vrijdag 22 februari 2013

Shut Up or I’ll Kill You

by Michael Ledeen
We’re a fractious people, always have been, and our politics have been especially colorful. I’m a nearly lifelong fan of John C. Calhoun’s line about Henry Clay: “Like a mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks …”. Our political candidates have been mocked for their love affairs, their wooden legs, their false teeth, and their drinking habits. It’s not elegant, but rude, insulting talk is one of the products of free speech.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that free speech around the world is still a rarity, and seems to be becoming even rarer. Lots of countries have the death penalty and other violent punishments for “insulting the state” or “the leader.” In religious states, such talk is branded blasphemy; in all too many secular states, unrestrained criticism of favored groups falls under the arbitrary classification of “hate speech” and is suppressed.

Citizens and subjects of such places are not at all like Americans; they learn habits of mind and mouth that are quite different from ours. They learn to be silent about any subject that could arouse the displeasure of the thought police, and they learn to speak in code, using words to mean things very different from their dictionary meanings. If they are unhappy with their lot or see ways things could be improved, they don’t dare reveal their true feelings openly and explicitly.

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