Friday, January 25, 2008

Freedom of speech - an American concept?

Quick: Who said this?
"Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value. "
No, it's not a line from The Great Dictator! (There, the actual line was "Frei sprechen SCHTUNK!") It was said by Canadian Human Rights Commission officer Mr. Dean Stacey. And it was uttered during the showtrial "Warman vs. Lemire" (hmmm, Warman...where have I heard THAT name before?)

Well, it goes to show how poorly Canadians know their own history. Ezra Levant was right, when he said that
We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of eight hundred years of British common law protection for speech, augmented by 250 years of common law in Canada.
These are our 'ancient and inalienable freedoms', held by us before there even WAS an America. In the course of some reading today, I came across a poem by Tennyson:
You ask me, why, tho' ill at ease,
Within this region I subsist,
Whose spirits falter in the mist,
And languish for the purple seas.

It is the land that freemen till,
That sober-suited Freedom chose,
The land, where girt with friends or foes
A man may speak the thing he will,

A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown,
Where Freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent;

Where faction seldom gathers head,
But, by degrees to fullness wrought,
The strength of some diffusive thought
Hath time and space to work and spread.

Should banded unions persecute
Opinions, and induce a time
When single thought is civil crime,
And individual freedom mute,

Tho' power should make from land to land
The name of Britain trebly great --
Tho' every channel of the State
Should fill and choke with warm sand --

Yet waft me from the harbor-mouth,
Wild wind! I seek a warmer sky,
And I will see before I die
The palms and temples of the South.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Antique said...

Freedom of speech isn't exactly and American CONCEPT. It's like, you know, a legal right.

The way things are going it's likely to become a quaint memory, but the CONCEPT ceased to be in 1786 and became a REALITY.

Perhaps your minister or officer or whomever might want to actually study the political histories of the countries whose laws he cites before making himeself into one of Mark Twain's examples. You know the adage: "Better to remain silent and appear stupid than to open your mouth an confirm it."

11:23 pm  
OpenID yokel said...

@ antique
NO! There are forces at work all over the world to stifle free speech. In the UK, we are probably at 1935 on the Hitler scale. In the US, I suggest that you are very close behind. There is now no room to be scared of making a fool of ourselves. SPEAK OUT, for to keep silent is to acquiesce.

4:19 am  
Blogger Priscilla said...

I feel that our speech is not threated so much by government interference as by us against ourselves. Politically correct speech has been made mandatory by subtle "sensitivity training" in our schools and media. People lose jobs (as high up as Speaker of the House) for expressing a complement that was THOUGHT insensitive by the media. Yokel is right, "do not keep silent". And remember this is nearly always one sided.

An event in the "Peoples Republic" of Portland, Oregon, where I live, shows this is true: A clothing business which sold fur closed its doors last year, when crowds of PETA thugs camped outside their store and accosted the store front, employees, and customers both verbally and physically. The City and police refused to take action against the violent ones. The store closed, and the owners sued PETA for $6.6m to court. They lost. And now Judge Michael Mosman says the lawsuit was "an extraordinary abuse of the litigation process" and threatened free-speech rights so he has ordered the owners of the store to pay the people who caused them to lose their business, nearly $97,000 in attorney's fees.
See - free speech only works one way, here.

BTW Dr., do you know Freedomkeys.com? I found was really helpful to my Jr. High students, last year. I enjoy reading it and I think you would like it, too.

Love your blog, though I usually don't have time to write to it.

9:55 am  
Anonymous Antique said...

Yokel, I think perhaps you misunderstood me as to whom I was calling stupid and wishing would remain silent. I was referring to the minister/officer who said freedom of speech "is an American concept."

'Tis interesting you mentioned the Hitler regime. I was just thinking how, though certainly not for violent or dictatorial reasons, the erosion of our rights to governments around the world follows quite nicely the means by which Hitler came to power. That is to say, in the final analysis, the people let him. They willingly gave away their rights to the state, time and again, year by year.

Being a Brit by birth and therefore keeping up with news of the Isles, and the good Dr. Mabuse advising us on Canadian news, I keep wondering, "Why the Bl**dy H*ll don't your voters rise up and vote OUT ministers who support Political Correctness? Why don't you rise up your own candidates whose primary campaign slogan is, "If you think you're offended now when someone speaks their mind, just you bl**dy wait till we form a government!"

Yes, I'm aware where the USA stands on this: right in line behind you. I'd put us pre-1933 on the Hitler Mass Seduction scale. We have to be careful how we say things, but can still say them. We could for instance say, "Muslims have made certain areas of certain cities no-go areas for non-Muslims." But we couldn't say, "Muslims have taken over this area of the city, and I think it's time the government took it back."

If we use the second way and it gives the idea to a hot-headed youth to go into that area of town and whack a few noggins with a length of board, then the boy's actions could be the fault of the person who suggested any form of action (even if it is government action). The parents of the boy, of course, wouldn't dream their son could do such a thing so they'd certainly try to blame someone else. Sadly, the courts now agree that at least a trial is needed. It's only justice, they say, to find out who is to blame for that boy hurting other people.

Which brings me back to my Mark Twain quote, members of government and voters too engrossed in their latest electronic gadgets to lift their eyes and take a look about them.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Good point, antique, on the use of the word "concept". It tends to dismiss the topic as some airy-fairy theory that only exists on a drawing board. Intellectuals use tricks like that a lot; "ideal" is another brush-off word. They talk about "the ideal of monogamy" as if it's some astronomical theory that only exists on Einstein's blackboard, when everyone knows the world is, and always has been, thronged with monogamous couples, even though they're not perfect. But it's a way of making something perfectly ordinary and commonplace seem too hard and too remote to have any connection to real life.

8:35 am  

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