Land of "Free" Speech, Home of "Brave" Deniers
“If you don’t believe in free speech for those you despise, then you don’t believe in free speech at all.”
— Noam Chomsky
In a relevant and well-composed short essay, over here at Alternet, Jim Sleeper discusses America’s Free Speech Crisis. As these things go, the essay is not bad, and mostly in the right spirit. But having just read Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, I am tempted to share a few thoughts along with the article itself.
Immoral beginnings rarely lead to moral ends, and suppressed history tends to express itself in perverted ways through the behavior of the suppressor, almost always fed by an underlying fear of the oppressed. It is a form of distorted morality that is powerful enough to corrupt the noblest of ideas, and in America’s long and storied history as the most organized suppressor of human rights and denier of liberties — standard behavior for a country built on the twin pillars of enslaved African-Americans and mass-murdered indigenous tribes, not to mention the systematic denial of rights and liberties of colored people and women of all colors and creed — there is no lack of spectacular acts of blatant hypocrisy and violent bigotry. It goes back to the founding of this inglorious settler-colonial society — James Madison, one of the main figures in the Debates of the Constitutional Committee, wrote “The federation ought to be so organized as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”. From the signing of the Indian Removal Act to the crimes of Abraham Lincoln, the most misrepresented mass-murderer in history who “abolished” overt slavery purely for reasons of profit and ordered the execution of dozens of Indigenous individuals the very next day, the story of “our star spangled banner” is one huge lie told by a bunch of white slave owners who enslaved a continent, pillaged and robed another, committed the most prolific genocide in human history (one that dwarfs even the war crimes of the Nazis), and then declared that “All men are born free and equal”. All men, that is, unless they are black, colored, not-christian, and/or women! Such was the magnanimity of these “Founding Fathers” — genocidal maniacs who acted with the divine license of Manifest Destiny (another spectacular hypocrisy in the pile of racist xenophobic garbage that is the American Constitution), the man-made proclamation of heavenly responsibility to “govern” and “civilize” lesser folks. Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier is a world of pain, humiliation and dehumanization of innocence —
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival…
It was the buffalo soldier,
Win the war for America
— Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier —
Such is the history of freedom and bravery of a nation that, as Oscar Wilde remarked, is the only society that has descended to decadence straight from barbarism without any intervening period that comes close to “civilized behavior”. Barely half a century ago, while the civil rights movement raged on, George Wallace stood proudly, flanked by the national guards, at the gates of the University of Alabama, to stop three black students from entering its gates. It was, perhaps, Wallace’s manifest destiny to stand there and proclaim, “Segregation now, segregation then, segregation forever”. What a glorious outcome of the manifest destiny of the founding fathers who rediscovered a continent through enslaved labor, after they eradicated a proud people who were free and brave and wise, and lived in harmony and peace, way back when the ancestors of these so-called founding fathers were running around half-naked around the Caucus mountains, trying to figure out how to self-gratify!
If you know your history
You’d know where I am coming from
Then you wouldn’t have to ask me
“Who the hell do I think I am?”
— Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier —
So, then, why are we surprised that entitled, ignorant, privileged descendants of thieves, murderers and genocidal maniacs — people who were too bigoted for Europe!! — have now started swarming the college campuses and protesting the free speech of white liberal college students because, of course, “our free speech entails no speech for others”. It’s classic All-American hypocrisy!
Yet, there is cause for alarm. As anti-American as I may have seemed, and I am profoundly anti-American, I am deeply aware that violence is etched into the soul of every State! Noam Chomsky has often pointed out that the idea of the modern Nation-State is a highly unnatural one, and a recent one, and one that has been created and perpetuated only through unmitigated class-violence. A structured society is, of course, a necessity for modern industrialized life. However, what is not a necessity is for that structure to be hierarchical. A collectivized, horizontal society is not only a possibility and a necessity, but it used to be a historical reality. That is until Catalonia was crushed, and the collectivized society that emerged from the Spanish Revolution of 1936 demolished, by the combined forces of Soviet aggression, American expansionism and European decadence. The interested reader will be well advised to read of this much covered up event of history in the writings of Rudolph Rocker, George Orwell and Noam Chomsky (On Anarchism).
Much like the case of Catalonia, even in the swamp of settler-colonialism the reciprocal altruistic nature of human beings raises its hopeful head in America, and therein we see thousands of middle-class, working-class people, white people, become aware of the inherent injustice and vulgar disparity of life around them. Call them, these good people, the conscience of America. And lest we be surprised that such events occur in America, let us not forget that dissent and disobedience is American as apple-pie and greedy, self-destructive capitalism. For every act of injustice, we would do well to remember that America has produced such magnanimous men and women, not because of but in spite of its history, as Utah Phillips, Emma Goldman, Howard Zinn, Malcolm X, the members of The Weather Underground, the Haymarket activists and the Chicago Anarchists, and of course, the world’s foremost dissident and the greatest civil rights and working class hero — Noam Chomsky.
Of couse, nothing scares the ignorant than lights of knowledge and dawning understanding, especially so when they start to shed lights of self-criticism inwards. The subjugation of their FREE SPEECH, in the name of the freedom to speak fascist propaganda, has a bloody trail all through American history. But the source of optimism is right out there too… in spite of three hundred years of racism and bigotry and brutal denial and suppression of human rights, the conscience of America is still alive. Noam Chomsky’s speech at Occupy was a stark call to action for Everyman to recreate the radical atmosphere of the 1960s, and to ensure that the conscience of America, and Free Speech itself as its underpinning, is not wiped out in its own name. It will do us well to remember that Free Speech is not Free, until it is Free for all. So to the streets then… and to occupy, to resist, and to disobey… until our freedom has come. This is the new intifada… from Kashmir to Gaza, and indeed, Brooklyn too! Why should Middle-East have all the fun