Monday, June 04, 2007

Freedom Of Speech - Use it Or Lose it

Freedom Of Speech - Use it Or Lose it

By Harmony Grant
2-1-7
The David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act now before the House of Representatives assaults America. Americans have repeatedly rejected hate speech bans, and American courts have repeatedly struck them down as unconstitutional. But hate law advocates work relentlessly to defy this verdict. They wish to enforce a political and social orthodoxy, banning viewpoints they find intolerable.
Hate law advocates want to punish social and religious conservatives as a San Diego high schooler was punished for wearing an anti-sodomy T-shirt to his school's Gay-Straight Alliance "Day of Silence" in 2004. The teen's moral beliefs were censored while the speech of homosexual advocates was promoted. (His attorneys are now suing the school district, and the case may even be heard by the Supreme Court.)
Hate laws would enforce selected political expression in this way across the nation, banning much religious and conservative speech. Hate laws in Europe, Canada, and Australia are unevenly enforced, utilized to silence not hurtful speech but certain viewpoints. These laws especially target the one place where freedom of speech is now most widely valued and used: the internet.
"Anti-hate" Laws Shatter Internet Freedom
While Dutch authorities ignore calls to prosecute Madonna for rocking out while hanging from a cross under a crown of thorns, Amsterdam remains home to some of the planet's busiest speech suppressors. They couldn't care less about Madonna's blasphemy. These leftists mostly want to silence conservative Christians, racialists, and Holocaust reductionists -- those who question the accuracy of the 6-million figure of Holocaust dead. In the Dutch capital, the International Network against Cyberhate (INACH), an ADL/B'nai B'rith creation, seeks to control speech on the internet through legislation, surveillance, and propaganda.
The ADL has explored various ways (including software and civil suits) to control cyber speech they dislike. Their efforts have been frustrated in the US, where the internet remains defiantly free. But if the USA passes a federal hate law, we'll quickly join nations like China in censoring the internet. Like political dissidents stolen away by police in the night, offending sites will simply disappear from search engines. We know, because this has already happened.
In 2001, Yahoo was fined in France for offering national Socialist memorabilia on its internet auction site and allowing users to access Holocaust reductionism sites. Yahoo was ordered to remove the Nazi memorabilia, and by 2005 their fine was $15 million and growing at $15,000 a day, according to the Associated Press. Although the litigants who originally pressed charges weren't hurrying to collect, Yahoo got the message. Attorney E. Randol Schoenberg (who represented the original claimants) said Yahoo removed much of the Nazi stuff even from their American site.
In 2002, Harvard researchers Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman reported evidence that Google (a dizzyingly successful media giant with shares now worth $500) engages in censorship, too. Their report, "Localized Google Search Result Exclusions," says Google actively removes websites from its search engine. It lists a hundred sites that can be accessed through Google in the USA but not in Germany or France, nations with federal hate laws banning certain speech.
No, the removed sites don't sell pics of naked children in handcuffs. Apparently, it's more important to censor racially motivated political groups or anyone who questions the establishment's version of the Holocaust. Google censors these sites because of French and German government regulations about "hate speech."
The content of censored websites like Stormfront was never debated in court, because Google didn't challenge the laws. They simply acquiesced, silently deleting the sites from their search engine. A Google user would never know his web access (and, thus, his mind) was being controlled this way.
It's easy to see how a federal hate law in the United States could quickly deny access to a lot of websites. If Holocaust reductionism became illegal as "hate speech" in America, for instance, websites that contain that speech would quickly disappear from US search engines. Google's record in France and Germany shows how much they value the free flow of ideas.
Ban Speech? Court Says No, No, No!
Hate laws subvert the precedent of American judicial history. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the rights of Americans, left and right, to make use of speech which most find offensive.
Speech ban scholar Samuel Walker names the Supreme Court's 1931 Stromberg decision as "the first meaningful protection of speech deemed dangerous or offensive by the majority" (Hate Speech, p29). In this case, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision indicting a 19-year-old girl named Yetta Stromberg for her leadership at a Communist kids' camp. The Supreme Court said we must protect "the opportunity for free political discussion," which they called a "fundamental principle of our constitutional system."
Two weeks after the idecision, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of free speech a second time. They upheld the right of free expression of Jay Near, who published a small newspaper, The Saturday Press, that attacked local officials and blamed Jews for social evils like moonshine stills. The Supreme Court upheld Near's right to freedom of the press.
In these pivotal decisions, the Supreme Court recognized that freedom of speech is essential to democracy; it is often the only recourse for political, religious, or social minorities who want to agitate for change. Democracies can turn into the "tyranny of the majority" unless the expression of minority viewpoints is protected. This protection must be extended even to those opinions considered most obnoxious, despicable, or even dangerous to the mainstream.
In the 1940s and 50s, the American Jewish Congress was the prime agitator behind a push for hate speech bans; the AJC called for the criminalization of "group libel." But their efforts failed again.
When American courts refused to criminalize politically incorrect speech, hate law advocates took another tactic. In the 1980s, they moved the push for speech bans onto college campuses, blowing an arctic freeze across the one place-the university-where expression was historically most free. Throughout the 80s, "hostile workplace environment" law and campus speech codes were highly effective tools for stifling free expression in American workplaces and universities.
In the 1990s, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League continued to work at enacting "anti-hate" law speech bans. Avoiding the "group libel" approach of the 40s and 50s, speech ban advocates began to describe hate speech as a form of discrimination. They said the expression of bias, prejudice or hatred was a "speech act" that caused substantive damage to historically marginalized groups, like Jews and homosexuals. They said the First Amendment must be balanced with the 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection to all under the law. Minorities, they said, need special protection from verbal violence to be free from discrimination-only the shelter of speech bans can provide them with "equal treatment." By 2000, ADL had gotten hate laws passed in about 45 U.S. states.
If The David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 is signed into law, the ADL will have finally realized their dream of a federal hate law. America will lose our unique and most precious treasure: our right to freedom of speech.
If private companies like Google won't protect our freedom, we must! The time to protest hate laws is now. At this moment ADL's federal hate bill, H.R. 254, could quickly speed through the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime to a vote on the floor of the House. Call all 40 members of the House Judiciary, available at www.truthtellers.org.
Use your voice now - before it's silenced forever.
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Harmony Grant writes and edits for National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog group. Read more of her work at www.hisnamesake.blogspot.com. Contact her at harmony@truthtellers.org.
Come to www.truthtellers.org and print out Rev. Pike's powerful flyer, "Anti-Hate Laws Will Make You a Criminal." Disperse it widely but especially to members of Congress from your district and their highly influential legislative aides. Both are listed at www.truthtellers.org.
TALK SHOW HOSTS: Interview Rev. Ted Pike on latest developments of the hate law threat. Call 631-3808.
NATIONAL PRAYER NETWORK, P.O. Box 828, Clackamas, OR 97015
www.truthtellers.org

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