“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
— Noam Chomsky – American Linguist
The title of the essay may arouse a level of curiosity for those who take the US propaganda at face value and believe that the US personifies the essence of free speech. But it could equally traumatize the readers, as it will challenge the dogmas held, which has been systematically inculcated in their minds since birth. It will be particularly unsettling to those who may begin to recognize that it is they who actually epitomize the traits with which they were demonizing others. A bit like a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member getting up from sleep and then seeing in the mirror that his face has turned black, in the context of recent events perhaps the face of an Arab or a Muslim!
Whilst those readers who have become totally brainwashed they have developed an immune system that prevents them from acknowledging any criticism of the US no matter what evidences are presented to them. So, they continue to live in the world where the US was and is an innocent victim, attacked by Saddam Bin Laden with his Weapons of mass destruction, hence the Iraq war!
It is reasonable to assume that those who are entitled to advocate ‘free’ speech must have a free mind; that is a mind free from bigotry. Therefore, we can already exclude those KKK folks, Bible bashing religious fanatics and the general rightwing zealots from the ‘free’ speech club. Such type of primitive mindset is bound to produce wanton verbal abuse under the license of free speech and not surprisingly we do see the wanton abuse of Muslims and Islam emanating from those sections in various forms, particularly visible in the mass media.
A cursory search of the Internet reveals abundant number of US-based websites and some from Europe dedicated to abusing Islam, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the Muslims; using pornographic and the most abusive language they operate whilst some have a pretext of intellectual dialogue and scholarly research. Almost none of them have debated the issues in a scholarly manner with an educated Islamic intellectual. One cannot simply isolate these websites to individuals, as it is evident that these websites must have strong financial and political backings.
Therefore, naturally it seems that the abuse of Islam and Muslims is a manifestation of free speech to the US and the West in general. Anyone engaging in this is guaranteed protection followed by the usual accolades and inordinate levels of publicity. This is why the mass media gives prime coverage to an illiterate (in terms of her Islamic credentials) lesbian calling for reform within Islam; adulterers and porn actresses lecturing the Muslims about morality and ethics!
In contrast, when the Muslims exercise their right to ‘free’ speech in defending their point of view, using a language that is far milder in comparison, they are ostracized instantly; the so-called ‘free’ speech vanishes. Any impartial fair-minded persons will see that it is the Muslims in general that are tolerant, never resort to abusive language against Jesus as they regard him as a Prophet of God or against Christianity or against the West in general, despite the existing carnage being committed in their lands. Just ask yourself what is equivalent pejorative term coined and used by the Muslims for sand-nigger, rag-head, and camel-humpers. Hence, a mind that is free from bigotry, tolerant is the one that can wield real free speech.
The proponents of ‘free’ speech always look at absolute dictatorship to vindicate themselves, overlooking what they have in common. Note that that the test of ‘free’ speech is the ability to dissent by challenging the status quo intellectually as opposed to just resorting to verbal abuse like wanton profanity. Genuine dissension is the obvious and fundamental test as everyone can exercise the right to ‘free’ speech in compliance to any system. Democracy creates an illusion of ‘free’ speech where as the dictatorship denies it in absolute terms but neither will tolerate any opposition whereby their system and values could be undermined.
Therefore, the usual charades of discord seen through the largely dual party system (note dual party politics only one step away from single party dictatorship) during the elections are cosmetic. Differing with the existing government’s policy in terms of how the same objectives could be achieved better as opposed to proposing an entirely different set of values is hardly real dissension.
Real dissension under free speech manifests when alternative values can be debated openly. This is the crux of the problem for the US, it cannot and will not deal the different values and it makes every attempt to stifle open discussion, in particular with its nascent foe – the Islamic world. The US likes to use its muscles more than its brains in line with their Wild West legacy.
The example that will come to mind is the constant bullying of the secular Arab press as the US media sees: ‘free’ speech exhibited by airing an alternative view of the war as ‘incitement to hatred’, bravery of the Iraqi resistance fighters become ‘fanaticism’, execution and porn-torture of Iraqi prisoners become technical ‘abuse’, the ever expanding US made mass graves are simply faceless and nameless collateral damages. So the ‘free’ speech could be either a fact or a spin depending how your brain is operating!
Furthermore, the largely secular Arab media are already handicapped by the language factor as English is far widely spoken than Arabic, most Arabs can understand English but most Americans and Europeans cannot understand Arabic. The US media is also much larger in size, technical know-how and has far greater levels of experience. If the US really believes in ‘free’ speech and given that it already has a head start in terms of its capabilities so why the need to censure Arab TVs. Surely CNN could have gone to Fallujah and disprove what Al-Jazeera may have broadcasted.
The US is finding these western orientated secular Arab presses difficult to cope with imagine how it would cope with the mass media run by the radical Islamic groups. It seems that the US is only interested in engaging in genuine ‘free’ speech once it has sealed the opponent’s lips! Perhaps like why it chose to invade Iraq after stripping it of all its weapons and simultaneously avoided the more resolute North Korea.
Then we have the usual farce of discussing Islam and all the ‘experts’ brought, professes to hate the very subject. Just listen to the likes of Dr. Daniel Pipes. This guy is supposed to be the educated one and an expert on Islam! His racist outbursts give us an indication what other nasty creatures lies below him in the lower echelons of the US intelligentsia.
This is even more primitive than the dark ages when there was greater level of open discussion between east-west and Muslim-Christian despite lacking in technology and efficient transport facilities. In fact Afro-Americans probably have a better chance in getting a fairer view about themselves from the KKK folks than the Muslims have with the likes of Dr. Pipes! The other token Muslim ‘experts’ brought on are the usual moderates whose outlook is no different to the US government! So, where is the open debate and discussion that is expected from a society constantly bragging about its free speech credentials?
Rather the US media engages in a one-sided propaganda. Whilst America is unwilling to tolerate anyone opposing American values they are openly promoting anyone when it is dissent against Islam, entertains obscure individuals who have no expertise in Islam other than an interest to undermine it.
A genuine manifestation of ‘free’ speech is the open dialogue with an alternative viewpoint, a dialogue between two civilizations, two religions, and two ideologies. But not between two candidates aiming for the same position and to implement the same polices within the same system. The US in reality fears genuine ‘free’ speech as it makes every effort to marginalize an alternative viewpoint that challenges its position. The best evidences are its own actions in dealing with the secular Arab media as it bombed it several times, in addition to the constant bullying through the other channels, the spread of false and abusive information through the Internet and other media outlets and restricting media coverage to its approved embedded media in Iraq.