James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Free Speech

Jeff Wells of Rigorous Intuition is often very responsive to my, well, intuition. I think a thought, or am curious about something, and the next day Wells has a post on it. Probably prompted by his own problem with blogger, Wells has something valuable to say about freedom of speech in our age:
Freedom of expression is often regarded as America's distinguishing liberty. "That's what's great about this country and all free countries: freedom of speech," Neil Young told CNN six weeks ago. "That's what makes us different from everybody else." Though it's suffered multiple paper cuts from the Patriot Act, it's still the go-to characteristic for those who choke on Nazi analogies. (Bush isn't Hitler, runs the argument, because you have the right to call him Hitler.) But it's also the cheapest freedom rulers can afford, when popular expression is cut off from the means of effecting popular change. Nothing is risked by allowing people to say what they feel, so long as it's understood they cannot act upon it outside of the unresponsive and compromised political system. But when the elections are rigged, and most politicians of prominence are beholden to the same security apparatus, what do you do then?

America is a free-speech zone, and Americans remain fenced within it so long as they mistake risk-averse expression with direct yet non-violent action.
I don't think I like paperless revolutions anymore. It seems the more sophisticated our means of communication, the more illusory our ownership of the media, and the greater the disconnect between our words and our words' implications. Under the Nazis, hand-cranking the press in the basement took courage. Under the NSA, posting online may take nothing more than naivité.

1 comment:

  1. You and Vache Folle seem to post what's on my mind, sometimes just a few hours ahead of wanting to post on it myself.