Friday, January 14, 2011

Freedom of Speech in Books, Movies and Politics

Do you recall the outcry that always goes up whenever violence or pornography in books, movies, video games, etc., is suggested as a cause for growing violence in American society?

Even explicit representations of murder against political figures is considered "edgy" and "artistic" and wins major awards.

But now, somehow, putting crosshairs (or bulls eyes, if you're a Democrat) on a campaign map incites mass murder. Or quoting Thomas Jefferson on the need for revolution is questionable, maybe even disturbing, "[i]n the context of the debate over whether such political rhetoric played any role in encouraging the shooter [in Arizona]". (By the way, if Thomas Jefferson's political philosophy is the problem, one should at least have the intellectual courage to take on Jefferson himself instead of someone quoting him.)

Do they really believe that rather mild political symbolism influences action but hyperventilating "art" or violent video games do not? Or that quoting Thomas Jefferson incites violent action but airing the ravings of a mass murder does not?

The heart of the issue is that our political system can only continue if we have free speech and expression up to the point where inciting to violence or criminal activity can be proved in a court of law.

Our democracy requires open, intense, and yes, sometimes edgy debate if violence is not to be the only way to make government responsive to the will of the people. Sarah Palin spoke out on this central truth this week when no other major American political figure had the insight or courage to do the same.
As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

"No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.
Yesterday I noted Jonah Goldberg's observation:
Palin’s statement yesterday was actually the most robust, unapologetic defense of vigorous democratic debate and the American system we’ve heard from any politician since Saturday, and that goes for President Obama’s speech as well.
Sarah Palin has greatness in her to see and speak to the central issue in the midst of clouds of political confusion when others are either silent or unseeing.

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