President of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi
by Joe Giambrone
Freedom of speech is essentially dying by the day here in the modern world. Threats are real and slippery slope test cases have been piling up to where we must seriously address this issue if we are to avoid slipping into Orwellian double-speak and mandated speech stripped of unacceptable ideas. For it is about the ideas, not the words themselves. The words spoken are merely a fixed form that represents the underlying thoughts to be communicated. Censoring out speech means censoring out ideas that one finds objectionable for whatever reasons.
And that's unconstitutional.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This bad movie trailer, "The Innocence of Muslims," essentially 14 minutes of terrible acting and visual effects with deliberately offensive situations and dubbed dialogue, is now being used as evidence in order to change the law of the land in the United States. More than a few commentators have suggested that the United States clamp down on such expressions, as it may offend people.
Yes. So what? As the line goes, "Maybe you need to be offended."
The answer to speech you disagree with is " (drum roll) " MORE SPEECH. If people are in disagreement with the historical situation portrayed in that film, they have an opportunity to present their own case, their own historical evidence, their own version of the matter. By rendering this topic to the realm of sacred cows, it would eliminate all dissenting discussion and ideas.
Who gets to decide then what the actual historical record is?
Who gets to decide how much we can question this dogmatic interpretation?
We don't rewrite the U.S. Constitution based on the possibility that someone somewhere might be offended by something. Nor should we. That truly is akin to religious fundamentalism, to Sharia Law. These are bedrock principles of our nation that are not negotiable, despite the endless assaults on freedom of expression, which we should be well aware of and actively oppose.
I don't agree with the messages of that movie trailer, but in America we have a right to put the ideas out into the world without fear of government crackdown (at least we used to; we're supposed to). Other less free regimes and societies respond that what is good for their citizens should be enforced here as well. Examples will follow.
What has been proposed, since time immemorial, is to create sacred cow issues around religion and -- of course -- Israel, whereby American citizens, previously protected by the First Amendment, would face legal repercussions for uttering unacceptable speech. And that's just plain unacceptable. As an American, raised from birth on this notion of "freedom" which is beamed from every transmitter, you should find wholesale assaults on First Amendment "freedoms" to be problematic at the very least. Once the framework for establishing sacred cows is put into practice, it is only a matter of time before the list of unacceptable ideas grows into an abomination that warps the very fabric of our culture. I could argue that it is already happening.