Saturday, June 13, 2009

Free Speech vs Paid Speech

I am uniquely qualified to address the free speech issue. When I was a toddler, my grandfather, attending a senior citizen dance on the second floor of a building in Long Beach, was victimized by teen-aged boys who set off a smoke bomb on the first floor. In the ensuing panic and confusion, my grandfather had a heart attack and died.

The boys were not sentenced to any punishment.

So whenever someone quotes Oliver Wendall Holmes about shouting "Fire" in a theatre, I know that it is nonsense on more than the usual level, for my grandfather died in that very scenario, and there were no consequences.

On the other hand, the case in which he ruled thus, a man arrested for opposing the draft in WW1, is exactly why free speech has been restricted in the USA. It is not to protect people from panic, it is to make sure that the ruling class has no opposition.

The Rosenbergs were killed by the US government in 1953, the middle of the Baby Boom years, and only 8 years after the end of the war against Hitler, who slaughtered Jews and communists by the millions. It is partly irrelevant whether they were "guilty" of the crime charged. (Conspiracy, ironically.) It was better for the government that they were innocent, because of the terror it sowed among young leftists, then busily reproducing like everyone else. If the government would kill both parents, leaving their young children orphans, then no one was safe. The terrible fear of losing your children to a vendetta of the ruling class is enough to stifle many people's use of free speech. And leftists had no illusions about the benevolence of the US ruling class, which had dropped not one, but two atomic bombs on Japanese civilians, and after WW11 continued attacking the communists in Greece, Italy, France and other European countries who had fought the Nazis and now faced CIA-backed thugs who carried on the Nazi plan.

My Dad, raised in a coal camp during the struggles of union organizing, has an exalted view of the noble working class. (My aunt said that when she was young, she thought that the picture of John L. Lewis hanging in their house was a picture of Jesus Christ, such was the reverence paid). My Dad believes that this world can be a better place, and we can all live in peace and share in the earth's bounty, if we only organize for change.

My Mom comes from a mixed family. Her Dad (my murdered grandfather), and her grandfather were socialists. The rest are Nazi sympathizers. My Mom worked in an oil company, surrounded by right wingers, and saw Cuban right wingers hired straight from Cuba into high paying jobs, simply for their politics. She has no illusions about the working class or the ruling class. She knew that there was no point in sacrificing for the working class, heavily propagandized, who would cheer as the execution took place.

So I spent my childhood terrified that the FBI was going to kick down the door and take my Dad off to a concentration camp. I recently found out that my sister had the same fears, although we never shared them at the time.

When people say "we were all afraid of a commie under every bed" during the 50s, they are wrong. I wasn't, I was afraid of the FBI. (And we didn't "all love Reagan", either).

They have other ways to suppress free speech, and we're watching them do it now.

Under the guise of protecting women, they attack the internet for its porn and call for restrictions. An abortion doctor is murdered, a black man is killed in the Holocaust Museum and calls for the restriction of the internet abound.

Yeah, the internet needs to be restricted in the name of women and minorities, while Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, etc, are paid MILLIONS to spout hate and violence all over the corporate media.

This is a farce and a travesty. The breakdown of our economic system is leading to people thinking about other ways to provide for each other. The crackdown on free speech, while paid hate speech continues, assures that ordinary Americans will not be exposed to ideas of opportunity for all, only to blaming other poverty victims for their plight.

You absolutely can yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. But you can't yell "overthrow the ruling class".

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