"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."
~the Constitution of the United States
"Those who wish to speak should always be as free to do so as everyone else is to ignore them". ~UK Wired
Freedom: Can You Handle It?
Freedom of speech may become redefined as "freedom of speech as long it's not morally unacceptable". The consequence will be that freedom is taken away.
Even though hate speech is hurtful emotionally, people have the right to say what they please. If you do not like what you are reading then you can quit reading it. The ability to decide that for yourself is what freedom means. However, isn't it valuable to know that whatever it was you chose not to read exists, and that some sicko out there actually thinks that way? Yes. The more you know about the world around you, the better equipped you are to handle it successfully. Instead of denying ourselves an understanding of what's out in the real world, we should be teaching ourselves how to think critically so that we can determine whether the things we hear are valuable, or invaluable, right or wrong, fun or no fun. Those who try to obstruct the freedom of speech want to make those decisions for you.
If you want the government to choose what you are allowed to hear, read and say, then you are assuming the government has your best interests in mind. Please be aware - the government has only it's own interests in mind. The ability to say what you want to say is a form of power. Those who seek power over others know that the easiest way to get more power for themselves is to take someone else's away. The less power you have, the more power they have.
Today those in power may be saying that your next door neighbor's web site is not OK to publish because it includes "offensive "material. Currently in our country "offensive" is usually defined as sexually explicit or excessively violent. Tomorrow they will be saying that your website is not ok to publish because it includes "offensive material": that essay you wrote against cutting down the Giant Redwoods could be considered treason against the government if the government is cutting them down.
That sounds ridiculous, right? But every government action that is taken sets a precedent for future actions. It's the "give 'em and inch and they'll take a mile" syndrome. We don't need the government to spoon-feed us whatever information they decide is in our best interest. We can think for ourselves.
I would contrast Reason Express with the ACLU newsletter in which sensationalism reigns supreme. It's not quite as bad as the US's National Enquirer, but it is hard for a well-read person to read it and not feel like he or she is being had.
This is the first paragraph from the ACLU Action Network newsletter
April 19, 2000:
"They're at it again! Despite the protests of victims' groups and legal
experts, the U.S. Senate is expected next week to follow up the failed
effort to adopt the so-called 'flag desecration' amendment with yet another
attempt to fundamentally alter the Constitution."
In the above paragraph you find no actual information. It is an attempt to spark the readers indignation. "They're at it again!" A starting phrase full of the suggestion that the proverbial "they" are still out to get us. This may be true, however, I'd like a chance to decide that for myself. In the sentence following, you find out that "they" are the U.S. Senate, so at least that question was answered, but the writer indicates that we should be opposed to the constitution being altered by the addition of an amendment. Which amendment? It doesn't say until later in the article. There are a lot of amendments to the constitution, are we supposed to feel that they are all bad? It is this heavy-handed persuasive approach that I disagree with.
I encourage everyone to be discerning about what you read. If enough of us demand better reporting, we'll get it.
School Shooters at Onelist
The following is a discussion group, sponsored by Onelist, which has 11 members.
"A list for all who find a strange fascination with school shootings. You may submit e-mail about anything related to school shootings; for example, you may discuss events leading up to past shootings, the aftermath that occurs in the wake of a shooting, possible causes, etc. This is also a forum for those who find fault in the sensationalistic news reportings by the media. If you wish to speak out about the persecution of "outcasts" then you may; no censoring will occur on this list. Even if one wants to tell of what one would, HYPOTHETICALLY, do to prepare for a shooting, then it will be permitted. Voicing your opinion, through free speech, should never bring about harrassment; rather, provoke debate and the taking in of knowledge. Whether you condone paramilitary assaults on the schoolyards of America, or find them to be reprehensible, this list can become your forum for discussion."
Why Someone Might Want This Censored:
One of the reactions people have had to the school shootings is to blame the media and free speech for "putting ideas in to kids heads." They believe that if the kids never heard of or saw anyone using a gun or being shot, that they wouldn't think of it as an option. Some may feel that the existence of this discussion group gives pro-shootists or future shootists a platform from which to advocate further violence.
Why It Shouldn't Be Censored:
The obvious and most important answer to this question is that censorship of ideas and self expression merely serves to frustrate and ultimately prevent a population from being able to grow and think for themselves.
As for this subject in particular, people (including kids) don't do things merely because they saw someone else do them or heard of someone else doing them. Each individual has a filter through which he or she sees the world and this filter is composed of moral concepts & value systems - in other words ideas of right and wrong - as well as notions of cause & effect, practicality, and self image. These filters are put in place by a combination of inborn personality, family upbringing and cultural indoctrination. A child who has been taught (successfully) that violence is not the way to solve things will look at a violent movie and say to him/herself, "This is just a movie, that's not really the right way to handle things - I would never do that." Whether the child is thinking these things consciously or unconsciously, the effect would be the same. Alternatively, a child who has been taught that violence is an acceptable way to handle things doesn't have to see the movie, he or she will figure out how to be violent without a guide, although his or her parents may very well be the perfect guide.
The people who join this discussion group just want to discuss the topic of school shootings. Lots of people, especially teens, are troubled, confused, and fascinated by school shootings and need to hear other people's viewpoints, ask questions, and have their questions answered. This is a serious topic that is important in our world of six billion people and it needs to be discussed openly. Open discussions often lead to understanding and solutions.
The URL for Onelist is http://www.onelist.com
The Freedom Forum online: News
Freedom Of Speech
"Freedom Of Speech" Poster by Norman Rockwell
GILC Free Speech Page
Censorship & Freedom (link list)