Free Speech in America

by lizard

I would like to ask every moron who thinks they are championing free speech by going to “The Interview” what they think about some other opportunities to support free speech in America. A decade ago, on the eve of America’s war against Iraq, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made some comments in London against the war. Conservatives across the nation threw a collective hissy fit:

In March of 2003, the drumbeat for war in Iraq had reached a fevered pitch. Despite massive protests throughout the world, over 70 percent of Americans supported the invasion. In that month, presidential approval also shot over 70 percent, the highest it would be for the remainder of George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Despite these currents, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke out during a London show on the eve of the war, saying “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

When media reports about the concert got back to the United States, all hell broke loose. Their record sales plummeted, they fell down the Billboard charts and a full scale boycott swept through their largely right-wing country music fan base. Country radio stations across the U.S. pulled them from circulation, with radio network giant Cumulus banning the Dixie Chicks from its more than 250 local stations. Former fans gathered to burn previously-purchased CDs and even, in one media spectacle, crush them with a giant farm tractor.

Unsurprisingly, conservatives welcomed this effort to economically discipline political speech. President Bush himself said of the debacle: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say … they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. … Freedom is a two-way street. ”

And how about criticizing the brutal, apartheid state of Israel? Chris Hedges recently found out that those nice University speaking gigs can go south when associating Israel with ISIS. From Mondoweiss:

I had been invited to talk next April 3 at the University of Pennsylvania at a peace conference sponsored by the International Affairs Association, but last week after Truthdig published my column “ISIS—the New Israel” the lecture agency that set up the event received this email from Zachary Michael Belnavis, who is part of the student group:

“We’re sorry to inform you that we don’t think that Chris Hedges would be a suitable fit for our upcoming peace conference. We’re saying this in light of a recent article he’s written in which he compares the organization ISIS to Israel (here’s the article in question). In light of this comparison we don’t believe he would be suitable to a co-existence speaker based on this stance he’s taken.”

Being banned from speaking about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, especially at universities, is familiar to anyone who attempts to challenge the narrative of the Israel lobby.

Here is the offending article. And here is another article by Hedges discussing banning dissent in the name of civility:

Dershowitz has called on Israel to use bulldozers to demolish entire Palestinian villages, rather than individual houses, in retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks, although collective punishment violates international law. In another context he defends the use of torture and proposes methods that include shoving a “sterilized needle underneath the nail.” He lambastes as an anti-Semite nearly everyone who has criticized the Israeli state; he once said “there is a special place in hell” for former President Jimmy Carter and that South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu is “one of the most evil men in the world.”

When Dershowitz spoke at Penn in 2012, David Cohen, the chairman of the university board of trustees and executive vice president of Comcast Corp., read to the audience a letter written for the occasion by the school’s president, Amy Gutmann, who was in California at the time. In the letter Gutmann praised Dershowitz and castigated the BDS movement, saying “Penn is blessed to have one of the largest and most active Hillel chapters in the country. And we are unwavering in our support of the Jewish state. Let me say it in the clearest possible words: we do not support the goals of BDS.”

The code word that the Israel lobby and its facilitators at universities use to silence critics is “civility.” Israel supporters are permitted to spout hate and calls for indiscriminate violence against Palestinians. Critics of Israel, however, even if they are careful to denounce violence and not to demonize Jews, are banned in the name of “civility.” It is the height of academic duplicity.

There is a similar duplicity at work within the dynamics of the emerging movement to address police brutality. Protestors are in the streets because black lives don’t seem to matter. The list of names is long, unlike the list of cops held accountable for their actions, even when caught on camera. And while the NYPD is busy fomenting an insurrection against the Mayor, the LAPD is investigating an incident that occurred at a party for a retired LAPD officer where a Jim Croce classic was transformed into an ugly piece of racial incitement:

“Michael Brown learned a lesson
about a messin’ with a bad … police man
And he’s, bad, bad Michael Brown
Baddest thug in the whole darn town
Badder than an ol’ King Kong
Meaner than a junkyard dog
Two men took to fightin’
And Michael punched in through the door
and Michael looked like some old Swiss cheese
His brain was splatter on the floor.”

So cops can say and do whatever they want, but when anger and rage is expressed by non-cops, you better believe arrests will be made. According to CNN, 9 people have been arrested in NYC for “making threats”:

Of the arrests, police said, at least three stemmed from postings made on social media, and at least two came from misdemeanor charges of false report incident, in which the suspects allegedly called 911 reporting threats made by a third party that were later debunked.

One arrest was made after the suspect phoned in a direct threat to 911.

And on Wednesday, a man was arrested on weapons, drug and harassment charges after he was overheard threatening to kill cops while talking on his cell phone inside a bank in Queens, according to the NYPD.
That man is accused of saying on the phone that he was going to kill a cop, and that Brinsley should have killed white police officers, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. The complaint says that when police interviewed the suspect, he elaborated that two white officers should have been killed “if the guy really wanted to send a message.”

In a tweet Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked the police department and the civilian who saw something suspicious and acted:

“Thank you to the NYPD officers who today arrested a man who threatened to kill cops, and to the good Samaritan who provided key information.”

So how invested are those moronic movie goers in defending free speech in America? From artists to academics to disgruntled New Yorkers grappling with their wartime police department, speech is banned, marginalized, suppressed and outright criminalized.

It turns out there are different prices to pay for what is allegedly free in America, and that price depends on who has the power. Confused? Here’s a recap.

You can commit war crimes and lie a nation into war with no accountability but if you criticize that war you will be economically punished.

You can talk openly about killing, torturing and sterilizing Arabs and destroying whole villages as collective punishment and still retain an ability to talk to American college kids, but if you point out the depraved nature of the apartheid state of Israel you will be banned from campus.

You can kill black people with impunity if you have a badge and escape indictment nearly every time, even when there is video evidence of the crime, but if you make verbal threats you will be arrested.

Free speech in America, baby. Love it or leave it!

  1. Turner

    Good post. I agree completely. The American mindset at this moment in our sad history is more than distressing. It speaks to how effective those who form public opinion have been.

  2. Eric

    Don’t forget Liz – free speech doesn’t mean you can yell out ” FIRE ! ” in a crowded theatre, nor does it protect Al Sharptons right to incite people to murder cops in NYC.

    • lizard19

      you are hopelessly dim.

      • Eric

        Are you of the opinion that if you were to start yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater, and you cause a panic, that you are exercising your right to free speech Liz? And you think others are dim – LOL

        • JC

          What if the theater was on fire? And if it was, might not people panic? It doesn’t take a right of free speech to warn people of danger, panic or not.

          BTW, the first amendment holding in Schenck v. United States, the case you paraphrased badly, was overturned in 1969. It was replaced in Brandenburg v. Ohio with a proscription on speech that was “inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action” (like inciting a riot).

          So enough with the armchair lawyering, Eric.

  3. I have long known that “free speech” is a affectation in this land, not real. It really only applies to things we like to hear. Nothing more.

    We have “free speech” in inverse proportion to the impact of our words. If we are agreeing with the mainstream, or “debating” within the two-party structure, we’re free do say as we please.

    If, as Norman Finklestein, The Dixie Chicks, Charlie Sheen, Jimmy Carter, Chomsky and millions of others learned, we stray outside those boundaries, we are ostracized, demonized, and silenced.

    Free speech in the US is a cruel joke.

  4. I keep wondering ’bout this anti-Israelie theme that always pops up when talking about free speech, occupy, racial unrest, anti-war in general.

    A then it’s hits me. It’s all interrelated, in fact ANSWER is the lynch pin connecting all the above together.

    “ANSWER has played an important role in the fight against racist and religious profiling, in support of immigrant and workers’ rights, and for economic and social justice for all. Our members are engaged in a range of struggles, from the local battles against police brutality to the international campaigns against militarism and war.”-Daily Mail.

    • And you’re playing fast and loose with the definition of “apartheid” in Israel.

    • He nails the definition precisely, two states, one with rights, the other without. On a sociological level, one is demonized for any activity, while the other is forgiven even for monstrous acts.

      Like everything Swede, you’re only seeing a little of the picture, the part that satisfies your bias.

      • Really, are Jews living in Palestine allowed voting rights?

        Here’s Palis/Arab rights and privileges in Israel.

        “Today, non-Jewish citizens of Israel constitute about 25% of the population, with 20% being Arabs. Arab Israelis have equal voting rights and their own political parties, serve on the Israeli Knesset, Cabinet, and Supreme Court; hold diplomatic positions; actively participate in the Israeli music and arts scene; and represent Israel on the national soccer team, including winning the Israeli national championship. They are granted all fundamental civil liberties, including freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly, and in fact enjoy more civil rights than Arabs living in any other Middle Eastern country. Israel is also the only country in the Middle East where Arab homosexuals can live without fear of prosecution, which is why many Palestinian gays have fled for Israel. Many Arab Israelis have spoken out in favor of Israel, and against allegations of an Israeli apartheid. Such claims have also been refuted by many others, including by Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who presided over the UN report concerning the 2009 Gaza war.

        Arab Israelis are generally not required to serve in the military, though some do volunteer. Members of the Druze and Circassian communities are drafted like Jewish citizens, at the request of their own community leaders.

        Discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel does exist, though on a level comparable to that found in many other Western countries, and certainly far less than the discriminations to which Palestinians living in most Arab countries are subjected. In certain respects, Arab Israelis have more rights than some who live in Europe, such as the rights to wear hijabs.

        As a general indicator, a recent Harvard study found that 77% of Arab Israelis would rather live in Israel than in any other country. Many Arabs have also stated that they would much rather live in Israel than under Palestinian rule”.-C. Weizman

        “Apartheid” does not apply.

        • Regardless of the freedom outside the cage, within Gaza people have no rights and can be killed without process of law or punishment of offenders. In the West Bank there are no,property rights for Palestinians. It’s an apartheid state.

          I fail to see where your linked words even begin to address the nature of the probem.

    • JC

      Oh my, ANSWER is the new ACORN and MoveOn. Gotta have that bogeyman to be righteous…

  5. Craig Moore

    Whenever I read someone’s bombastic bloviation on ‘Free Speech’ the first question that comes to mind is “Free from what?” Government punishment or censorship? Free from non-govt societal reaction? It’s important to clarify as the ensuing discussion meanders directionless while never getting to the nub of what is ‘Free’ as a ‘Right’ and why that concept applies in a particular context.

    • Craig Moore

      As President Bush said:

      The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say…They shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. Freedom is a two-way street. I don’t really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people, and if some singers or Hollywood stars feel like speaking out, that’s fine. That’s the great thing about America. It stands in stark contrast to Iraq.

      • “Two way street” indeed. Did Liz and company rush out and purchase Chicks CDs to support their cause?

        • You’re missing the point: Dixie Chicks were being punished for violation of groupthink. That only happens in a closed society, one that does not tolerate free speech. The manipulation by use of 9/11 was grotesque and obscene.

          And a further point, not to make light of the human suffering that the US inflicted on Iraq, but the Chicks were right. You and Bush and all of you were dead wrong, so to speak.

          • Craig Moore

            The wallets and purses of many country music consumers snapped shut after Natalie Maines went to foreign soil to express her embarrassment of President Bush to an anti-American crowd. The Chicks were not punished as they had no right to the money and adulation of country music devotees. After all commercial music is not like commercial Obamacare insurance where everyone is required by the authoritarian state to buy it.

            • lizard19

              and the wallets and purses of American movie goers were initially deprived of a product from a corporation that could do whatever it wanted with its property.

              are you prepared to acknowledge that this movie distraction wasn’t a free speech issue?

              • Craig Moore

                I never thought it was. Don’t know why you seem so confused.

              • The supposed hack by North Korea smells of a covert op, and such things usually originate in Langley. The object is to prepare the public for a confrontation, if that is the case, where the public mind is predisposed to think of NK as bad and worthy of violence.

                I did hear the hack referred to as an “act of war” on the news, which I suppose means that North Korea has what? Attacked Japan, I suppose.

            • JC

              Everyone is not required to buy Obamacare, Craig. People who are impoverished, employeed with benefits, or wealthy enough to buy insurance off-Exchange on the private market are not required to buy Obamacare. Nor is anybody retired on Medicare. And 14 more ways people are exempt.

              Oh, and yeah, about that “authoritarian state” remark: it was republican governor Mitt Romney who first conceptualized the dictate that people purchase “commercial… insurance” that is the foundation of the ACA’s mandate. Democrats just took republican authoritarianism and ran with it in the health insurance debacle.

    • JC

      Why don’t you take your micro-parsing of free speech and apply it to “bombastic bloviation” about the right to bear arms? After all, the first amendment comes before the second amendment in my understanding of ‘rithmetic.

  6. Turner

    I was watching one of those made-up college football bowl games yesterday. Rutgers vs. some other team. What got my attention in the game were the NYPD hats worn by some of Rutgers’ coaches.

    I don’t know if the coaches regularly wear these hats or if they were wearing them as a part of white America’s response to the murder of 2 NYC cops by a crazy black person. But, seeing the hats, my visceral response was the same one I always have to expressions of white supremacy. Disgust.

    Some will say that they’re equivalent to the “I can’t breathe” t-shirts worn before NFL games by some players. The two messages seem quite different to me, though. I think they’d seem even more different to me if I were a black man.

  7. JC

    Free Speech, U.S. style:

    Free speech is an illusion in America, when it is enclosed by time-place-manner restrictions.

    • Steve W

      Westburo Baptist Church showed up to protest a cop’s funeral? Figures you would side with those scum, Craig.

      Protesting funerals is about as low as it goes. Sounds like your idea of classy. Classy Craig, Protesting funerals.

      Course, it is free speech. They should have made them take their protest down the street though, out of respect for the dead.

      But that would require respect for the dead. Some people have none.

  8. steve kelly

    Free speech died with the others innumerated in The Bill of Rights. What remains is slavery and permitted speech.

    • If understanding our country is a counting process, 1 through 10, and we are not allowed to skip ahead, a person who is advanced in the counting process is incomprehensible to those in the early stages, or still at zero.

      Conseqiently, and understandably, this comment seems preposterous to most who read it.

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