, much less society, politics, law, justice, religion and immigration.
Remember the Columbia University affair a while back when imbeciles stormed the stage to prevent Jim Gilchrist from speaking about border security? They claimed to be fighting for freedom from "racist intolerance" and "hate speech" even as they trampled on Gilchrist's right to speak. What more evidence do we need of just how absurd, hypocritical and selective liberals' definition of freedom really is?
In a Perfect World
In a perfect world, people would be able to enjoy their freedom within the confines of decency, some semblance of social and civic order and respect for life, family, nation and tradition. In case you have not noticed, this is not a perfect world or society. Here we have people abusing their freedom by turning it into a vehicle of selective hypocrisy, legislative and judicial abuse, wanton treason against our national self-interest and betrayal of much of what this nation should stand for.
Liberals are not just seeking to sell the farm; they are trying to sell it to our worst enemies and have us pay those same foes rent as tenants of that which we once owned. Liberals are not just slapping our troops in the face; they are mocking the blood that our brave military have shed over the long history of this nation. Nobody should be surprised to see liberals mocking and disrespecting our troops in Iraq. After all, did they not do the same in Vietnam?
Liberals tell us that they are for freedom against racism, yet history shows that the Democratic Party created the KKK and the Democratic Congress was the greatest obstacle to much of the civil rights legislation that came down the river since then. Liberals tell us that they are for freedom from discrimination and patronization, yet their affirmative action policies and entitlement programs merely spread closet racism, victimization and patronization under the guise of governmental and institutional compassion.
Finally, liberals speak of protecting our national interest and freedoms, yet they passionately fight to transfer our freedom as citizens and lawful residents of this great nation to those who mock our laws, spit at our flag and invade our country unlawfully. They take the freedom of a family lawfully in this country to send their child to college at a reasonable cost and transfer that freedom to a family unlawfully in this country. The next time a liberal tells you that he is about freedom of education at a fair, just cost for our lawful residents, mention the Dream Act.
This is not a discussion about freedom. It is, however, very much a discussion about whose freedom, and that is where each of us has to draw the line in the sand and choose a side. One side believes that freedom is a beautiful gift that must be earned through lawful respect, reasonable civility, loyalty to nation, awareness of a noble history and humble obedience to a Higher Power. This is the freedom to achieve dreams through hard work and obeying our laws and loyalty to flag and country. Simply put, it is the freedom to apply everything our founders intended and demonstrate everything they believed.
The other side believes that freedom is an entitlement conferred only upon those who toe the line, buy the script and accept the spin. Their freedom is the freedom to practice blatant hypocrisy, selective tolerance and disrespectful arrogance. It is the freedom to point fingers and not look in mirrors. It is the freedom to expect entitlements and handouts, preferences and labels and embrace patronization and victimization as the easy way to goals. At the end of the day, one side defines freedom as the right to serve this great nation while enjoying and recognizing its great gifts while the other defines that same freedom as the right to walk down a street naked or crawl under a border fence. Freedom never disappears; it is just defined in different ways.
AUSTRALIA'S welfare lobby is at it again. In a report issued last week, an alliance of welfare groups claimed that more than 11 per cent of Australian households are living in poverty, and that their numbers are rising. The Uniting Church president described this as scandalous. A St Vincent de Paul activist said it shows the need for a national vision instead of piecemeal programs. And the head of the Australian Council of Social Service came right to the point by demanding more funding for essential services.
Working people in this country are paying tax to support more than 700,000 disability support pensioners, about 600,000 welfare parents, nearly half a million unemployed and two million aged pensioners, not to mention more than three million families claiming Family Tax Benefit.
While unemployment figures are at 30-year lows, total welfare dependency is at record highs. A workforce of 10million is supporting two million welfare claimants of working age, plus another two million aged pensioners. The cost is phenomenal: more than $70 billion on social security and welfare payments alone. Yet ACOSS says we should be spending even more.
Few Australians begrudge helping those who really need support, but they do resent paying for people who could be supporting themselves. Research a few years ago found 56 per cent think the welfare state makes people less willing to look after themselves, and only 34 per cent want more of their taxes spent on welfare benefits for the poor.
The welfare lobby is well aware of this public resistance to higher welfare spending. That's why it persists in producing wildly exaggerated and misleading reports about the size of our poverty problem. They think if they can get us to believe that huge numbers of our fellow citizens are suffering, our sense of fairness will lead us to support their demands for more government spending. They even called their latest report Australia Fair.
There are two reasons why we should refuse to go along with this.
The first is that their definition of poverty is entirely arbitrary. They say anyone is poor who has less than half the median income. On this definition, 11 per cent of Australians are poor. But their report also says you could define poverty as an income less than 60 per cent of the median income, in which case 19 per cent of Australians are poor. We could play this game indefinitely. To increase your poverty estimate, simply draw your line at a higher level.
What this report is really doing is measuring income dispersion, not poverty. It shows that the proportion of the population receiving less than half the median income has grown from 10per cent to 11 per cent during the past three years. It calls this an increase in poverty, but all it really means is incomes have become slightly more spread out.
Comparing the incomes of people at the bottom with those higher up tells us about the difference between them, but it tells us nothing about whether they are poor or rich. This slight increase in the income spread has actually coincided with a rapid rise in real incomes at all levels, so everyone has been getting better off. To describe this as a growth of poverty (and even as sad and scandalous, as the Uniting Church did) is clearly absurd.
The second reason for taking this report with a pinch of salt is that it takes a static snapshot rather than looking at people's incomes over time. Household incomes fluctuate, so most people who appear under any arbitrarily drawn poverty line do not stay there long. Research following a panel of Australian households for several years found 12 per cent had less than half the median income in the first year, but only 6 per cent had an income this low for two years running, and just 4 per cent stayed under the line for three years. Sustained poverty, as against a temporary income drop, is thus much lower than the welfare lobby would have you believe.
Moreover, people adjust to fluctuating incomes through their lifetime by changing their pattern of borrowing, saving and spending, so their living standards actually vary much less dramatically than their incomes do. Research at the Melbourne Institute has found people on low incomes do not necessarily consume less food, clothing, transportation, gas, electricity, health insurance, alcohol, meals out or home maintenance than other people do. Living temporarily on a low income does not necessarily translate into poor living standards.
The Melbourne Institute study combines income and consumption into a single measure of poverty. It finds that only 3 per cent of the population comes out as poor at any one time on this measure, and just 1 per cent remains poor over two successive years. The study concludes: "Existing income-based measures (of poverty) are seriously in error. The results they give are much too high."
Some of us have been saying this for a long time, but it is not a message the welfare pressure groups seem willing to listen to.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.