Bogus Defamations of Character
Clinton attacked critics of the bill as "unpatriotic": "There is nothing patriotic about
pretending that you can love your country but despise your government." This is breathtaking
since it includes, at one time or another, most of us. Put
another way, was a German in 1939 who said that he detested the Nazi dictatorship unpatriotic?
--On the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act; Gore Vidal, Civil Liberties, 4/21/2002.
The only thing more anti-American than radical groups that actually want to destroy America
(both from inside and outside) are all the Americans labelling
eachother as anti-American. It's the oldest
trick in the book.
If what we mean by "America" is synonomous with "democracy" and "freedom" or
the "American people" the term as used in the majority of cases is completely nonsensical.
Certain officials from high places have made statements affirming this on
a repeated basis, I have been lead to believe that it is true, at least as pertains
to our intentions. Yet it's a recurring problem of late
that those who voice minority dissent
will be attacked with ad hominem, and that such attacks will be given the credence
of a rational debate merely for their rhetorical and lazy appeal.
The term does little to foster discussion,
but in an atmosphere of unmitigated and bone-deep nationalism it succeeds in fostering hate. The term's usage
and it's resemblance, however slim in practice if not spirit, to the scare of the 1950s should be troubling enough
without using it to simply end an argument, or the lack of argument, with name calling or
outright misrepresentation of the opposing view.
Nothing I have seen that has been labelled anti-American in the media since 9/11 has actually been
anti-American minus the hate groups attempting to turn our mothers into mashed goo.
Least of all, say, Bill Maher's
weak attacks on the 'intelligence' establishment and a rather banal point about dropping bombs on little brown people,
yet his 'anti-American' speech was enough to send corporate advertisers running for the hills.
Sillier than that but less surprising is FOX News running a story about peace assemblies with the headline
"Peace Protests - Anti-American?". One would have to be willing to wipe out the bulk of the
substance of the US Constitution to consider this a valid question, and reinforces the false dichotomy
that so much of the name calling hinges upon.
In much the same fashion that the idea of "Islamic fundamentalism" has
been confused with the actual source of violence - that is radical Islamic fanaticism -
this coinage for dissent has served only to marginalize contributors to the
polemic with a flip of a fallacious argument. It's one thing to ignore what someone has
to say; it's another to try and cast non-violent protesters into the same lot as
McVeigh and Bin Laden.
It might be one thing if these "anti-American" Americans, or whoever, were burning
American flags, say, which would at least poise a matter for debate.
It would at least suggests a pretty anti-America-as-an-idea kind of
sentiment, though it would be practical to ask the one with the match what exactly
they mean to say about it. There's nothing anti-American about burning the US flag in
opposition to policies of the US government. It might be worthwhile criticizing the symbolism entailed in the act,
or their chosen means for communication, but criticizing
somebody who has pointed criticisms to offer for simply having expressed
their criticism... Well, it's un-American. The price of Democracy is having to put up
with people you disagree with. And before jumping down my throat that I'm just trying to silence
anyone who disagrees with myself, it should be pointed out that the only silence I want
is the silence of calls for silence, and I would argue that this is something basic and
fundamental to democracy and liberty, which in the end are my core ideologies in some literal
unambivalent fashion. Presumably a sentiment I share in some respect
with everybody else in this fool country.
Suggesting that the left is helping terrorists by questioning US policy is absurd.
"Not so!" yell various factions on the right. Yeah,
left isn't always innocent either; hypocrasy in this country runs rampant
whenever the act of criticism itself becomes criticized.
Factions on both the left and the right are guilty of trying to silence others,
but whether there's a difference in degree hardly matters, such behavior stems from
authoritarian attitudes that exist quite independent of political colors. What matters is that
it happens at all: it indicates that the democratic ideals that do, in fact, make
the West great, have not taken as strong a foothold in the West as we'd like to believe.
With the easy media access and easier access to funding that organizations such
as AVOT recieve (Madam Vice President Lynne Cheney
presiding), it's disturbingly easy for them to loudmouth their crackbait theories on
in mass media and foisting degrees of censorship onto peace advocates, leftists, liberals, and moderates.
One would almost be ready to believe that anyone criticizing the American government at all
holds a de facto hatred towards America itself, if the idea weren't so patently absurd.
Their refusal to accept criticism of what may be the greatest human civilization in all
of history (whatever we agree 'great', 'human', 'civilization' and 'history' might actually
mean) is certainly endemic in certain quarters, particularly neoconservatives.
Whining brimstone at the likes of Jimmy
Carter because questioning the President's choice of words will "weaken our resolve" hardly
counts as consideration of the question of whether or not the President chose his words wisely.
AVOT's mission is to attack the rational of voicing criticism, not the criticism itself -
the debate they've entered is about whether or not we should be having a debate.
What Norman Podhoretz et al don't seem to grasp is that being the "greatest" is not
synonymous with "perfection". This just represents another crisis of democracy; an untoward
end the likes of William Bennet
would enjoy foisting on us.
Would-be censors are always riddled with hypocrasy. They want free speech
for themselves and none for people they disagree with. Simple refutation isn't enough.
It is an act of domination, of thought-policing, of authoritarianism. More often than
not it is simply a demonstration of fear and paranoia, feelings that result in the
kind of totalitarian behavior we are trying to prevent through censorship.
But the left does this - some activists try to distrupt speeches and outshout
or censor public speakers; liberals try to pass thought-crime anti-hate legislation.
Rather than better parenting or strengthening our educational institutions social conservatives on
the right turn to censoring sex and violence on TV (frankly I'm of the mind that we should be ripping our TVs out of the
wall and tossing them into the street, and if I actually owned a TV I would do so. Presumably
I'm not the only one),
or ban rock music, or burn books that are somehow "dangerous". None of it
is proper. None of it is just. Irrational hatreds are a problem, but the expression
of irrational hatred is something I see no reason to either listen to or attempt to silence
when I can denounce it for what it is. It is a waste of energy to try and censor
its existence - hate is as basic a human emotion as love and it's unlikely either will ever disappear.
Censorship adds fuel to the fury and sense of righteousness of hate groups, they could just
as easily be refuted. Their ideas are laughable, and laughter would be an appropriate response. Why
should we pretend to be frightened by ignorance? How can sense prevail when the sensible engage
in the senseless?
Threatening speech is another matter entirely - the two need to be distinguished,
and are largely distinguishable. The one is merely obnoxious, the other is intimidating, and in
the latter case intentional. Announcing the fact that you are a racist bigott
is not expressing an intention to lynch the next black man you see - it is not the
same as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. If it incites violence the speaker
is not the criminal actor so much as those who turn to violence rather than the other cheek,
or more appropriately to hoots of skeptical degradation for the logical fallacies inherent in
But what about the young? You can't protect the young from ideas, as soon as you send
them out into the world the ideas start rushing in, assuming parents or family haven't already
inducted the young into the halls of bigotry and sexism themselves. You can try
to teach them to think critically (I've heard social conservatives argue that such a skill cannot be
taught: this is not convincing, a course in basic logic is a good starting point, simply pointing
out common logical fallacies can give a young person enough ammo to shread most of what passes
for education at Sunday school - then again perhaps that's what social conservatives are afraid of),
to value their freedom and to recognize that that
freedom is inevitably tied to the freedom of others. Or you can try indoctrinating
them with authoritarian religious dogma and make them more likely to adopt other authoritarian
dogmas. The best lesson life has to offer is that we are all fools. Once that fact
is realized living among one's fellow man becomes much easier.
Anyone who promotes Western values and
then turns around and promotes censorship has committed as deep an act of
hypocrasy as is possible. Fundemental to the right to free speech is the right
to listen to whom one wants - acting to censor the expression of ideas tramples
our freedoms and insults our intelligence.
I won't even advocate censoring Hitler and Nazis inuendos,
such as the one quoted at the top of the page,
and that's something that makes me more sick and tired than just about anything else.
Frankly I find nothing more American, nothing more demonstratably fine about the human
intellect, nothing more appealing to the senses, than the capacity to put disagreements
aside, pay respect to one another's rugged individualism, dogmatic faith, or bleeding-heart secular humanism,
and buy eachother another round.
Pass over that motherfucking bong Falwell.
There's something I've been thinking about that sort of ties in here: the almost obligatory construct of left/skeptical arguments which begins, "Of course X is very bad, but." As in, "Of course suicide bombs are very bad, but Israel has only exacerbated the situation."
It's a construct I find incredibly offensive, to say the very least, because it puts me, and those who share my perspective, in the position of having to defend our very humanity. Jesus H. Christ on a crutch--of course I am repelled by suicide bombers. Of course I am shocked and saddened by the senseless deaths of Israeli citizens. Do I have to say this every time? Do I have to begin every speech with a disclaimer, that I do not beat my dog or steal candy from small children, or tear the wings off of helpless insects?
Bullshit on that.