We, the citizens of the United States, should not take our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech for granted. Citizens in other countries do not have the freedoms that we enjoy on a day by day basis.
For instance, there is the case of a blogger with the name of Lionheart from the United Kingdom. Always on Watch has the details on her website, Lionheart states his case here, and there is a two-hour web cast on Blog Talk Radio in which there is a discussion of the incident with Lionheart. To recap the situation and interview:
- Lionheart published photos & material on his blog dealing with Islamic terrorist involvement in drug-related activities in England. (It should be noted that Time Magazine published a report on the same activity in 2001.)
- As an indirect result of the blog entries, the authorities in the UK have issued a warrant for his arrest, supposedly citing hate crime laws in “stirring up racial hatred” against Islamic people. However, a formal charging has not happened, and will not happen until he is arrested.
- During the interview, Lionheart was understandably upset, especially when questioned by a caller for the details of the situation. He interrupted the caller constantly, which didn’t help his case. But then, considering everything he is going through, I’m not sure if I would have handled the situation any better.
Here is the problem with hate crime laws – they are subject to what someone finds objectionable to their race, religion, and/or belief system. In other words, there are no absolute standards or limits to what these laws could eventually cover. Where this could eventually lead is a suppression of our ability to voice our opinions for fear of being charged with a hate crime. Freedom of speech now becomes a casualty of “political correctness” and “hate crime” laws.
And now this is leading to censorship of you and I, the private citizen, of what we think, say, and write as well as the Media at large. Lionheart’s case is not the first nor do I think it will be the last. And if taken to the extremes, will severely impact what we write in our blogs.
Recently, I found a deal with an internet provider that would supply a free domain and site for life for a one-time price. Here are the two catches: The provider is located in Canada, and their terms of service include the following:
XYZ’s hosting service may only be used for lawful purposes. Transmission of any material in violation of any Federal, Provincial or local regulation is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to copyrighted material, material legally judged to be threatening or obscene, or material protected by trade secret.
XYZ has the right to refuse to host adult content and to remove it from our servers at any time. Further, you are not permitted to distribute material promoting hatred against individuals or groups or any content which may be deemed to be illegal according to the laws of your country of residence.
THIS AGREEMENT SHALL BE GOVERNED BY AND INTERPRETED AND ENFORCED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF PROVINCE OF QUEBEC AND THE FEDERAL LAWS OF CANADA APPLICABLE THEREIN WITHOUT REFERENCE TO RULES GOVERNING CHOICE OF LAWS. ANY ACTION RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT MUST BE BROUGHT IN QUEBEC AND YOU IRREVOCABLY CONSENT TO THE JURISDICTION OF SUCH COURTS.
OK, so that means if I write something that pisses someone off enough that they believe I have violated a hate law, I could not only lose my site but potentially be prosecuted internationally. Considering that there is at least one province in Canada that considered adopting Sharia law into their civil legal system, it is almost asking for it if I write something about Islam and posted it on a server located in Canada in that province. I have enough problems keeping track of this country’s laws, and who knows where Canada is headed with their hate crime statutes. No thanks, I don’t need anymore headaches than I already have…
Let’s step away for the moment to just check on the status of the freedom of the media worldwide. The media in various countries, when not restricted by their government, impose upon themselves censorship. The perfect example of this is the now infamous Mohammed cartoons.
Some European papers as well as some US papers feared publishing the cartoons for fear of inciting violence among the Muslim population. And yet these same papers have no qualms about publishing a less than complementary cartoon of Jesus Christ. According to my belief system, such a depiction is objectionable, and could even be considered hateful. What’s the difference? In a perfect world, absolutely none! In this imperfect world, whoever files the most lawsuits and generally screams the loudest is the winner.
Coming back the United States, our Freedom of Speech is also being curtailed, although not evenly through the various groups. For instance:
The KKK and other white supremacist groups are often called hate groups because of their beliefs and speech. But when Louis Farrakhan makes a public speech along the same racial lines (although reversed in color), no one ever seems to call neither his speech hateful nor his organization a hate group. Why?
In short – politics.
Who has the greater influence on elections? Who must the politicians pander to in order to be elected? Last, who makes the laws that we must follow?
The result is that hate crime legislation and the enforcement thereof is written to protect certain groups. And now our country has slid further down the slippery slope of where the law by the people & for the people is not protecting all of the people. Of course, this is facilitated by the ever changing Political Correctness crowd.
So now Islamic radicals, thinly veiled Black hate groups, and other vocal militant groups that wield political, financial, and physical power are claiming protection under Free Speech statutes as they are spreading their hatred while also claiming being the victims of hate crimes. Our Media and politicians allow this to happen without challenge because it is the easiest path to follow and often fits their Liberal agendas.
The barbarians are not at the gates, they are through the gates and in the city…
Soon, the common person like you and I will not be able to voice our opinions without being labeled a bigot, racist, or hate-monger. And in some respects, we already have.
Many of us who have posted blogs have been called the above and more by the people visiting and commenting on our sites. Some we will edit, others we will delete, and the rest we will leave just to prove the person commenting is an idiot. Nonetheless, the seeds are being planted of where it will be extremely uncomfortable to voice or write our opinions from a legal standpoint. But there is hope on the horizon.
There is a resource for the blogger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From their website:
EFF’s goal is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected.
To that end, we have created the Legal Guide for Bloggers, a collection of blogger-specific FAQs addressing everything from fair use to defamation law to workplace whistle-blowing.
Yes, we have the Right to Free Speech and resources to fight those who want to restrict that right. But for how long? I’ll leave you with this quote from Voltaire (1694 – 1778):
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.