Has Free Speech Reached It's Death Knoll?
I was just reading entries on Kevin Smith's blog here on MySpace, and I was surprised at the subject of one of the posts. Basically, he was mentioning that he was doing one of his famous, (or infamous, depending on your point-of-view on the subject), college talks. He did a 15-30 minute bit on Jason Mewes' battle with and victory over drug addiction. (He does a 9-part series on his blog about it called "Me & My Shadow". It will take a couple of hours to read, but it is well worth it.) A website called "thesuperfical.com" wrote up an article about the conversation, but the part of the conversation that became the focus of their story was the part when Kevin mentioned that Mewes told him that he had sex with Nicole Richie in a bathroom. Now, if that's all he was talking about, MAYBE this might be considered inappropriate college lecture speak. But for those who know the whole story, this was part of a bigger, more significant point Kevin was trying to make about the positive changes that have been made apparent by his friend's 3 years of sobriety. (I will admit that doing Nicole Richie may be consider, by some, not to be the wisest thing. It's not so much the who when you read/hear the whole story.) After this website posted the story, the critics were in full force against Mr. Smith. What pissed me off more than the story being taken out of context, (which also makes me mad, but that's another blog topic for another time), was when people who were actually at the lecture tried to set the story straight, they were viciously attacked for doing so. One poster, we found out later, had his post removed because it "upset some of the site's readers." I read the post in question. The stuff that was allowed was sooooo much more offensive. Why was if removed? Because the offended posters chose to believe the original story over the truth. THE TRUTH!!!
This made me think about one of my favorite comedians right now, Bill Maher. He has been labeled, as of late, as a "free speech martyr". This is not a self-proclaimed title, (like a certain pop star), and everyone from every political, social, and economical arena in America is calling him this. Why? Because he was fired from ABC for speaking THE TRUTH. In a post-911 episode, he mentioned that destroying the towers was very very bad and unacceptable, but we needed to look at the fact bin Laden was once on our side. We trained him, and armed him. For these comments, he lost his show. Yes, 911 was a devastating day for us all, one that NEVER should have happened, but we do need to look at the reasons it did, no matter how unpleasant some of the reasons why might be.
I thought it was a sad day when "Falwell vs. Flint" had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to decide a simple free speech case that shouldn't have had to go that far just because some people don't have a sense of humor, (or, at lease, a twisted kind like Mr. Flint's ). I know I am not alone in wondering if on 911, along with the thousands of innocent people, free speech also died. That truly makes it a tragic day indeed.
A couple of years ago on South Park, they aired a two-part episode about this same subject. The story behind the episode was that they originally wanted to air an episode featuring an image of Mohammad. Because of the riots after the cartoon that ran in Denmark, Comedy Central told them they would not air it. The reason was because they feared for the safety of the American people if it aired. This episode was the response to the network over their decision. They chose to have another cartoon be the "offending" show, and had the people of South Park represent the American people. Their response to the image being broadcast was that the citizens of South Park were going to bury their heads in the sand when the episode aired, (literally). Butter's dad stood up at that time to say that the more the images of Mohammad are shown, the less threatening showing them becomes. That it has been so long since we have had to fight to defend our rights, we got comfortable. Now we are faced with a choice, defend our rights, or bury our heads in the sand. The citizens of South Park decided they rather stick their heads in the sand. This moment made me laugh and angry at the same time. It was a funny gag, and a commentary of the state of our country today.
To bow to their threats is their victory. It what they hoped would happen, and it did. I thought we were fighting them because they hate our freedom. Then things like this happen, and I think, "What freedom?" When something is important enough to defend, sometime you actually have to fight for it. And people will get hurt and/or killed. It's the nature of the beast. I watched Iraqis go to the polls, risking death, to vote, something we take for granted enough that some of us don't do it. I've watched student riots all over the world to gain basic human rights in their country, risking harm to themselves. I watched on my 20th birthday as Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 16 years, send there for daring to speak up for his people. Freedom is not free, and when we are "asked to pay" for it, we would rather just give it up.
I hope that America still has some fighting spirit left. The optimist in me refuses to believe it's completely gone.
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