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KOSmic Kataklism & Freedom of Speech

Posted by Rick · April 5th, 2004 · 4 Comments

Someone has asked “Has anyone of them said anything about “what” he said?” After claiming that he would defend Kos’ right to be a moron, he notes that what Kos said “was disgusting and showed a total lack of humanity.” And, again, he asks, “Does anyone care to comment about that?”

I have. Although I don’t know that I count as a Kos supporter. I’m definitely opposed to attempts to silence him though. I don’t get why it’s ignoring others’ freedom of speech when I say it’s wrong (not illegal, just wrong) to work to shape Kos’ tone and/or content coercively, but there doesn’t seem to be a concern about freedom of speech for Kos.

The idea I’m picking up is that those who criticize Kos are somehow “right” (and I don’t mean just politically “on the right”) and so they deserve and defend their freedom of speech, but Kos himself is not entitled to freedom of speech. Also, there seems to be some kind of twisted argument in other posts on the Fried Man site (and emailed to me or posted as comments in response to a previous article I wrote about this controversy) that “freedom of association” allows for targeting people who choose to associate with Kos. I would have thought “freedom of association” would mean that those people who choose to associate would be free to do so.

What Kos said is reprehensible and I don’t care that the Americans killed were mercenaries. They were still human beings with families who cared about them every bit as much as any other human being. If it’s okay to feel sorry for the Iraqis who are dying while fighting — not all of whom are innocent little revolutionaries trying to drive out overbearing American forces — then it’s okay to feel sorry for these mercenaries and their families. “Screw them” is just a totally inappropriate response, regardless of what one thinks of their activities. So, there you are, I don’t think I count completely as a Kos supporter, but I’ve said something about what he said (and this isn’t actually the first time I’ve done it).

More troubling to me is that even though I sympathize with those who are angry at Kos, I find the attacks on traditional concepts of freedom of speech and association to be seriously damaging to the future of a country I love very much. (For those who think I mean Iraq, I don’t. I mean the United States. Last I checked, it was U.S. constitutional ideals I was defending.) The First Amendment does not apply to private citizens in the sense that private citizens are not restrained (qua “private citizens”) from ignoring the principles upon which it stands in their treatment of others. But if those principles mean anything — if they’re worth living by and dying for — then private citizens should endeavor to honor them. Instead, they are more often honored in the breach than the observance.

What Kos said was insulting, insensitive and just flat-out immoral. But his words will not do one thing to destroy democracy. What’s happening in response to his words can. Freedom of speech and of association are critical to the life of democratically-oriented societies.

Yet somehow, to many, blackmail and coercion don’t count as abrogations of these freedoms, but only as “consequences.”

No one says that private citizens have to be respectful of one another — which is good for many of those posting over at Fried Man. No one says that private citizens have to respect the First Amendment rights of others such as Kos or anyone else — which, again, is good for many of those posting there. But if one did think that freedom of speech and freedom of association were valuable concepts — which clearly doesn’t seem to be the case — then there would be more useful discussion and less heat.

The United States is pretty evenly divided right now between Republicans and Democrats and the divide is solidifying and resulting in ever-increasing vehemence and animosity. Yet, whichever party is in office now and in the next election will likely not be in office by virtue of any mandate. In the absence of a mandate, there is a challenge and a virtue to be sought: Representing and maintaining the consent of the governed (sorry, I stole that from the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies) — which is not just the group that wins by a majority even if this time it doesn’t turn out to be a bare majority as it was last time.

Less heat and more free and open discussion on both sides, geared towards understanding one another and combined with the virtue of compromise would be a most welcome set of circumstances — and something unheard of in the United States for a little over a decade.

Categories: Freedom of Speech


4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Truthdog // Apr 6, 2004 at 10:21 am

    Contacting adverstisers is Friedman?s right. Contacting the media is a right (and a responsibility). Boycotting is inherent in the right to free association. Nobody is holding a gun to Seemann and telling him to associate with. Nobody is holding a gun to the adverstisers heads.

    This is simply an example of the democractic marketplace working as it should.

    At the end of the day, Semann STILL MAKES HIS OWN FREE CHOICES BY HIS OWN FREE WILL. As does the media, Kos, the advertisers and the blog-reading public. THERE IS NO COERCION OR BLACK MAIL, not by any rational or legal definition.

    In true Orwellian fashion, you are attempting to deceive people into thinking that speaking their minds is not their right, that open speech means only some people are allowed to talk, that speaking out is anti-democracti, that FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and that keeping their mouths shut is free speech.

    Thanks for playing. You can try to guilt and shame us into slavery all day, BUT WE ARE NOT BUYING.

  • 2 Rick // Apr 6, 2004 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for providing further proof that the camp you represent isn’t engaging in any meaningful dialog.

    Yesterday, you posted the above comment to my morning post. Then you returned today to post the identical comment to my afternoon post of yesterday. (In fact, it looks like you even cut and pasted straight off the web browser, which is why you have the “?” showing instead of the curly-quote; the system I use translated the original quote into a typographically-more-correct representation, but cutting and pasting resulted in a character not recognized by the system. Otherwise, your wording, complete with grammatical errors, is identical.)

    This is why I’ve been writing about the need for freedom of speech as contributory to discourse. There are too many like you out there who, afraid to post their real email addresses, nevertheless are busy trolling other blogs and posting non sequiturs, all while defending the use of coercive tactics to silence those who disagree with you.

  • 3 Truthdog // Apr 6, 2004 at 11:21 am

    I posted an argument on a public board for any to respond to (including yourself). Is that coercive? Talk about cheapening the level of discourse. The fact you couldn’t reply with any substantive is telling.

    PS: The reason I posted it again is that it seems more appropiate on this thread. And it isn’t identical.

    PPS: I don’t post my email address for privacy reasons — but hey this is your blog, if you don’t want me to post just say so or ban my IP address. This is private property after all. (Actually don’t bother, you seem to have no interest in discussion so I will not post again. I will let you talk to yourself and pretend it is dialog)

  • 4 Rick Horowitz // Apr 6, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    First, you’re free to hide your identity if you want. It’s not a requirement for posting on this blog. I think it’s interesting only from the point of view that it makes it difficult to differentiate between those interested in serious discourse and trolls, especially when duplications of comments occur. I’ll no more block you for this choice (and the accompanying minor indiscretion) than I did “R.C.”, who was fond of posting anti-semitic comments for awhile.

    Second, how is your post NOT, for all practical intents and purposes, identical to the previous one? The fact that the curly-quote got changed to a question-mark? The fact that your post today deletes a couple of sentences that were in the one yesterday, but otherwise retains all grammatical errors, including dangling prepositions, missing punctuation and misspellings?

    Third, in what way have I not addressed the substantive content (such as it is) of your post? BOTH of my posts yesterday on my blog address those issues. BOTH note that “freedom of association” does not mean “you are free to force people to stop associating with others you don’t like if you want.” BOTH note the reasons why coercing others to alter the content of their speech is wrong.

    In addition to those two posts, there are the three or four comments that I’ve posted at Fried Man, which also provide reasons why this is wrong. In response to all that, you’ve now posted, twice, an identical comment (less a couple of sentences) which is written as if none of my points were ever presented.

    It’s okay to say that you believe I’m wrong. Can you point out WHY? That’s what I’m not seeing in your posts. A bald assertion that something is justified does not make it so, even if you repeated it hundreds of times.

    I realize advertising and modern politics often proceed on the idea that repetition DOES eventually make an untruth true, but this is a false belief. Brainwashing someone into thinking something is true doesn’t make it true.

    So what is the reasoning that says it’s not an insult to the concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of association for Mr. Friedman, you and others to do what is being done to both Kos and Seemann?

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