Advocates and defenders of the First Amendment and freedom of speech are strung out like the three Roman legions that were ambushed and ultimately annihilated by barbarians in the dense Teutoburg Forest in Germany in 9 A.D. Out of a force of about 36,000 fighting men, the Romans suffered between 16,000 and 20,000 casualties.
The First Amendment, appended to the Constitution with nine other Amendments which became known collectively as the Bill of Rights, reads:
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.
And that Amendment is all Americans have at present protecting them from censorship and a dictatorship. We are marching into an ambush by secular advocates of censorship and Islamic ones. Our political leadership is either as ignorant of the perils as were the Roman army’s generals, or just as careless in its defense, or oft times even hostile to it.
No European nation has the equivalent of the First Amendment. As Bruce Bawer, an American journalist who has lived in Europe for years, noted in his October 2010 column on the trial of Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who stood trial for “blaspheming” Islam (and who was subsequently acquitted of all charges):
One of the most bizarre aspects of being an American in Western Europe — at least if you’re an American who has opinions and is used to expressing them freely — is getting accustomed to the fact that there’s no First Amendment over here. Some of us grew up thinking of Western Europe as part of the “Free World.” But how free is a country if it doesn’t recognize freedom of speech as a fundamental right?
Indeed. Just how “free” is the “Free World” when most of its members labor under various gradations of the welfare/regulatory state? The fact is that freedom of speech in Europe is granted by the various governments there, but it is a conditional granting by the state, and not a recognized inherent right of the individual. And the conditions are many and malodorous. The chief complainant in Europe has been Islam. Bawer notes:
In recent years, the superiority of America on this score has been affirmed again and again, as one Western European government after another has prosecuted individuals for saying or writing things that were deemed unacceptable. In a preponderance of cases, these prosecutions have been for statements about Islam. Some of the defendants — Oriana Fallaci, Brigitte Bardot — have been famous.
The superiority of the First Amendment lies in the fact that it expresses a fundamental requirement for existence, while European speech laws deal with incidentals, as though the “right” to express oneself were a spurious privilege, icing on the cake of a government permitting one to live and slave away for the collective. This premise, however, has been introduced into U.S. law in the guise of “hate speech” and “hate crimes.”
Now, the problem with “hate speech” is that it is an anti-concept and an attempt to read men’s minds. I hate Islam. So what? I can explain why I hate Islam, but a rational, and even an irrational explanation is irrelevant to “hate speech” law. So what if I express my “hate” in words or in images? Words and images and even gestures are not metaphysical entities that can be shot, catapulted, or flung at the object of hate. Words, images and gestures do not have the physical power to destroy or harm anything or anyone. Perhaps even a dhimmi American judge would concede those points. He should conclude: No crime has been committed.
However, if my “hate speech” provokes initiatory force or actions by those claiming defamation or being “hurt” by my speech, it is the “potential” provocation to action for which I could be punished, penalized and even jailed. The “potential” may not even realize itself, but woe to me if Muslims began taking physical action against me and others, resulting in injury, death, or the destruction of property. Look what happened to the “Innocence of Muslims” trailer-maker. His YouTube film was used as an excuse to blame “free speech” for the attack on Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four Americans. He was arrested, held without bail, and subsequently sentenced to a year in prison. Initially, however, it was our own State Department via Hillary Clinton together with President Barack Obama that assigned the blame. It was later proven that the film had nothing to do with the attack.
Remember what happened after the publication of the Mohammad cartoons? Muslim mayhem. You wouldn’t need to calmly examine Islam as a religious or political system. Even should you suggest that Mohammad had lice in his beard and was probably syphilitic, out would come the crazed, semi-literate Muslim hordes demanding your head on a pike. It would make no difference.
My speech could not by any definition be regarded as an initiation of force. But the actions taken by those who wish to punish me, or to suppress it before I have even spoken it – be they Muslims acting on their own, or the government itself on behalf of Muslims – can be. And the question is: Were my words provocative? In the final analysis, no. Men are free to agree or disagree with what I say, or even to ignore what I say. Absent any attempt by me to force others to hear what I have to say, to read what I have written, or even to acknowledge a physical gesture (such as giving Mohammad an “Italian salute”), then any physical or statutory “retaliation” against me is an initiation of force.
Only a government can employ censorship against a nation’s citizens, that is, use initiatory force to silence anyone from expressing a viewpoint, disseminating information, voicing opposition to a political system, or even showing a picture. Only a government can “legally” punish an individual for expressing what is on his mind. And it is the mind which both a censorial government and groups such as Muslims wish to neutralize or extinguish.
In the U.S. censorship is a mosaic of disparate instances that do not add up to blanket censorship one might otherwise associate with iron-fisted dictatorships like Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist/Fascist China. Censorship by private individuals, corporations, newspapers, magazines and the like, however, is not censorship: It is the barring of viewpoints, language, images or behavior on nominally private premises, be they pages in a newspaper, over the airwave, physical private property, or an Internet venue (e.g., Facebook), because they are in opposition to the host’s viewpoint or violate its rules. Absent in private “censorship” is the element of force. Individuals do not have a right to force others to act as their soapboxes for viewpoints or behavior others find objectionable or repellent. Nor have they a right to literally force themselves on another’s property.
Europe continues to follow the path to a state of affairs concerning speech so restrictive that Europeans may as well not even bother opening their mouths or writing an essay, for the least criticism, especially of Islam, can be interpreted by Muslims and by European Union bureaucrats as “hurtful” or “defamatory” or an expression of “hate.”
Soeren Kern, in his October 28th Gatestone article “EU Proposal to Monitor ‘Intolerant’ Citizens,” reported:
While European leaders are busy expressing public indignation over reports of American espionage operations in the European Union, the European Parliament is quietly considering a proposal that calls for the direct surveillance of any EU citizen suspected of being “intolerant.”
Critics say the measure — which seeks to force the national governments of all 28 EU member states to establish “special administrative units” to monitor any individual or group expressing views that the self-appointed guardians of European multiculturalism deem to be “intolerant” — represents an unparalleled threat to free speech in a Europe where citizens are already regularly punished for expressing the “wrong” opinions, especially about Islam.
The proposed European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance was recently presented to members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the only directly-elected body of the European Union.
Kern goes on to explain that the focus of the proposed legislation is an unqualified “tolerance” that will not “tolerate” the least criticism of especially Islam, and provides a breakdown of the intent and method of enforcing “tolerance.” Importantly, he emphasizes:
Section 6 states: “It goes without saying that enactment of a Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance does not suffice by itself. There must be a mechanism in place ensuring that the Statute does not remain on paper and is actually implemented in the world of reality.”
An explanatory note to Section 6 (a) states: “Members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are entitled to a special protection, additional to the general protection that has to be provided by the Government to every person within the State.” Another note adds: “The special protection afforded to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups may imply a preferential treatment. Strictly speaking, this preferential treatment goes beyond mere respect and acceptance lying at the root of tolerance.” [Italics mine]
The “reality” in Europe is that Islam is setting the terms of every European’s political existence. One after another, national and local governments capitulate to demands by Muslims that they be accommodated in terms of mosque construction, blaring calls to prayers, closing off public streets for mass prayers, the serving of Islamic halal food in schools and other “public” venues, and numerous other “concessions” to Islamic mores (such as they are).
Who actually are the new “members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups”? Non-Muslims. What do the architects of Islam’s “preferential treatment” expect of non-Muslims “beyond mere respect and acceptance”? The total surrender of their minds and obsequious submission not only to Islam, but to the EU’s totalitarian dictats. The Soviets, by forbidding and punishing all instances of independent thought, hoped to nurture the creation of a “Soviet Man,” that is, an automaton that would unthinkingly do the Party’s bidding. The EU hopes its speech suppression laws will produce the “Tolerant Person,” an automaton that will “tolerate” its own destruction by being assimilated into Islamic society.
Jacob Mchangama, in an analysis of the origin and implementation of “hate speech” law in his December 2011 Hoover Institution paper, “The Sordid Origin of Hate-Speech Laws,” writes that, indeed, hate speech laws are a legacy of Soviet totalitarianism:
All western European countries have hate-speech laws. In 2008, the EU adopted a framework decision on “Combating Racism and Xenophobia” that obliged all member states to criminalize certain forms of hate speech. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Supreme Court of the United States has gradually increased and consolidated the protection of hate speech under the First Amendment. The European concept of freedom of expression thus prohibits certain content and viewpoints, whereas, with certain exceptions, the American concept is generally concerned solely with direct incitement likely to result in overt acts of lawlessness.
Yet the origin of hate-speech laws has been largely forgotten. The divergence between the United States and European countries is of comparatively recent origin. In fact, the United States and the vast majority of European (and Western) states were originally opposed to the internationalization of hate-speech laws. European states and the U.S. shared the view that human rights should protect rather than limit freedom of expression. [Italics mine]
Rather, the introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech.
That “divergence” between Europe and the U.S. is shrinking to a state of convergence.
Bruce Bawer also weighed in on the proposed legislation in his October 30th FrontPage article, “EU Unveils Crackdown on Free Speech.”
The first thing I ever wrote about Islam was an essay for Partisan Review entitled “Tolerating Intolerance,” which was published a few months after 9/11. My argument, in brief, was that Islam is not just a religion but an ideology that teaches an extreme and violent intolerance – and that Europeans had a right to protect the freedom of their societies by implementing well-informed immigration and integration policies. Now the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), founded in 2008 and consisting largely of former European presidents or prime ministers, has issued a report whose thrust is – and I quote – that there’s “no need to be tolerant to the intolerant.”
But the argument of the report – which was presented to the European Parliament in late September and takes the form of a “Model Statute for Tolerance” that the ECTR hopes to see enacted b all EU member states, is light-years away from the one I made all those years ago in Partisan Review. The ECTR’s concern is not with addressing the importation into Europe of Islamic intolerance but, rather, with addressing the purported intolerance of Europeans toward (among other things) imported Islam.
President Barack Obama pronounced at the U.N. in September 2012, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” But the future seems to belong to Muslims and Western judges who would persecute anyone who gave Islam and Mohammad a scholarly or visceral middle finger. To Islam, everything said about Mohammad by infidels is “slanderous.”
Cooperating with the European Parliament is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with its recent Geneva Conference on speech and its United Nations Resolution 16/18, which seeks to ban and punish all “defamatory” speech, most and especially about or against Islam.
Deborah Weiss reported on October 22nd in her FrontPage article, “Geneva Conference Moves Toward Criminalizing ‘Islamophobia’.”
In its quest to criminalize speech that’s critical of all Islam-related topics, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)* endorsed the formation of a new Advisory Media Committee to address “Islamophobia.”
This past September, the OIC held “The First International Conference on Islamophobia: Law & Media.” The conference endorsed numerous recommendations which arose from prior workshops on Islamophobia from media, legal and political perspectives. A main conclusion was the consensus to institutionalize the conference and create an Advisory Media Committee to meet under the newly established OIC Media Forum based in Istanbul Turkey.
Note that the conference was not held to discuss the criminalization of “Judeophobia” or “Christophobia” or even “Atheistiophobia.”
Supposedly, the purpose of the conference was to support an OIC campaign to “correct the image of Islam and Muslims in Europe and North America.” By this, it means to whitewash the intolerant, violent and discriminatory aspects of Islam and Islamists. The OIC has launched a campaign to provide disinformation to the public, delinking all Islam from these undesirable traits and attacks all who insist on these truths, as bigots, racists and Islamophobes….
Its present goal is the international criminalization of all speech that “defames” Islam, which the OIC defines as anything that sheds a negative light on Islam or Muslims, even when it’s true (wrote Clare Lopez in American Thinker in 2011).
Its target is the West and one of its tactics is to accuse those who criticize Islam or its various interpretations as “Islamophobic.” It is attempting to pass the equivalent of Islamic blasphemy codes in the West, using accusations of bigotry to silence anyone who speaks the truth about Islamic terrorism or Islamic persecution of religious minorities.
The OIC wants enforceable laws passed in Western nations that complement its wish to criminalize speech regarding Islam. In practice, this would mean that only Islamic clerics and spokesmen would be allowed to say anything about Islam. And Muslims, treated as “victimized” minorities in those nations, would be free to persecute, murder, rape, and terrorize Jews, Christians, atheists and other non-Muslims with impunity and indemnity everywhere and any time they wished. As they do now.
Can such Orwellian laws be passed in this country? The existence of “hate speech” and “hate crime” judicial decisions in American courts has prepared the ground for them here. It was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who invited OIC members to a conference in Washington to discuss how American law can conform to U.N. Resolution 16/18 and the OIC agenda. What difference can it make to her if Americans are gagged and threatened with prosecution for speaking out against Islam or drawing to the public’s attention the gruesome facts of Islam in practice and in action?
Just remember, and to paraphrase that Orwellian warning: “Hate speech” is “hate crime.” Just ask Audrey Hudson, the journalist whose home was raided by Federal and Maryland state law enforcement in search of evidence of her own “hate crime.”
And so began Hudson’s nightmare – held captive by armed agents of the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland State Police and the Department of Homeland Security as they staged a pre-dawn raid in search of unregistered firearms and a “potato gun.”
“I think they found a great way to get into my house and get a hold of my confidential notes and go through every other file in my office.” – Audrey Hudson, journalist
But instead of taking the potato gun, agents seized unrelated government documents and notes from the former Washington Times journalist.
Agents took Hudson’s records during a search for guns and related items owned by her husband, a civilian Coast Guard employee. They also confiscated her legally registered firearms, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The lesson here is that a search warrant no longer is a protection against the depredations of any government agency that has the power to expropriate one’s property, or to intimidate anyone who has been critical of government policies, gaffes, failures and tyrannical behavior. Search warrants are now just a pretext to violate one’s person and one’s rights.
The barbarians and totalitarians inside and outside our borders are ready to ambush the First Amendment and render us helpless against their onslaught.