SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Fitzgerald: Needed: A refresher course in freedom of speech

Once again, Hugh Fitzgerald of JihadWatch:

Free speech is not absolute. It never was. Not to John Adams, who approved of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Not to Abraham Lincoln. Not to Holmes or Brandeis. Not to those who crafted the Brandenburg Test. Whether or not that test which requires incitement to "imminent lawless action" needs to be revised given that anti-Infidel propaganda almost never results in the "imminent" action that is feared, but rather helps, through the steady stillicide of Islamic propaganda, in the recruitment of Muslims and mentally unstable non-Muslims Looking for a Community and a Reason for Living, needs to be examined.

And so too does what is to be defined as a "speech act." Choking an adversary, or raping someone, may be a way of "expressing" one's hatred of, let's say, an Infidel who disparages Muhammad, or of an Infidel girl who has chosen to wear dress deemed provocative while walking near a mosque. But no non-Muslims would define these as "speech acts" requiring protection. Training for terrorist acts cannot be protected even if they have been disguised as something else -- such as mere innocuous "paintball" play.

The Brandenburg Test needs to be reexamined and revised in the light of how Muslim terrorists recruit, and then work on those they recruit, to proceed from ideology to deed. It is not the greatest leap, and does not require a misquoting of the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Sira. It requires, in fact, far more ingenuity on the part of Muslims to make the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira seem unthreatening to Infidels -- something all these busy "reformers" with their new organizations, and their grand grant-getting plans, have carefully refrained from discussing.

But the Brandenburg Test does not need revising because of the cartoons. In seizing issues of a student publication containing those cartoons, Wade MacLauchlan, President of the University of Prince Edward Island, explained: "We see it [the publication of the cartoons] as a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation." Wade MacLauchlan needs a refresher course in freedom of speech. He needs to read Milton's Areopagitica. He needs to learn about John Peter Zenger. He needs to read "Freedom of the Mind in Human History." He needs to understand that a recognized right which can no longer be exercised out of fear of a violent response by those who not only claim to be offended, but do not recognize such a general right in their own, quite different world -- a world where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has no place -- is a right that no longer exists. This was understood, clearly, by the editors of Jyllands-Posten and by Prime Minister Rasmussen, and by those editors, the un-pusillanimous ones, who in 40 countries so far have chosen to reprint those anodyne cartoons. Wade MacLauchlan needs to understand that the right of free speech not only includes the right to offend, but is defined precisely by its protection of the very possibility. That is the point. The point is not to protect that which offends no one (for who would object?) but that which offends someone. Of course, the deliberate incitement to murder, or the denial of historical facts, have been banned in certain Western countries: in Germany, for example, Nazi publications either denying past mass-murders, or justifying future ones -- which apparently Mr. Ahmadinejad and many Muslims are unable to distinguish from mockery of religious symbols or figures – has been banned. But this is not remotely analogous.


Read it all.

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