Locking down culture and freedom of speech

October 17th, 2006

Henry Porter wrote a powerful treatise on the importance of protecting free speech in todays seemingly unsympathetic world in The enemies of free speech are everywhere

He references the flexing of influence on French diplomats in the US over the unease of comments the author made about Israel and Palestine, which related to the publication of Carmen Callil’s book Bad Faith

and and the subsequent cancellation of a party in New York to celebrate its publication. This is what Porter wrote about those comments, Carmen Callil made in relation to Genocide.

She is merely giving voice to her despair that genocides are so quickly and conveniently forgotten; that the persecution of one people by another is part of human nature. In the same paragraph she writes: ‘The French forget Vichy, Australians forget the Aborigines, the English forget the Irish, Unionists forget the Catholics of Northern Ireland, the United States forgot Chile and forgets Guantanamo. Everyone forgot East Timor and Rwanda.’

Porter touches on a theme which I think comes at a crtical tiime as we rethink what kind of world do we want to live in. Others describe it as a cyber-battle between liberals and conservatives.

Question: Do we want a more liberal society, a better safer world, a better marriage between economic production and people, a richer cultural experience, equality for all?

Answer: Well of course.

Its a question of how we achieve that.

And who has the right to control freedom of expression? I am not so sure our governments are doing such a great job

At the end of bad week in publicity terms, the White House has to deal with Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, which reveals that Bush ignored the mounting insurrection in Iraq and that the White House was riven with disputes over the war between the Cheney/Rumsfeld faction and the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and Andrew Card, a former chief of staff. Rumsfeld is depicted as arrogant and contemptuous of other members of the administration as well as being totally disengaged from the details of occupying and reconstructing Iraq, which was then the Pentagon’s responsibility.

The desire to exert control in such a way is part of a very industrialised view of the world. It smacks of an administration seriously adrift from the reality of the world it lives in. Just read Rageh Omaar’s Revolution Day to understand that!

And of course we have the big word trust – cut away from those it should belong to – governments and those that are supposedly representative of the people, the UN and global businesses.

And a lot of people did not want the war in Iraq and yet they were not listened to. Can we trust the news, can we trust the motives of those that apparently are there for our protection?

In a world which is networked, in a world where we share information at warp speed, where truth and transparency are now at the fore – will we as a collective population be tolerant of those that seek to deceive us – for agendas that we are not party to?

We are repossessing our culture and our right to engage

Fundamentalism has no role to play in our future. In economics, politics, society, culture and religion.

Yet in a post recently The people formerly known as the audience voice their protest at further media consolidation in the US we also find big business working overtime to suppress reports on the non-benefits of further media consolidation. And as the European Commission are also trying to regulate our freedoms are we then entering a Dark Age or a New Age?

Here are two more posts that contribute to media control and the fight for free expression The fight for free speech in weblogistan and beyondFrench Parliament approves the worst copyright law in Europe

Porter quotes Ronald Dworkin’s new book Is Democracy Possible Here?

Preventing someone from speaking his conscience and conviction to other people is particularly grave harm. People develop their ethical and moral personalities most effectively in conversation and exchange with others. Speaking out for what one believes – bearing witness and testimony – is in any case for most people an essential part of believing; it is part of the total phenomenon of conviction.

Porter sums up

Which is why it is important to examine the motives of those who wish to limit free expression, be they members of the Jewish lobby, the Muslim lobby, the French denial industry or the British government, which, incidentally, last week prosecuted a man for dressing up as Charlie Chaplin and miming a protest outside Parliament. Sooner or later, their bad faith becomes plain.

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