Modern-Day Enemies of Free Speech
- NOTE: This is a condensed version of my blog entitled In Defense of Absolute Rights and Free Speech Against Absolute Ignorance. It focuses only on the proper concept of rights.
The ongoing attack on free speech in many countries today is mainly due to people’s ignorance of the proper concept of rights and freedom. There are two types of enemies of free speech who seek to rob the individual of his freedom to think and to act: first, the advocates of political correctness, and second, the advocates of thought control. It is important to grasp the nature of the battle of these two anti-free speech camps in order to properly understand their strategic means to attack rights and freedoms.
The first camp— the advocates of political correctness—believes that collective entities (e.g., race, cultural groups, people of different sexual orientations, religions, people of disabilities, etc.) must be protected by the state against irresponsible, unfair practice of free speech. The underlying premise of anti-free speech advocates of political correctness is that man in nature is evil who must be restrained by means of political mechanisms designed to limit his freedom to express his views or opinions. The misguided advocates of this philosophy or mentality can always claim that they are for the good of the many or some minority groups. Most of them believe in the ideal of multiculturalism so they seek to twist or shape language or discourse according to their multiculturalist agenda. Thus, they claim that a society or any group (cultural , ethnic, religious, gender-related, etc.) must be shielded against the onslaught of language or free speech by eliminating so-called hate speeches, offensive words, disparaging, bullying, and discrimination.
On its face, the anti-free speech advocacy of the politically correct appears to be socially beneficial and rational. However, what these people fail or refuse to recognize is that language is the accumulated outcome of men’s social interactions or exchanges over a long period of time that corresponds to a systemic order attained sans the employment of a premeditated overall plan. Language is a product of human experiences, discoveries, deliberate process of thoughts, distortion or appropriation of other languages, and historical borrowings. However, this does not mean that prejudices, hate speeches, language-related discriminations and violent remarks are a social construct, as most socialists claim. Since man has free will he is free to think and to act.
Free speech versus political correctness
Since the enemy of this anti-free speech collective is language, their goal is to distort it with politically correct terms like “indigenous people’s rights”, “cultural sensitivity”, “culturally deprived”, “minority victims”, etc. These politically correct newspeaks divide a society into two groups: the victims and the victimizers. Observe that when these people talk about the rights of women in this country, it is as if they’re implying that women are second-class citizens or are being deprived by men or by some unidentified social sector. Women’s rights merely implies that womanhood is weak and prone to danger, thus women need social or political protection against the dominant male gender. The politically correct claim that laws or any form of political mechanism should be put in place to protect women against men’s or some people’s verbal abuse, violence, discrimination, hate speeches, etc.
In some countries, the politically correct succeeded in limiting free speech through laws or any form of political mechanism. In the politically correct Canada, it is now a crime to simply “speak words that incite to hate.” In 1996 a 17-year-old Canadian teen was arrested for sending a “hate speech” email to a gay activist. The email contains the following words: “Death to homosexuals; It’s prescribed in the Bible! Better watch out next Gay Pride Week!!!”
Canada’s criminal law makes it a crime to “advocate genocide.” However, the law is so broad and non-objective that it also penalizes any act “causing mental harm.” This means that political incorrectness in this country is now a crime that any man may be condemned in any court of law for whatever he thinks, says or advocates.
One recent victim of political correctness thought-police is American radio commentator Michael Savage for his so-called right wing politically incorrect views against Muslims. The popular talk show host was banned from entering Great Britain, along with a list of 16 ‘undesirables’ who were mostly terrorists, for merely uttering such words as “Islamist”, “jihadi” and “fundamentalist” on his highest-rating radio program.
Those who advocate political correctness, who are mostly leftists or statists, do not mind transgressing upon the rights of anyone to express his views, as they believed that they are acting in behalf of the so-called minority, cultural or religious groups. They firmly believe that they have the right to curtail anyone’s rights or freedom in the name of social or cultural sensitivity or social justice. Take for example the case of American conservative Ann coulter, who was banned and threatened by Canadian leftists from speaking at the University of Ottawa for her alleged crime of “hate speech”. Coulter later on told the media that her rights had been violated.
In the Philippines, Sen. Ramon “Bong Revilla” passed a politically correct measure to stifle free speech in favor of what he called “sensitivity to Muslims’ social beings as legitimate citizens” of the country.” Revilla’s Senate Bill no. 1990 states that, “it shall be unlawful for any person to use the word “Muslim” or Islamic” in identifying criminals in print, radio, internet, television including Cable Television (CATV) and other forms of broadcast media. Any person found guilty of the said violation shall face the penalty of arresto mayor (one month and one day to six months imprisonment) and fine ranging from one thousand pesos to ten thousand pesos.”
In the name of religious sensitivity, some of our politicians are willing to compromise or sacrifice our freedoms and survival even though it cannot be denied that there are some group of people who are willing to commit bombings, suicide bombings, kidnappings, or even all-out war against the government in the name of their religion. How can we properly deal with those who are determined to kill us or to wage war against us if we are legally prohibited from identifying that which motivates them?
The provision of the 1987 Constitution is very clear:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
This means that neither the Congress nor the President can pass any law or political edict abridging our right to free speech, which includes our right to think and to express our views.
Free speech versus thought-police
On the other hand, the advocates of thought-control seek to achieve and impose their political agenda by means of passing anti-free speech laws or some political measure in the name of the greater good or public welfare. These enemies of freedom operate on the premise that absolute freedom is inimical to society or social justice so they seek to implement laws and other measure intended to curtail or limit it. They declare that public good is superior to individual rights and freedom. When they pass their edicts or political measures in the name of the public or some unknowable good, it is not violent speeches or undesirable deeds that they seek to curtail, but human thoughts. Their laws operate as a virtual mechanism to control man’s mind by instilling fear or apprehension. A society that is confronted with anti-free speech restrictions knows very well the message: ‘If you do this, you’d go to jail!’
Thought-control is the one of the most effective yet the most evil ways to control man’s actions and deeds. Thoughts precede human actions. Before one says something or expresses his views, one must exercise first his right to think. Everything we say or do is a product of mental process or process of thought. It is this process of thought that the thought-control police seek to restrict.
Thought-control laws and legal mechanisms are commonplace in all collectivist or socialist states like China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In China a lot of bloggers had been arrested for criticizing their tyrannical government. News reports state that at least 67 boggers had been arrested by the Chinese government from 2003 to 2008 for posting their political views online. In North Korea the number of victims of thought-control mechanisms could be worse since this despotic country is inaccessible to international media. In Saudi Arabia, a Christian blogger was arrested in 2009 for simply attracting new converts online.
The same cases of anti-thought and anti-free speech persecutions took place in Iran, wherein mere criticism of the theocratic regime is against the law and a number of protesters were shot in the streets of Tehran last year; in Venezuela wherein the government shut down a critical television station and 34 radio stations; and in Cuba wherein eight political activists were arrested last year for criticizing their government.
A good example of a thought-control measure in the Philippines is the Reproductive Health bill, now euphemistically called Responsible Parenthood bill. Under the bill’s provision on prohibited acts, it is provided that “any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act” may be punished by fine or imprisonment or both. Since the fall of the Marcosian wall in 1986, this bill, passed by Rep. Edcel Lagman and some of his fellow representatives in the lower house, is the only political measure designed to punish anyone for “maliciously engaging in disinformation” of its intents or provisions. What constitutes malicious disinformation? Is there any test to determine whether a person is guilty of this act? If passed, the RH bill might open the floodgates for more intrusive regulations and anti-free speech measures. This malicious insertion of an unconstitutional provision shows that our statist lawmakers in Congress may limit our free speech and civil liberties by simply passing supposedly pro-poor, anti-poverty, pro-greater good bills.
If the advocates of political correctness intend to limit free speech and freedom in the guise of multiculturalism, social justice, and minority rights, the scheming proponents of thought-control achieve their statist goals in the name of the greater good or common good.
- For the listed sources you may read In Defense of Absolute Rights and Free Speech Against Absolute Ignorance