“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” George Washington
“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you are in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.” Noam Chomsky
Americans generally take the ability to express their views for granted…after all, we are taught in grade school that the U.S. Constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment, guarantees that even if you have a very unpopular opinion you have the right to express it. This is a right that we are born with, not one granted by some king or head-of-state. As someone who likes to express views on everything from psychology to public policy I appreciate not having to worry about someone knocking at the door at 2am and hauling me off to a detention center for expressing an opinion contrary to what the president at the time believes in. I appreciate, as a writer of fiction that touches on controversial matters (check here for some of my works: http://finest.se/jasmincroft/ ) I can be free to be both creative and explore issues that may not be what would be considered proper topics during a dinner-function at your grandmother’s house. Lately, however, there are some dark clouds on the horizon in regards to this fundamental feature of American law and culture and people need to be very concerned.
Recently Julian Assange has expressed fear that a Hillary Clinton victory could lead to crackdowns on freedom of speech. In a recent interview he noted that Hillary has been using some sort ofanti-Russian conspiracy (involving those who, coincidently are critical of her) as a campaign issue. You know, fear leads to hate…hate leads to curtailing rights: “”We have the ruling party … running around, calling the opposition leader, in fact multiple opposition readers, and the critical press, foreign agents,” he said. “What kind of press climate is going to exist afterwards, especially if Hillary Clinton is elected? It will be perceived to be a validation of that hysteria…So the press afterwards will be cracked down upon, and online publishers, and people on social media,” Assange added. “It will lead to a very harsh climate where the First Amendment will be eroded.”” http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/assange-clinton-victory-will-validate-speech-crackdown/article/2601346
A few years back, as secretary of state, Hillary warned that the USA was losing the “information war.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1p-E2xmpjA If what she meant was that the US no longer had a monopoly over its own citizen’s sources of information she was right. When Hillary grew up there was only black and white TV sets and you were lucky to get the three major networks at that time. Cable was not an option. You probably only had a daily newspaper in your community as well. To maintain the narrative was not so difficult then. For instance, the media in the early 1960s knew of John F. Kennedy’s affairs but did not report on them. There was a sense that this could reduce the prestige of the president at a time when the Cold War was at its height. There were alternative sources of information to be honest, but those were often just newsletters that reached a very specific cliental. So again, while there was the right to say as you pleased, and to read and listen to whatever you chose, your access to such sources was quite limited.
As for Hillary’s warning, she is quite aware that the internet makes that monopoly of ideas impossible. A person can hear about an event but then check out videos on YouTube or Liveleak and see if what they heard is what really happened. They can access British news sources on the US political process and see if there is something being left out of the story being presented by the US corporate networks. In fact, they can access American-based information sources from all across the political spectrum (left, right, middle, alt-right, green or whatever) or even access RT or other foreign outlets. The world is at our fingertips.
However, this is seen as a threat by many within the American power structure. In the past you could pepper the news with stories intended to slowly demonize your objective until everyone insisted you do something to stop [insert foe]. Today the people who turn to the internet can easily see through the deception and refuse to give their consent. That makes it extremely difficult to mobilize the public. Think of the impact having today’s internet choices during the run-up to the war Bush instigated against Saddam in 1990. I really doubt Bush could have persuaded the public to go along with it.
Of course domestic agendas are difficult to promote as well. Many freedoms have eroded away since 2001 but one can only imagine what the situation would be like had there been no means by which to bypass the corporate media or official government pronouncements.
So is Hillary the only one who would likely erode the freedom of speech in what Assange calls a new age of McCarthyism? No, she would have to have support not only from the other branches of government but also from the media itself. What of a Trump victory? Well, did he not have some nasty things to say about whistle blower Edward Snowden? Regardless, just as the media has been used to promote wars, or not speak up in regards to domestic surveillance, if you can frame issues into an “us” v. “them,” or as Bush said, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists” then you can work to sell the idea that people should give up some freedom in the name of security. And to go further, if you can sell the idea that some speech is too radical to be tolerated then you can start the process of going after both the left and the right, as well as the politically incorrect and those who support groups like Wikileaks or individuals such as Edward Snowden. Might sharing a link to a leaked email be considered an act of aiding and abetting in the future? Might opposing an action of war against Russia and/or China be seen as sedition?
There are a lot of things out there in cyberspace I do not like (including videos featuring horrid pop music). However, as Voltaire famously said, “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.” Freedom of expression is one of those things that is difficult to restore once lost. People tend to be insecure and so the powerful can easily play to fear to justify not allowing it again. It is then crucial that people of all political persuasions put their individual aims aside in regards to this issue and unite to maintain those freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
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