Monday, February 27, 2006

SF Sentinel: resist "the global reflex to force acceptable speech"---except for Islamic fascism

I sent this letter to the SF Sentinel, but they didn't publish it. How can you write an editorial on threats to free speech and the First Amendment in Feb., 2006, and not mention the cartoon riots by Islamic extremists? Is Google's kowtowing to the Chinese government really a greater threat to free speech than Islamic fascism? Anyhow, shouldn't we condemn both? The SF Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, the SF Examiner, and BeyondChron haven't mentioned the cartoon riots yet, either. Why is that? The SF Chronicle, on the other hand, published a rather thoughtful editorial more than three weeks ago.

Dear Editor:

Yes, you are quite right to "fear the global reflex to force acceptable speech." And you are quite right to criticize Google for knuckling under to the Chinese government. But what about the well-organized cartoon "riots" by Islamic fascists trying to bully the western media? Odd that you didn't mention that in your First Amendment editorial.

Rob Anderson

We fear the speech police
February 26, 2006

Hate speech infuriates normally cool tempers and now does so instantly in a newly globalized community. As media workers we are privileged witnesses to the best of human accomplishment---but we also are driven mindful that human nature reaches to genocide begun by hate speech. The People have the power to do anything once mobilized, despite noblest words on any country's paper Bill of Rights. We fear that power of the people. It is why we fear the global reflex to force acceptable speech.

Shifting popular constraint of even hate speech can fertilize growh of the worst in human nature, we contend. We are convinced that sunshine is the better disinfectant. Years back, those who share our thinking allowed American Nazis to march in the heavily Jewish bedroom community of Skokie, Illinois. Holocaust survivors then lived in Skokie with fury of tortured memories no others can presume. Yet when the march ended---it was over. The slander of Jewish control was not fed.

Disappointingly, the reflex to force higher speech remains incessant. We see it daily in San Francisco. Every elected official, every advocate, fixates on the media for failed manifest of their shifting truths. Indeed, three of today's most progressive elected officials once floated hint of legislation banning religious triumphalist absurdities which appeared in a San Francisco neighborhood newspaper advertisement.

In London, Mayor Ken Livingstone - possibly the world's most outspoken elected progressive mayor - may be suspended from office for one month if a ruling by an unelected civil service panel stands. Livingstone's offense was that he spoke. He spoke improperly---and hatefully---to a media worker employed by a newspaper not manifesting Livingstone's truth.

In this country, the titans of search engine technology bend to autocratic China censorship raising ire of holocaust survivor, Congressman Tom Lantos, who compared 'Don't be Evil' Google to America doing business with Nazi Germany. In democratic Japan, industry and government are indistinguishable in their juggernaut to Japan-First profits. It is a mighty power, this globalized protectionism of codified propriety.

We fear American academia, industry, and government will not stand in protection of sunshine. We hold our British-born forefathers' 1st amendment constitutional gift of free speech came from their experience of government censorship and religious repression, the very censorship Google, Cisco, Microsoft and Yahoo now endorse on behalf of the repressive Chinese government. Such complicity shines sunshine on corporate profit-first indifference to human rights. Congressman Lantos said it best at a congressional hearing when he told representatives of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco, "I simply do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night."

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