YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 6, 2017

The Free Speech Muddle

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

free-speech [Update, 8-31-17: I had the same trouble when I was program director of Pacifica radio station KPFK; no one wanted to look at our own ideology. ]

The MSM is all aflutter this week, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinted that journalists, as well as leakers, might be held responsible for publishing classified information. This blog is about the fantasy that the West (including the US) distinguishes itself from all forms of tyranny by its vaunted freedom of speech and expression as promised, say, by the US Constitution.

I say “fantasy” because, although freedom of [anything] is a lifelong achievement; a fulfillment that may or may not be achieved even in old age by the best of us.

The notion of journalistic freedom, for instance, depends on the assumption that American print media have never been partisan. (If you want to see polarization, just look at the 1790s as Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian agrarians slugged it out.)

Then there is the issue of government secrecy: anyone who has used the FOIA option, knows that the State can redact at will, so that crucial documents remain off limits to citizens (including academics and journalists).

We might add the barely admitted problem of self-censorship, some on grounds of politeness or intimidation, some from not daring to look inside ourselves too closely, some by ideology: the facts are always in dispute.

Let us now briefly turn to the subject of “fascism” a taunt that is bandied about these days, without much understanding by the anti-Trump protesters, old and young alike. The various fascisms that sprung up after the calamity of WW1 in the 1920s and 1930s, were distinct from one another. But they were all authoritarian and counter-Enlightenment. (Italy and Germany in particular were distinguished by the cult of the charismatic Leader and the one-party state). So “anti-fascists” like to attach themselves to “Free Speech” as proof that there is no authoritarianism in the West, particularly in the post-1960s USA, even as we pass laws affirming “diversity” and arbitrary notions of “community”—all in the name of human rights!

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