tagReviews & EssaysFreedom of Speech is Not Enough

Freedom of Speech is Not Enough


In America we pride ourselves on our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. We point to our heritage of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and we tell ourselves that this makes us superior in some way to the rest of the world.

Yes, we do have free speech. We can post pornography to an internet site without fear of reprisal. We can write seditious statements on bulletin boards. We can argue the finer points of the Constitution and speak as if what we had to say might make a difference.

We have freedom of speech, but that freedom has become impotent. This country has reached a point in its history where individuals no longer matter much. Power is held by corporations and the very rich, usually in concert with each other.

Those that hold power in this country know that free speech can only be harmful to them if it is readily available to the masses. But the only way to reach truly large numbers of people is through the mass media. In the last few decades the mass media has been consolidated, sanitized and emasculated.

A few corporations own the vast majority of our newspapers, radio and television networks. The concept of an independent press in America is dead. Essentially all of our media outlets are in thrall to big business and/or the extreme right. Or they are so spooked at the prospect of incurring the wrath of the extremists running our government that they are no longer viable sources of information.

Our 'news' is mostly cheerleading and vanilla-flavored special features. To learn what is happening in our country, one must diligently search the foreign press and independent sources on the world wide web.

But the people of America usually don't have the time, the energy, or the inclination for such diligence. They sit in front of the tube at 6:30 and turn on ABC or CBS or worse still, Fox. And they get the word as it is handed down from on high.

When was the last time you saw photo-journalism related to American loses in the Iraqi conflict? You haven't seen them because the administration doesn't want you to see them. You don't see corpses being taken to Dover Air Force Base. You don't see the wounded. What you see has been sanitized and is fit for family viewing. And is tailor-made to arouse the least controversy.

In fact, the Iraqi conflict is hardly covered at all any more, even though most experts agree that that benighted country is in the middle of a civil war, mostly caused by our presence there.

Freedom of speech isn't worth much if you can only preach to the choir. If speech can't be heard by large numbers of people, than that freedom is at best of limited value and at worst is worthless.

We can write our little essays and commend ourselves for being read by a few hundred people all over the world. But what have we accomplished? The American news media reaches hundreds of millions of Americans and tells them practically nothing. And what it does tell them is usually slanted to the right.

The powers-that-be no doubt look at the ravings of a few moderates and liberals on the www as a kind of safety valve. Let them blow off steam, they think. It is no danger to their power. We are off in our little never-land talking to ourselves.

Don't for a moment think that what we do or say on our little porn sites have any impact at all on the world. While we run contests praising freedom of speech, our government is taking away the freedoms that count.

Historians of the future, perhaps a thousand years from now, may point to the first years of the 21st Century and say 'here- here is where the American experiment in democracy ended and fascism took its place'.

Like Rome before Caesar, revolutionary France before Napoleon, or Germany during the Weimar republic, we are a democracy drifting towards dictatorship while the citizens cheer.

Enjoy your freedom of speech while you have it. Eventually it may well be gone.

All hope isn't lost. We are living in this emerging Orwellian society, but the barn door isn't closed, the horse isn't gone quite yet.

The extreme right, although extremely adept in acquiring power, haven't a clue how to govern. That is why most recent polls display the unhappiness of the American people with the way things are going.

Those of you whose Senators and Congressman have yet to go over to the dark side: protest to them, make them aware of your feelings. Insist that your freedoms - speech, education, health, pursuit of happiness - be maintained and/or restored!

Contact your newspapers! Insist that unless they report the real news you will stop buying their drivel. And then stop buying their drivel. And pass it on!

Boycott the major newscasts! Latch on to those few networks that give you the most pure information. (I watch BBC America myself.) Something that these major corporations understand and care for more than political philosophy is profits. And pass it on!

Freedom of speech on the internet can be really effective only one way. If we use it as a means to infect our friends and relations with the desire to know the truth. And then convince them to pass it on!

If we can't reach the masses from the top (through the mass media) then we must reach the masses from the bottom, one-to-one, and pass it on.

Freedom of speech isn't enough. We need action. We need commitment. Now. Or kiss your freedom of speech goodbye.

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