Monday, July 06, 2009

Pondering the HBO documentary Shouting Fire: Stories from the edge of Free Speech…

Happy Monday, y’all!

A bitch woke up at dawn…I’m on my second cup of coffee…and I sincerely hope that shit kicks in soon.

Shall we?

This weekend I watched the HBO documentary Shouting Fire: Stories from the edge of Free Speech and it was beyond thought inspiring. As someone who writes an opinionated blog I’ve certainly experienced the backlash of speaking freely, but some of the stories were downright frightening! This doc is a must see regardless of your political inclinations…it goes beyond the usual “free speech is important” spin and delves into the reasons why we must protect the right to free speech, when and how those rights were defined and why even offensive speech needs to be protected.

Good stuff!

I thought about that shit for a spell and how it fits into our Independence Day celebration. It amazes me that folks can freak out and race to their local gun store on a rumor about gun control but they can’t be bothered to stand up to those who actively seek to take away their right to speak freely.

Sigh.

Anyhoo, Shouting Fire was a timely reminder about the powerful weapon of speech we each have…

…and why we need to protect the hell out of it.

8 comments:

Dusty said...

I have to constantly remind myself that free speech goes for everybody..even those folks that I do not agree with in any form or fashion.

But hate speech...that shouldn't be protected in my humble opinion.

How to tell the difference between a pov and hate speech would be tough I guess...sigh.

IseultTheIdle said...

Honestly, unless the speaker is actively promoting or encouraging violence, I believe even hate speech has to be allowed.

The up side is that it's easier to spot the idiots.

The down side, of course, is that those idiots stand to gain the attention and approval of other idiots.

Hammer said...

In related news, Sarah Palin is getting ready to file defamation lawsuits against major media outlets...I guess we're not allowed to talk shit about people who try to get their uneducated asses into the public and political arenas? And really, her stint on SNL should show her compliance with the media calling her out on her ignorance, no?

Grrr.

Shark-fu said...

Hammer...as my lawyer friends like to say anyone can file a lawsuit but you've got to have a case to stay in the game. We shall see, but I'm not holding my breath for Ms. Palin to emerge victorious in any defamation cases...

Anonymous said...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Evelyn Beatrice Hall
(Although widely attributed to Voltaire)

Trick Razor

beholder said...

Here is a free speech question I would like to post to your excellent blog. Maybe your readers will take an interest in it. I was banned from the Houston Chronicle for speaking out against racism. Houston, right, big surprise. Well here is my story, and I would like to know what you think. My crime was I wrote that tearing down the door of city hall was a proper response to racist police violence.

Tearing down the door of city hall is a non violent act. Criminal mischief I believe, perhaps a serious one, but a misdemeanor. Compare that misdemeanor to shooting down an innocent African American youth on his own front lawn. The facts are out there on this case — Robbie Tolan, shot with a military style .45 pistol (not the less deadly .40 deemed sufficiently lethal by most LOEs) by former MP, and night duty officer, a white man, one Seargent Cotton who has since been indicted in April on charges of aggravated assault. Tolan, who is son of a professional baseball player, enjoyed an upper middle class lifestyle and was driving a nice car with a friend on New Years Eve, having made a run to a fast food place after midnight for a snack. The officer who noticed Tolan perceived he was of a darker hue than anyone on the block and pulled him over, claiming to have run his license plate and that the car erroneously came up stolen. A verbal discussion occurred and Sgt Cotton was called in as backup while the LOEs held Tolan on his own front lawn. Terrified his mother and father came out and his mother, protesting the obvious mistake by the white officers, was pushed by Cotton against the garage. Tolan, who had been forced to lie on the ground like a dog, found this intolerable as anyone would, and rose up. Sgt. Cotton fired three rounds, striking Tolan once and piercing his lung and liver with the military caliber bullet, which remains lodged there to this day. Fearing for his life Tolan was not able to return home even after his painful recovery in the hosptial. Bellaire city manager Bernie Satterwhite never apologized, and defended Cotton even amid huge public fury and outrage at an incident of clear racial profiling. Even once indicted by a grand jury the city of Bellaire insists it did the right thing by gunning down a man whose only crime was driving (home) while black. Anecdotally I can tell you that a disproportionate number of minority drivers are stopped in Bellaire, compared to the local, predominately white, population. Now I ask you, as a sensible person, do you or do you not agree that in this case the proper response is to mobilize the African American community and all those concerned and tear down the front door of City Hall?

More to the point, do you or do you not believe that I should be allowed to express my views in a forum such as a Houston newspaper where they would be read by the people that need to read it?

Shark-fu said...

beholder...
Interesting questions!
#1 - before I endorse any tactic I look at the strategy behind it. What do you hope to gain from tearing down the door and is tearing down the door the most efficient/productive/empowering way to achieve that thing. Also, what mobilization hurdles are associated with that tactic (such as fear of arrest or violent confrontation) versus others. Ultimately it is up to the people you seek to organize to decide.

#2...you have the right to say whatever you wish but the newspaper not printing it is more an ethical question than a free speech one. Free speech would have protected what you intended to say but it does not guarantee that what you want to say can and will be said/printed in newspapers etc.

For example, folks have the right to post comments to blogs or newspaper sites but the moderators have the right to edit/deny them access.

What you say on your own site or blog is another matter.

Having said that, the newspaper is a powerful messaging tool and I suggest that you contact the editors and request a meeting...

beholder said...

These are views worthy of contemplation, and I will consider them deeply.

My belief is that it is possible, in fact an absolute necessity, that no such action result in violence. Violence is not the solution to violence. But if the city manager is hiding inside City Hall, why not tear down the door and remind him whose building this is. Surely he would call up more gunmen with badges to keep that door on its hinges, but why is this? I think you know the answer and your readers do too. Can we prevent a police force from gunning down more of us for tearing that door off its hinges? I don't know. But I do know that if they did it would be an infamy that one hundred years would not erase from our memories.

Now regarding the newspaper I believe it might become necessary to tear down that door too. However, it is a lesser concern. I know and appreciate that you are willing to discuss this issue, but what of those who are not? I don't need to convince you or anyone who reads this blog what racism is or means. But what of the people out there who elect these jokers?

Do we lie there like dogs or do we stand as people and go out there and do something about it? Anyone who doubts it, just check the facts. The internet is filled with what happened: Tolan, Houston, Bellaire, Cotton. Do this search and look into your own heart for answers. I say the door should come down.