Free Speech: Either We Have it, or We Don't

The First Amendment to the Constitution of United States is the crown jewel of liberty in Western Civilization. There is nothing in history to compare it to. It is now under assault, not merely from a hoard of villainous dictators,; but more perniciously from a gaggle of self-proclaimed do-gooders.

The most insidiously deceptive assaults come under the guise of hate crime legislation, a growing trend even here in the USA; but initially pioneered in Europe.

One of the more recent cases involved Michel Houellebecq (pronounced Wellbeck), the pen name of a famous French author. He was brought to trial over an interview with Lire, a literary journal , where he called Islam, "the dumbest religion." Part of Mr. Houellebecq's opinion stemmed from his observation that the Koran is of considerably lesser literary quality than the Bible.

"When you read the Koran, you're shattered. The Bible at least is beautifully written because the Jews have a heck of a literary talent," he told the magazine.

Any Westerner who has read the Koran would certainly agree with Houellebecq -- the Koran is indeed incoherent. Its meanderings seem to evince that Mohammed was psychotic; but respect for literary criticism did not stop French Islamic groups from suing Houellebecq. Neither did French courts act rationally and dismiss the Islamic complaint as prima facie worthless. Houellebecq had to go to court. Even though he prevailed, the fact that adjudication was even necessary speaks to the present evisceration of free speech in the Western world.

The French actress, Bridget Bardot, has not fared so well. Her criticisms of Islam have earned Bardot multiple trials and fines for opinions that would barely raise an eyebrow in the United States. A leading Italian journalist, the late Oriani Fallaci, did not fare much better.

It goes beyond criticism of Islam. Sweden tried to jail Pentecostal minister, Ake Green, for preaching against homosexuality.

Even nearby Canada ... Canada?! ... has fined a Christian printer, Scoot Brockie, for refusing to print gay-friendly literature.

Much of the impetus for this legislation, no doubt, comes from a desire to prevent a repetition of the Holocaust. The mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and Slavs prompted Europe to put bridles on free speech. Here in America, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith has been at the forefront of the effort to set limits on free speech.

While this sounds good in theory -- Hate is evil! -- Europe's hate crimes laws are not protecting the Jews they were initially meant to protect, but are actually protecting the Muslims engaging in attacks on Jews. European anti-Semitism is on the rise, while open criticism of Islam is now, apparently, illegal.

The disastrous effects of this policy speak to the idiocy of the 'politically correct leftist' mindset. In seeking to cure the problem, they often make it worse. In seeking to redistribute wealth, they end up destroying wealth. In seeking to protect Jews and legitimate minorities, these laws now protect the enemies of Israel from even the mildest of criticism, such as the comparative literary analysis of the Koran by Michel Houellebecq.

The ADL's leading web page on Hate Crimes now fronts a header on Anti-Muslim Hatred. While no rational human supports bigotry, wouldn't a header on the vicious anti-Israel BDS movement be more appropriate for a Jewish organization? Couldn't the ADL protect Muslims on page 2, rather than page 1? I am not in favor of bashing anyone, but proper judgment should induce a proper priority.

This idiocy is sneaking into the USA via state laws. Philadelphia tried to jail Christians for protesting a gay parade.

[The judge] said that while the protesters' message that homosexuality is a sin clearly enraged the crowd, the tape showed that they didn't threaten anyone and didn't incite violence.

"We are one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech. And that means that Nazis can March in Skokie, Illinois. ... That means that the Ku Klux Klan can march where they wish to," Dembe said. "We cannot stifle speech because we don't want to hear it, or we don't want to hear it now."

Somebody on the court still remembers the Founders' original intent. Still, it is an atrocity that it even went to court.

Our First Amendment is under assault from all sides -- left and right. It is high time that we realize that free speech is not merely for those with whom we agree; but primarily for those we detest.

A major example lies in the criminalization of Holocaust Denial.

Make no mistake about it, anyone who denies the historical truth of the Holocaust deserves to be ostracized. Their testimony should not be trusted in court; neither should they be elected to any public office -- we have enough lunatics in Congress already. But should we put Holocaust deniers in jail, or merely label them as cranks?

Apparently, Europe and Canada do imprison them. The case of Ernst Zündel should be required reading.

Zündel was a German immigrant and Holocaust denier in Canada. Apparently, his application for Canadian citizenship was denied due to political pressure. Twice, Jewish groups wanted to put him in prison  -- understandably so -- and took the case up to the Canadian Supreme Court where Zündel's insistence on the right of free speech prevailed. Eventually, he married an American woman and moved to the United States. This did not stop Canada from prosecuting him, seeking his extradition under spurious charges, and then deporting him back to Europe to be jailed for something that is not a crime in either the USA or Canada.

Every charge against Zündel was trumped up. Even the deportation order from the United States has been the subject of controversy with years of appeals; but it was too late. He was already imprisoned in Germany for Holocaust Denial.

Make no mistake about it. Zündel was a lunatic who wrote such pamphlets as "The Hitler We Loved and Why." A more despicable cause could not have been found.

However, lunatics of this caliber should be publicly mocked, not arrested. The Canadian trials merely drew attention to Zündel and made him a celebrity. Unfortunately, free speech lost. Jewish groups may consider it a victory, but it backfired.

When Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper printed cartoons denigrating Mohammed, violence ensued in the Islamic world resulting in over a hundred deaths. Europe and the West condemned Islam for its refusal to respect free speech.

However, the always detestable President Ahmedinejad of Iran countered that if Europe really believed in free speech, then Holocaust Denial would not be illegal. In retaliation, Ahmedinejad hosted an International Holocaust Denial Conference in Iran in 2006. The West was outraged. While no deaths occurred as a result of this conference, attendees were at risk of arrest upon return.

The Europeans had handed Ahmedinejad a considerable victory. Europeans were shown to be hypocrites; and sadly, they were. The proper response to Holocaust Denial is mockery, not a threat of criminal charges aimed at attendees. No one needs Holocaust-denying lunatics in jail further corrupting the thieves and murderers already in prison. Many of those criminals may someday be released.

The historicity of the Holocaust is self-evident; as is the historicity of Mohammed's insanity. Wouldn't it have been wiser to let truth prevail in the free-for-all of free speech? The Muslim world now considers the West hypocritical that slanders against the Holocaust are criminal while slanders against Mohammed are not. They have reciprocated contrariwise where Holocaust Denial is de rigueur, and criticism of Mohammed is criminal. Europe gave them a rationale. The West was shown to be hypocrites.

The West is setting a bad precedent.

Hegel taught us that competing ideas can produce a new truth (thesis vs. antithesis → synthesis). If Marx misapplied Hegel to economics, don't blame Hegel. Scripture instructs us that iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17). In the contest of ideas, truth is sharpened, not dulled.

There is no truth existing which I fear, or would wish unknown to the whole world --- Jefferson

The remedy for lies is truth, not repression. Light conquers darkness without the assistance of legislation. Let's protect and rededicate ourselves to Freedom of Speech.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of the author, who is a wannabe writer. He runs a website which discusses the Arab subculture in Latin America. He is American. He is neither Jewish, Arabic, nor Hispanic in ancestry, but he wishes his facility in Spanish were better.