Freedom of Speech? Shut Up Now!Posted by Phil Ferguson on September 21st, 2012 – Comments Off – Posted in Uncategorized
Post by Jim Newman.
Just when you thought it was safe to go out. Whatever you do, don’t belittle Islam. Whatever you do, don’t insult their sacred friend Mohammed. Whatever you do, don’t castigate either seriously or in lampoon or in wanton stupidity their imaginary leader. It’s no longer safe to eat sacred cow. 30 people have been murdered so far for a less than banal video. How many more will go for a new French cartoon of a risible Mohammed acting like a French poodle.
It was only a short few years ago pusillanimous liberals bemoaned Danish cartoons depicting a less than elegant prophet by wisely noting, with seeming sagacity, that Christians would not tolerate cartoons of Jesus, either. Huh, wait, what, stop. What person in this century, in the US has been killed or maimed for ridiculing Christ, Moses, or the old white dude himself, God with the big G?
Now, we are filled with more tedious, newsy exegesis of religious allegories to narratives of politeness, respect, and deferment to religious sensibilities. Sure it’s OK to post pictures of the president with a bullseye, a Hitler mustache, or with elephant ears but don’t you dare show a fornicating Islamic prophet. How inconsiderate–worthy of their so justified, material or ideological explainable reaction to murder, or at least riot in the streets and burn a few buildings.
Many Muslims say they do not insult Moses or Jesus. Yes, as they are Islamic prophets as well—very clever on Mohammed’s part including them—but they also do not riot and kill when caricatures of them are published.
We seem to forget our own epistolary and media related cartoons, caricatures, and outright vituperative diatribes to the King of England when we were seeking Independence. We have a long history of castigation to political profit.
Now, we wish to demure to asinine reactionaries by insisting we are above all that. Indeed, we are willing to tape the mouths of citizens with eternal duck tape in order to not deal with the bigger issues of religious fascism and American expressionism. Soon we will remove or severely limit one of the hallmarks of the United States, the ability to express freely, whether stupidly, with banality, or with great sapience. It just won’t matter whether you create the most brilliant exposition of the horrors of religion or the most callous depiction of some tedious detail. It’s hands off.
Kojo Nnamdi on NPR hosted Jacques Berlinerblau speaking about secularism and the need for greater secularism in a diverse America. A caller, Chris, noted that no atheist had ever created such violence as religious observers. Kojo reacted, a little sarcastically, and acted like atheists would be, could be just as extreme, and would be, as any devout religious observer. Jacques, paused, reflected, didn’t let it go, and responded that he couldn’t think of any violence committed on behalf of atheism. And he was not promoting atheism but rather political secularism as the blank slate in which all religions can participate, free of persecution. Kojo picked up his tone and moved on.
This trend to limit speech casts a wide net. The Positivity movement, this magical thinking moment where like attracts like insists that we must be positive at all times–that any negative remark should be exorcised with, if necessary, a hot knife. Do not associate with negative people. Do not even think negatively. Rehearse all speech so that you intuitively always speak positively. Even current science research asserts negative talk creates negative thinking, which is bad, bad, bad for you. Leads to strokes and causes you to seek short-term gains. Clearly, the more you insist on status quo, the more successful and happy you are. Better to let the sky fall then to say the sky is falling.
Aside from this trite story, there is tremendous need for real thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking. Unless we can come up with solutions that aren’t current or pleasant to people we cannot gain the traction we need to face the adversity of new and yes, negative, circumstances. The media are so filled with extreme Arctic ice melting and its catastrophic consequence. Unless we can debate openly, harshly, and with great passion we will allow trajectory when we need vortex.
Skeptic has a review (by Kevin Mccaffree) of a book, The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking, by Mathew Hutson, on the universality of magical thinking. It’s one of those big inclusive things where, really, atheists, skeptics, realists are just like religious people, for example. We all believe in Magic. An example is Richard Dawkins who infuses his magical thinking into a copy of Darwin’s great work, making it special beyond its material. Yet, as Mccafrree notes, Dawkins could burn the book and not think he was burning Darwin. Playing in fantasyland is not living in fantasyland. He concludes (a lot of conclusions in this post).
“Hutson remarks towards the end of the book that his desire in writing it was to, “unite my allegiance to critical thinking with my celebration of enchantment.” Unfortunately, Hutson’s definition of “enchantment” is inappropriately broad enough to include both a beautiful sunset and the scientifically false assertions of New Age gurus. Because both sunsets and psychics can be loosely understood as“enchanting” or “magical,” they must both be valuable aspects of subjective human experience, right? Not as far as I can see.”
In the movie Mountain Men with Charlton Heston and Brian Keith, there is a wonderful scene in an otherwise lowbrow style where, in the midst of a fight, the Indians and the grizzled mountain men pull down their pants, moon each other, and make taunts. Excellent. Not because of anything pure but rather because that’s what they did. Sterilizing history so we don’t see how people truly behaved creates a fantasyland of what we are. True or not, Ortega Y Gassethad a point: man has no nature, only history. Fabricating history recreates people in a horrific parody of postmodernism, perspectivism, when it is seen as literally true for all.
I myself have idiotically finished a negative trajectory by speaking too much, too critically, and in the wrong format. I will likely have to move from this fine, family-owned, antebellum mansion because I wrote five angry emails detailing the inconsistencies, inconsiderations, and impositions of how my family’s life was being poorly handled by extended family. I pissed them all off. Yet, much of what I said was true. I just did not say it in the appropriate way. I was not Machiavellian enough in a positive way. I was unable to keep my damned mouth shut. Blame it on a growing material competition for the land. Blame it on not being able to post here for two months. 10 years of good work trashed by one week of five overstated emails? And I’m being irrational? Whatever.
Because of this crossing of social etiquette, I will exchange the use of a big house in the center of a big farm for a yurt off the grid on the margin. They have quelled the vicious voice by vacating him—nay, I did it myself. Aware of the social suicide I banished myself so I would not hear the demand by the others, and at least be able to seek solitary solace out of sight from the big house but close by.
The point is there is good reason to be able to disagree. Overreacting and killing thirty people and most likely many more, and then rising to the level of the extremists and insisting that we meet their demands allows them to hostage freedom.
Sam Harris wrote a fine response on this. He concludes:
“The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.”
How is it, archliberals are finding themselves in agreement with archconservatives? Unlike the great middle ground, we share borders, the margins, whether we like it or not, what my bro-in-law degenerates as off-the-map. I experience as exploration, adventure, seeking new knowledge. Then others may follow and test the hypotheses we uncover. What this means is we need the freedom, no, we need the encouragement, the support, the accolades to go where others tremor. The only way to discover new knowledge, methods, and process to meet rising challenges is through braving the unknown. If we lived in an unchanging, nonevolving, static world we could stand still but we do not. We need benefactors, supporters, and politicians to mediate our words and actions to a status and class oriented society. Sad.
If these Muslims are static extremists ands these Christians are static extremists, why do we let them hostage our dynamic dialog? Let us seek conversation, ridicule, and interlocution in the main market so others may hear and gain from what we discover but let us not silence ourselves even in defense. I may have to write from a solar cell in a yurt but I will write so we all can go forward.
Jim Newman, bright and well