New At YDN
Since I didn't get around to blogging about the free speech atrocities in late February, my latest column deals with the three biggies---the imam in Peshawar who put out a $1M bounty for killing the Danish cartoonists, David Irving's three-year prison sentence for the crime of Holocaust denial, and London mayor Ken Livingstone getting suspended from office for a month for making a tactless, though not really at all anti-Semitic remark to a Jewish journalist. [Oh the Hegelian ironies: that line they push in 8th grade social studies about how Britain is really a democracy after all turns out to be bullshit, but surprising bullshit; the de facto sovereign isn't a monarch, but a committee; how progressive--ed. Well name something from 8th grade social studies that wasn't bullshit--F.]
Anyway, a couple highlights:
For pre-emptive purposes: I believe Irving's views are wrong, repugnant, et cetera, et cetera. That is irrelevant. Freedom of conscience entails the freedom of everyone to be a Nazi, or not, according to the whims of one's heart; free speech rights are literally contentless if Nazis and Stalinists and Wahabbists and Mel Gibson are not entitled to them without exception. By imprecating the freedoms of fascists, Germany and Austria inform the world that they have so little confidence in liberal democracy that they fear the mere enunciation of Nazi ideology will kindle its resurgency.
Meanwhile, in the nation that invented classical liberalism, "Red" Ken Livingstone, the socialist mayor of London, will be suspended from office for four weeks beginning today. Livingstone's misdeed? He compared (Jewish) journalist Oliver Finegold to "a concentration camp guard." The baffling factor here is that British law establishes an adjudication panel that has the power to remove democratically elected officials from their posts for a fixed term, just in case the panel determines that the official "acted in an unnecessarily insensitive manner." There you have it. Livingstone's right to free speech and the London electorate's right to choose its own representatives are both superseded by a political-incorrectness-snuffing bureaucracy.
All the same, the distinction between legal constraints on free expression and using terrorism to avenge it is determinate and not terribly fine-grained. Yet we in the West are beset by a political class that doesn't even need to be intimidated by the fanatics' extortionist demands, having already given in to them. My modest proposal is that we citizens -- "citizen" was once an honorific title, after all -- show our leaders that our rights and values still count, by dissolving our governments and electing new ones.