Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Freedom of Speech: For Thee But Not For Me?

First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
"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."

Every American citizen has a right to his or her opinion, and the right to express that opinion.
I don't have to like what other people say; they don't have to like what I say. But the Constitution guarantees that we are legally free to say it!

Speech censorship is an insidious erosion of our most basic freedoms. Mr. Volkmann did not threaten the President in any way, he simply stated his personal opinion about the man. This brought a visit from the Secret Service? Why?

Reading the commentary beneath this article is even more revealing. Folks----you don't have to agree with what this man said, you don't have to like this man, you can stand against everything he says---but you cannot police his words!

George Orwell, in an unpublished preface to his novel Animal Farm, wrote this:
"The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular - however foolish, even - entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say 'Yes'. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, 'How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?', and the answer more often than not will be 'No'. In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organized societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg said, is 'freedom for the other fellow'. The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: 'I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it'. If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilization means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way. Both capitalist democracy and the western versions of Socialism have till recently taken that principle for granted. Our Government, as I have already pointed out, still makes some show of respecting it. The ordinary people in the street - partly, perhaps, because they are not sufficiently interested in ideas to be intolerant about them - still vaguely hold that 'I suppose everyone's got a right to their own opinion'. It is only, or at any rate it is chiefly, the literary and scientific intelligentsia, the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practice.

(Red italicized phrases are for personal emphasis and not a part of the original documents represented here.)


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