Monday, February 14, 2011

When Free Speech Isn't Free

It's been a while since we talked, but I read something the other day that has stayed with me.

It was this story  in the New York Times about an issue at a California college about the actions of the resident Muslim Students Association, and the response to those actions by the powers that be. The student association interrupted the speech of a visiting Israeli dignitary and had to be escorted from the building by security because the refused to be quiet. However, instead of the issue simply being a school matter, the locak District Attorney's Office decided to press charges against the students for their actions. The story was an interesting look at the freedoms stifled at so-called "liberal" colleges, and how different people can have totally different justifications and reactions to the same events. Good read.

But, near the end of the article there is a quote from the District Attorney's Office where a spokeswoman is attempting to justify the D.A.'s decision to proceed with charging Muslim students for their outbursts at a public speech. The woman says:

"It seems that the basic question is what if we substituted different groups — what if this were the Klu Klux Klan who conspired to silence a speech by Martin Luther King.”

Now, long time readers won't be surprised this pissed me off. You all know that I am guaranteed to get pissed when someone recklessly compares their struggle to the struggle of black folks in any way. Yes, I understand it's an easily understood reference point, but that doesn't make it right. It's tedious to constantly hear every marginally oppressed group use Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as their rallying cry. Tedious, and infuriating.

But, in this case it's the comparison that really angers me, it's the faulty logic and historical knowledge that annoys me. I'm not sure what American History classes this spokeswoman took, but even the most rudimentary should have taught her that there is no need to speak in hypotheticals when discussing the Klan conspiring to silence a speech by Dr. King.

That's an actual factual.

As soon as Dr. King became the figurehead of the Civil Rights movement, every white supremacist group in America, from the KKK to their uppity masters the White Citizens Council to a slew racist government figures, was attempting to silence him and his rhetoric. Bombs were set off at his house, bricks were thrown through his windows and threats were sent to his mailbox. There is no need to "suppose" what the public and media reaction would be to attempts to silence King, all that is needed is a look at the historical record. And the record shows that the response was: silence.

That's right, silence. There were no serious attempts to protect King, instead he was dependent upon the goodwill of friends and the grace of God. Not only did the public officials and citizens not attempt to protect King's right to speak without intimidation, they actively sanctioned said intimidation as the best means to "keep the peace."

For this spokeswoman to pretend that everyone understands that conspiring to silence a speaker is wrong and that goverment protection of free speech is common is just plain ludicrous. For her to pretend that if Dr. King was speaking everyone would understand that the government should protect him his dishonest. Moreover, this woman is justifying her attempts to silence free speech by saying it's in the interest of protecting someone else's free speech. That's a dangerous argument at best.

Slowly, but surely, people in this country are rewriting its past, and using that newly created past to justify their actions in the present. It's a creeping thing, but it doesn't stop. It just keeps coming and coming. We owe it to our children to stand in its path as often as possible.






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3 comments:

Blaque Ink said...

Two things come to mind when I read this:

1.) Most Americans don't know or don't care about the true history of this nation. As you mentioned some are trying to rewrite it for their own benefit.

2.) The only ones to use these "freedoms" that are brought up in arguments are those with at least some power and plenty of privileges. It's only when those outside the power structure practice those freedoms that it becomes a problem.

God Damn America.

Big Man said...

True, True

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more this 'if this were the blacks' people make me seriusly want to CUT A BITCH!! These a-holes talk as if the struggle of black people was some made up hypothetical they could 'suppose' on as if it never happened BULLS**T! It did happen stupids and to act as if you can 'imagine' said behavior is not not only stupid and insulting it's should be grounds for an a## whooping. Some people in this country really need to check themselves.

Raving Black Lunatic