Friday, June 01, 2018

The Muting of Free Speech in America


Our Founding Fathers were big fans of free speech, and with it, freedom of expression. In fact, the only profession specifically mentioned by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights is publishing. They wanted us to have the ability to say what we pleased without fear of retribution by the government. In their day, writing or saying something about the Crown, the British Government or its representatives could get you arrested and thrown into prison. In some cases it could get you tried for treason and either hanged or shot! Nowadays, you can pretty much get away with saying whatever you...or can you?

Actually, your free speech comes with some strings; in many cases and places, those strings look more ropes and gags. For instance, in China the media is controlled by the government. While it gives writers, editors, and TV anchors some wiggle room, they are still highly monitored. What they say or how they express themselves is subject to censorship. If it continues, they may be suspended or completely denied access to any type of public forum.

How can that be you ask? Simple. They are permitted the right to "serve the greater good", and that good is the opportunity to speak on behalf of the government, which is, after all, serving the greater good. Therefore, to speak or express something against the government is to speak against the greater good, and, of course, we intuitively know that's a bad thing...right? While the West (thanks to ancient Greeks) believe that every citizen had to right to speak their mind (a "natural right" they would say), some countries believe that rights are granted by the State; they aren't inherited by God or simply for being human.

The State is therefore believed (or accepted) to be the purveyor of rights and the enforcer of duties and responsibilities. Therefore, would could even argue that the State also establishes social norms or values by elevating certain behavior while condemning others. In some countries, such as England, this continues. British social media activist Tommy Robinson was recently silenced for reporting on a Muslim rape gang which preyed on British girls as young as 9 years old, which the government had issued a media blackout on after the story was originally reported on.

Robinson was reporting on the super secret trial of the 27 member "bang-gangers" via his cell phone to followers globally when he was arrested, tried (without an attorney), sentenced to 13 months behind bars, and sent straight to prison, all within an hour! Why? Apparently the British government had decided what its citizens should know, and what they shouldn't know. I'm sure it was for the greater good. Meanwhile, in other countries, religion is seen as being the sole purveyor of rights and enforcer of rules and responsibilities. With the State, its authority lies with its ability to enforce its will on the people. This is usually some form of coercion, which could be by voluntary acceptance or it could be by force of arms.

In the case of religion, its authority come from some deity (usually seen as omnipotent; a paternalistic all seeing and all knowing being). As with all religions, this deity allegedly made its intentions and requirements known through a select few, which expanded to select clique. This usually results in the institutions being established to promulgate it accepted dogma. Quite often these "rules" get distorted as times change. Some rules get embellished beyond their original intent while others lose their relevance, and new rules are "revealed" to the benefit of a few.

More recently, we've seen a new players on the block: corporations. In a Capitalist World, corporations have mostly replaced the State and religion as the determiner of values and morals. The world that corporations inhabit consists of millions of businesses of all types; each trying to making money. That means, at some point, that they have to sell something. Maybe it's a product. Maybe it's their expertise. Almost anything can be bought or sold. This means billions of dollars change hands every day...and night.

Over time, several corporations gained net revenue greater than some countries. They span global borders. In fact, they've evolved to where they are transnational; corporations without a country. They have no national loyalties. No sense of national pride outside what marketing requires. Their customers are the world. Many of these corporations have grown not just larger than some nation's economies, but large enough that they influence (or indirectly control) these governments. They help set policy, both domestic and international. They help write legislation and bill summaries. They even control a country's national economy based on their use of local resources and exports (and sometimes imports).

An acceptable norm (created by corporations) is advertising. It sells everything, and I mean everything. Most of all, its sell self-esteem. It tells us how to look, how to act, what to eat, what we should own, how to feel, what to think, and every other human emotion and desire. In short, it helps to create our values. But, it can do so much more than just that. It can even own us.

By continually telling us what's in and what's out, it manipulates how we should feel about ourselves at any given moment. This just doesn't include clothes, perfume, cars, hairstyles, or where to eat. It dictates what is politically acceptable and what's not. Take for instance that in the United States, just six corporations own 96% of all media outlets. That means these six corporations can decide what is and isn't news; what we see or hear, and how it will be presented to us. They can influence our opinions on any topic they want simply by the way they spin it.

By their constant harping against one politician, product, or individual they can all but destroy their credibility. By the same token, presenting the same in a positive light can elevate them to near sainthood! While they've been doing this for quite some time in politics, it's only been since Citizens United, that they've been given the green light to step out of the shadows and openly buy the government they want...and we apparently deserve.

If we look at the last election as an example, corporations, often through the media, presented Hillary Clinton as some female George Washington. Despite the continuing leaks through alternative media outlets about a "pay-to-play" State Department, illegal gun sales, claims of treason, repeatedly lying to Congress, a rigged primary, and so forth, it seemed to the gushing reporters that Hillary could do no wrong.

Meanwhile, the cutout Republican candidates were all presented as "serious challengers" (cue laugh track); each having their day, we were all led to believe that Hillary was the anointed one merely awaiting the mere formality of elections before ascending the steps of the White House to receive her crown. All Hail Caesar! As it turned out, there was no candidate who wasn't a cutout, Donald Trump, although the media tried with increasing frustration to make him look like the court jester, the American Public didn't buy it. Apparently, this time, voters weren't for sale.

So Hillary lost the election and the corporate media has lost its mind, along with it facade of impartiality. Hardly a day or night goes by without the media taking pokes at Trump (even LBJ and Nixon didn't have it this bad in the 60's and 70's). Even television shows again, produced by divisions of these same corporations) pump episode after episode on biased content at everything right of Truman. Usually it's in the form of innuendos, but increasingly its "in-your-face" comments.

More than a few times the comments are uncalled for (and many say disrespectful of the office). Several late night talk show hosts and so-called "comedians" have been particularly hateful. One individual, Samantha Bee, even referred to the first lady as a "cunt", and even the likes of actress Sally Fields apparently thought that was an insult...to the definition of the word! Can you imagine saying that about Michelle Obama? There would be demands for a Congressional hearing!

Shock comic Kathy Griffin even posed with a bloody severed head of Donald Trump! If that was Hillary, the Secret Service would have grabbed and bagged her! On the other hand, Roseanne Barr Tweeted some personal comments about one of Obama's former aides, and her top rated show, "Roseanne" was cancelled immediately. Tim Allen's top rated show, "Last Man Standing" was cancelled for its conservative oriented comedy. Why?

How is it that one type of dialogue is acceptable and another isn't? Since when does personal comments made by an individual result in a television show (especially a top rated one) being cancelled? Was it the comment itself, because if so, network executives need to watch more of their own programming. There are far worse things being said on the shows, and not just on personal social media accounts. Perhaps it's because the comments reflect the opinions of corporate executives. Perhaps they condone the hateful, rude, and inappropriate remarks.

Perhaps too they're trying to restrict free speech, or just a particular form of speech based on its political orientation; an orientation they just happen to oppose and want to deny you the opportunity to hear. Maybe it's because you might not be "offended" by it as they think you should; you might even laugh at it, or worse, agree with it! Corporations have become highly paternalistic after all. They seem to know what's good for us (and an awful lot about us), which they often convey through the apparatchiks and nomenklatura of government and other social organizations they own.

Sadly, we see this same behavior on college campuses and elsewhere in society today. Whereas college was once the bastion of free speech, it's become the citadel of censored speech and safe spaces. Nowadays, free speech is only afforded to what the majority accepts as the politically correct speech. Differences of opinion or even of facts, are often shouted down or even occasionally violently assaulted. Nothing must be allowed to burst the bubble...or echo chamber. Of course, we often tend to see this behavior reinforced by corporate dependent institutions, performers, and other so-called "trend setters".

What we end up with is a society which calls itself "free" while having imprisoned itself behind a wall of safety glass; it looks open but it has limits. A society like that is no better than those living in a theocracy which believes itself somehow privileged, secured in its own self-righteousness. By the same token, how does this kind of society differ from Stalinist or Maoist forms of Communism? Their citizens were taught about the immorality of the West and its never-ending attempts to corrupt the ideals of Soviet style Marxism. Of course, its people were never allowed to experience the other side, unfiltered. What was presented were distorted caricatures of the West. Is that all so different from what we're seeing now? In the end, it doesn't matter if Fascism leads with the left boot or the right.


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2 comments:

South Ender said...

Another articulate and incisive AO article.
Nice job!

PaulHosse said...

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