Conservative Political Commentary

...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Americans Are Greatly Blessed To Have First Amendment Freedoms

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” 
  -- First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Americans generally believe that, as our Declaration of Independence says, our rights come from God. Not government. Governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

It’s always surprising to me to read about how some supposedly “free world” countries are so infested with political correctness that they ban or punish expression via speech, the press, or media that in America would hardly do more than raise an eyebrow, or even if it did, there would be no legal attempt to stop or punish it.

I say no legal attempt, but, in a high-profile instance, possibly there would be calls for someone to apologize, resign, be fired or whatever. America has more than its share of concern with “political correctness.” But up to now, it’s unlikely the offender would be in danger of jail time or fines. In fact, some of the most awful, distasteful, and disgusting, not to mention false, stuff publicly said and published and broadcast raises hardly any protest.


My own respect for the First Amendment is only enhanced when I hear of how a genius like the provost of the University of Ottawa threatened Ann Coulter with possible criminal prosecution in connection with her scheduled speech, before she even got near the school. A raucous demonstration (riot?) led police to cancel the speech. The protesters didn’t want Ann to be spreading “hate speech,” but their own demonstrations constituted “hate speech” if anything does. Or maybe these weren’t students at all, but a convention of loudmouths whose meeting just happened to coincide with Ms. Coulter’s scheduled speech. I like her column that appeared just after the incident.

Dear old Canada also gave some grief to Mark Steyn via their so-called “Human Rights Commission,” which seems to be more of an anti-rights commission. A magazine published an excerpt from Steyn’s excellent book America Alone, which unfortunately was not filled with praise toward Muslims, so some people complained. I think he escaped any serious punishment, but just the idea that he would need to answer such a complaint strikes me as ridiculous.

This is all Orwellian “thought-crime” and is the underlying idea for “hate crimes.” “Hate crimes” are based on the theory that if someone committed a crime motivated by “hate” toward some politically favored group, it’s somehow worse than if it was motivated by something else. Just common sense and constitutional principle would require that offenders be punished for what they did, not what they thought. Using motive to demonstrate guilt of a crime is quite different from punishing someone for having a certain motive. Just more liberal nonsense.

An article at American Renaissance, points out Britain’s recent affinity with thought-crime:

Britain appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. As a sometime teacher of political science and international law, I do not use the term totalitarian loosely….

The Government is pushing ahead with legislation that will criminalise politically incorrect jokes, with a maximum punishment of up to seven years’ prison. The House of Lords tried to insert a free-speech amendment, but Justice Secretary Jack Straw knocked it out. It was Straw who previously called for a redefinition of Englishness and suggested the “global baggage of empire” was linked to soccer violence by “racist and xenophobic white males”. He claimed the English “propensity for violence” was used to subjugate Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and that the English as a race were “potentially very aggressive”…

Countryside Restoration Trust chairman and columnist Robin Page said at a rally against the Government’s anti-hunting laws in Gloucestershire in 2002: “If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you.” Page was arrested, and after four months he received a letter saying no charges would be pressed, but that: “If further evidence comes to our attention whereby your involvement is implicated, we will seek to initiate proceedings.” It took him five years to clear his name. [1]

Is Ingsoc coming to England?

From Reuters, quoted by Scarlett Crusader: “Prosecutors asked that the Paris court hand the 73-year-old former sex symbol [Brigitte Bardot] a two-month suspended prison sentence and fine her 15,000 euros ($23,760) for saying the Muslim community was “destroying our country and imposing its acts.” (Emphasis apparently added.) [2] Bardot has been prosecuted and fined several times for remarks that would hardly incite anything, although some extremists might use them as an excuse for something.

And at present the blog-publicized, but (U.S.) media-ignored trial of Geert Wilders of the Netherlands represents another thought-crime trial. To have and express a certain opinion is, in America, constitutionally protected. While Mr. Wilders’ opinions that I’ve read don’t seem extreme, though some view them as unfavorable, no American politician would face charges for saying any such thing in the U.S. Our constitution protects freedom of speech even if other people find it demeaning, insulting, erroneous, or whatever, as long as it stops short of defaming an individual or directly inciting violence. For public figures, there is a much looser standard as to what may be said about them than for others.

I am not anti-Muslim, anti-British, anti-Canadian, anti-French, or anti-Dutch, but I am anti-tyranny. I am saddened to see freedom tossed aside to placate any special interest or political group. All should be equally free to peacefully express their opinions.

I have certainly criticized some things people have said (see my previous article as an example), but I have not questioned their right to say it. About the only exception that I can think of today would be the “Westboro Baptist Church” and their vicious demonstrations at military funerals. Their guilt is not in what they said (although it’s evil, it still would be allowed in a different forum), but in the emotional distress they intentionally inflict on families and others burying their loved ones and mourning their deaths. A Supreme Court case is pending. As a Baptist, I can assure you that what they are doing has nothing whatsoever to do with fulfilling the Christian faith, Baptist or otherwise.

The items mentioned above illustrate not only the ease with which free speech (and freedom in general) can be lost, but also the putrid rot of political correctness. I’m about to come to the conclusion that the United States of America is one of the very few truly free countries left. That is one reason, among many, that Americans dread and detest any suggestion of one-worldism or anything like that. But the U.S. is not without problems: There are more efforts than ever to suppress religious expression, for example, despite its First Amendment protection. More on that in another article.

But it seems the U.S. is one of the few countries that still values individual freedom and opportunity and does not always pigeon-hole people into some convenient group.

I say that cautiously, because our present government is moving ominously in the direction of enforced political correctness. They just haven’t yet figured out an easy way around the First Amendment. Too bad it’s unique to America.



[1] Hal G. P. Colebatchm, The Australian (Surry Hills, New South Wales), “Thought Police Muscle Up in Britain,” 04/21/2009, American Renaissance.


[2] “Brigitte Bardot on trial for Muslim slur,” 04/18/2008.


Photo: Image of U.S. Bill of Rights, 1791, found here.

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