Monday, August 18, 2008

An old Heritage Foundation article on free speech abroad still seems relevant


While doing some summer basement cleaning, I found a copy of an old Washington Times from Dec. 29, 2002 (way back) with an op-ed by Edwin J. Feulner, Ph. D., called “Danger: Free Speech at Work,” about some problems overseas. I thought the were worth noting. The Heritage Foundation link is here.

In Britain, in November 2002, London police raided 150 homes and arrested 60 people for “racist threats and homophobic harassment.” Although the speech may have been tasteless and violated what most ISP’s consider TOS violations, it seems bizarre to arrest people for the stimulation of bad thoughts in others. Of course, in London the terror problem seems more immediate than it does in the US, especially after 2005.

In Canada, a newspaper was fined for quoting a Biblical “clobber passage” (probably Leviticus) supposedly about homosexuality. Sweden is reportedly trying to ban homophobic speech by constitutional amendment. It seems as though you control the changing of times (and the protection of members of formerly maligned and identifiable groups) by controlling what people can say about the groups.

Feulner then defends the free speech rights of Alan Dershowitz, for suggesting that, after suitable announcements, Israel should go after private citizens in the West Bank who inadvertently or unknowingly harbor terrorists. For Israel to do so would amount to a war crime, Feulner says, if you accept the principle that civilians should be punished only for their own deliberate wrongful acts. (We have potential situations like that in our own law in the US, as with some subtle problems with the Internet.) But Feulner insists, he would never stop Dershowitz from publishing his views on this matter, however extreme they seem.

This was all from six years ago. But it still sounds relevant to me.

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