L. Neil Smith's
Number 216, March 24, 2003

Shucks and Aw!

Free Speech Has A Price!

by Manuel Miles

Special to TLE

Every time the Anglo-American Empire decides to attack some impoverished, militarily weak nation, the same old fascists come goose-stepping out of the woodwork with the same old worm-eaten excuses for the suppression of dissenting (antiwar) views; to wit: "You only enjoy the freedom to disagree with the guvvermint because better men than you died to protect that freedom. You ought to support the [current] war and/or shut up!"

The premises of this argument, like any other, bear examination. First, it is implied that previous imperial wars ensured the protection of the "freedom of speech" that every war president in US history has enforced by harassing and even jailing newspaper publishers, editorial writers, teachers and miscellaneous outspoken members of the populace. This American government tradition dates back to the US invasion of Canada in the 1812-1815 war and continued through the Viet Nam War. (The Gulf War and the NATO War Against Yugoslavia didn't last long enough for this "necessity" to become widespread, but the various "emergency powers" are always there, waiting like vultures on a tree limb.) Bush even has laws which allow him to seize anyone, American or foreign, and hold him indefinitely, in secret, without a public, civil trial or right to counsel. This equals, if not surpasses, the Nazi and Soviet states' powers over individuals' liberty. So much for the "freedumb" to which the warmongering comrades refer.

Second, there is the premise that the best way to promote the democratic right of free speech is to refrain from exercising it unless, of course, it is non-dissenting speech. This is reminiscent of the common Canadian attitude that there is free speech in Canada because anyone is free to agree with the government. That is the communist definition of "free speech", although all forms of totalitarian statism agree with it. I reject it, as did the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution.

Which brings us to my final point in refutation of the argument against freedom of speech; the American Revolutionaries fought and died to defend the right of dissenting speech, without which, as they unanimously declared, there cannot exist true freedom of thought and speech. I wonder with whom Thomas Jefferson would be in agreement, the warmongers or the peaceniks? Which group would he hail as being the defenders of the freedom of expression sought and fought for by himself and his colleagues?

There is, of course, a price for free speech, and it is this: one must fight in every effective way against those who would muzzle dissenting views. The price paid by the practitioners of this activity has remained the same throughout history: repression, prison and death. Mind you, I think it's a bargain, all things considered.


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