Free Markets, Free People
Obama Administration Votes To Restrict Free Speech (update)
This is worrisome. I just featured a story in which Democrats have slipped a “hate speech” bill into the Defense Appropriations bill in a bid to further eroding our 1st Amendment protections. Now we find out that the Obama administration has supported a UN resolution that is also designed to restrict free speech:
Around the world, free speech is being sacrificed on the altar of religion. Whether defined as hate speech, discrimination or simple blasphemy, governments are declaring unlimited free speech as the enemy of freedom of religion. This growing movement has reached the United Nations, where religiously conservative countries received a boost in their campaign to pass an international blasphemy law. It came from the most unlikely of places: the United States.
While attracting surprisingly little attention, the Obama administration supported the effort of largely Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council to recognize exceptions to free speech for any “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” The exception was made as part of a resolution supporting free speech that passed this month, but it is the exception, not the rule that worries civil libertarians. Though the resolution was passed unanimously, European and developing countries made it clear that they remain at odds on the issue of protecting religions from criticism. It is viewed as a transparent bid to appeal to the “Muslim street” and our Arab allies, with the administration seeking greater coexistence through the curtailment of objectionable speech. Though it has no direct enforcement (and is weaker than earlier versions), it is still viewed as a victory for those who sought to juxtapose and balance the rights of speech and religion.
One of the bedrock sentiments of free speech is “I may not like what you say, but I defend until the death your right to say it”. This resolution may not have the force of law, but it is the second example of a disturbing trend with this administration which essentially assaults that sentiment. In both cases, you’re not allowed to say something which government arbitrarily decides is “hate speech” or “negative racial and religious stereotyping”. In the case of the UN resolution, there’s not even any nod to “incitement”.
I find it disturbing that speech codes are beginning to seep into national and international laws and resolutions in contravention of our Constitutional rights. It is and has been one of the dreams of the far left (which seems to have found its way into power) to institutionalize political correctness. The trend has been toward doing just that in much of the world:
The “blasphemy” cases include the prosecution of writers for calling Mohammed a “pedophile” because of his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha (which was consummated when she was 9). A far-right legislator in Austria, a publisher in India and a city councilman in Finland have been prosecuted for repeating this view of the historical record.
In the flipside of the cartoon controversy, Dutch prosecutors this year have brought charges against the Arab European League for a cartoon questioning the Holocaust.
Do we want to become a part of this anti-free speech circus? While I may find Holocaust deniers to be ignorant fools I find no reason to put them in jail because of it. Yet that is precisely what the sort of resolution just supported by this administration leads toward (and something that actually happens in certain European countries). All in the name of politics. While I may not agree with Christopher Hitchens, I certainly believe he deserves the right to be heard when he speaks of his atheism, no matter how acerbic or insulting his speech may be deemed by some. The right of free speech demands he have that ability. Political correctness demands he speak only what is approved and suffer consequences (TBD) if he strays from that narrow pathway.
Controlling speech is one of the first things totalitarians attempt to impose. As stated, while this resolution does not have the force of law, it and the hate speech legislation pending in Congress suggest a trend. It is a trend that should be resisted mightly. It represents steps down the path toward a form of government that is fundamentally opposed to that our founders instituted here and guaranteed with the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
UPDATE: Here’s a little test for you - read the article and identify those engaged in “hate speech” or “negative racial and religious stereotyping” or both? And who, based on the premise they should, be punished?