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Marginally better than silence

Posts tagged free expression

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The law will remain in force only until July 1, 2013. The short duration says it all. It amounts to a temporary suspension of certain liberties and allows the government to avoid serious negotiations with student leaders. And it grants the authorities carte blanche for the abuse of power; just hours after it passed, police officers in Montreal began to increase the use of force against protesters.

Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbor" By Laurence Bherer and Pascale Dufour

Bill 78 says that, “Anyone who helps or induces a person to commit an offense under this Act is guilty of the same offense”. It also fines student organizations huge amounts of money ($25,000 to $125,000) if their members participate in the protests. 

Filed under Canada free expression protests

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The Secret Service determined that “the Nuge” [Ted Nugent] was just talking out his butt. No big whoop. They concluded there was no real threat. He was just exercising his God-given right to say creepy things about a Democratic president. Very little, if anything, should happen to him. I mean, it’s not like he’s the Dixie Chicks, who said back in ‘03, “We do not want this war, this violence, and are ashamed that the President of The United States is from Texas.” That treasonous little outburst resulted in the Chicks receiving on-air death threats, being labelled as traitors, and having their music pulled from radio play. The Chicks, though, were women and should’ve known their place. Plus, they were criticizing war (America’s pastime) and a white Republican president. They deserved what they got.

About the only thing that will happen to “the Nuge” is that he has been uninvited to perform at an upcoming military concert at Fort Knox. The soldiers who would’ve been attending all erupted into sighs of relief upon hearing the news.
Michael Kindt on the double standard of liberal anti-establishment criticism vs. conservative anti-establishment criticism. One is culturally acceptable and encouraged (even when it takes the form of innocuous death threats), and the other is almost universally vilified (even when it’s simply a respectful and measured response).

Filed under free expression hypocrisy double standard

5,305 notes

John Green's tumblr: How to Get Your Book Banned in Arizona


Step 1: Write about people who aren’t white.


You will very rarely see me curse, tumblypoos, but…but…I mean, what the fuck? How is this even possible? This reads like an Onion article.

To be clear, it is now ILLEGAL to teach de la Pena’s novel (which I’ve read…

This whole article is amazing. First they shut down a successful program and ban books that teach the history of the civil rights movement, then they spend six figures on an “audit” that just confirmed that this school district’s Mexican-American studies program was “doing a good job”. It further noted that, “students who took Mexican-American studies were more likely to attend college, and that the program helped close the achievement gap”. Of course, after spending six figures on this comprehensive and complete analysis, the state then immediately disregarded it as “flawed”, for no other reason than it disagreed with their preconceptions. 

They take money from the incomes of hard working members of the community, then spend it on nonsensical ‘studies’ that they reject (unless, of course, they agree with their conclusions).

Filed under racism free expression

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Teenager arrested for comparing media attention of dead troops to that of dead Afghan civilians

A teenager will appear in court after being arrested for allegedly making comments on Facebook about the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan last week.

Azhar Ahmed, 19, is said to have posted the comments on his profile page and has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

West Yorkshire Police spokesman said Ahmed, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, was criticising the level of attention the British soldiers who died in a bomb blast received compared to Afghan civilians who have died in the war.

The spokesman said: “He didn’t make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother.

This is just one of a myriad of examples that prove that restricting free expression inevitably leads to oppression. His point is not only germane, it’s completely valid: soldiers who are paid money to kill people in occupied countries receive much, much more attention when they are killed than their civilian victims.

Filed under war free expression UK

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Man arrested for YouTube video critical of US foreign policy

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit — “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that ”based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video … is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

Let’s be very clear about the key point: the Constitution — specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment — prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders.  One can dislike this legal fact.  One can wish it were different.  But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

The video doesn’t even appear to advocate violence. God, how terrifying- to think I could be imprisoned for voicing the ‘wrong’ opinion. I really do feel like this is a clear line toward fascism that we didn’t just cross, we leaped over.

Filed under US government free expression freedom of speech greenwald

27 notes

Public funding cuts put the lie to 'health and safety' concerns over Occupy movement

Under the guise of concerns about “public health and safety,” mayor after mayor ordered police to tear down encampments—a curious justification after the years of cuts to public hospitals, heating subsidies and homeless shelters that have actually endangered “public health and safety” for millions of Americans.

The total number of arrests of Occupy activists now stands at 6,475 and counting.

The treatment of the Occupy movement by elected officials and law enforcement sends an unmistakable message: Sure, you have the right to free speech, but once you try to use it, we will do all we can to stop you.

Part of this assault has involved elected officials—most of them members of the Democratic Party, which claims to stand for the rights of working people—bending the laws to ensure they can crack down on demonstrators at will.

In Chicago, where the NATO military alliance and G8 club of powerful governments is due to meet in a joint summit in May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel went the furthest—under the proposals he drove through the City Council, it’s a violation of the law, for example, for two people to carry a banner or sound amplification device that wasn’t described in a permit application filed months ahead of time.

On New Year’s Eve, Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, giving him the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, without charges. This was a new milestone in the assault on civil liberties inaugurated by George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” but continued under the Democratic Obama administration.

During this same period, the federal government disbursed more than $34 billion in grants to help transform local police departments into small armies, equipped with military-grade hardware. Under the guise of equipping themselves for “terror scenarios,” even sleepy towns like Fargo, N.D., have acquired armored personnel carriers, assault rifles and Kevlar helmets. Montgomery County, Texas, now deploys a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, just like the ones the U.S. military uses in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

No one seriously considers Fargo a target for “terrorists,” begging the question of why cities with budget crises would want to bear the enormous expense of acquiring and maintaining such arsenals.

The answer is that the emergence of a powerful social movement at a time of social crisis is precisely the “threat” for which they have been preparing.

Make no mistake that we have the right, on paper, to express ourselves and assemble as long as it is not ruled a ‘clear and present danger’. There is not question, though, that in practice we have no such right. We cannot criticize our politicians to their face without being accused of assault, we can’t assemble on public property, and verbal criticisms of police leave the critics in handcuffs and the onlookers threatened with a shotgun.

These freedoms will never be regained unless we can find a way to elect someone other than the American aristocracy- the politicians and bureaucrats within the two party system.

Filed under freedom of speech free expression public funding occupation occupy eric ruder

75 notes

I can’t believe they jail people in the UK for insults

Insulting a group of people should never be enough to deprive someone of their freedom, especially when the insults were over sports and via facebook. This specifically is what blew my mind:

Birrell posted sectarian comments about Catholics and Celtic fans between 28 February and 8 March, just days after being released early from a 12-month jail sentence.

On 1 March, two days before the Old Firm match, Birrell posted: “Hope they (Celtic fans) all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags ha ha.”

On 4 March, the day after the game, he wrote: “Proud to hate Fenian tattie farmers. Simple ha ha.”

Four days later Birrell posted: “They’re all ploughing the fields the dirty scumbags.”

He also posted abuse directed at the Pope.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Totten told Birrell: “I am satisfied that the nature of this offence, and in particular your previous record, means that I require to impose a prison sentence on you.

"I do want to make clear today that in selecting a prison sentence I also have in mind that the court should be sending out a clear message to deter others who might be tempted to behave in this way"…

At an earlier hearing defence solicitor John McLaughlin said: “These postings were distasteful and abusive. However, his postings did not contain threats or incitement to violence.

"There was no mention on them of Neil Lennon or the manager of Celtic."

There’s no question that this guy was a massive dick, but do we really want the government telling us that if we insult the wrong group, we go to jail?

Filed under free expression dissent free thought speech law rights human rights