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The Fear To Speak Comes To America's Shores

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Posted by ARImedia

If the government does not protect our freedom of speech by force, America will join Europe's climate of self-censorship.

To cite just a few of depressingly many examples: a painter, Rashid Ben Ali, is forced into hiding after one of his shows "featured satirical work critical of Islamic militant's violence"; a politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, must go underground after it becomes known that she has renounced her Islamic faith; and a film director, Theo van Gogh, is savagely stabbed to death for making a film critical of Islamic oppression of women. And most recently, of course, there were the Danish cartoons. When the Jyllands-Posten, in order to expose and challenge this climate of intimidation, printed an article and accompanying cartoons, some of which portrayed Mohammed in a negative light, the response was torched embassies, cries for government censorship, and death threats.

It appears that we should now begin to get used to a similar climate in America.

Borders and Waldenbooks stores have just announced that they will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because the issue reprints some of the cartoons. Is the decision based on disagreement with the content of the magazine? No, not according to Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham. "For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority."

Borders Group's capitulation to Islamic thugs is understandable given the pathetic response of our and other Western governments.

Has any Western government declared that an individual's freedom of speech is sacrosanct, no matter who screams offense at his ideas? No. Has any Western government proclaimed each individual's right to life and pledged to hunt down anyone, anywhere, who abets the murder of one of its citizens for having had the effrontery to speak? No--as they did not when the fatwa against Rushdie was issued, American bookstores were firebombed, and Rushdie's translators were attacked and murdered.

On the contrary, our government went out of its way to say that it shares "the offence that Muslims have taken at these images," and even hinted that they should not be published. The British police, Douglas Murray reports, told the editor of a London magazine that they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack--so the magazine removed the cartoons from its website. (A few days later, Murray notes, "the police provided 500 officers to protect a 'peaceful' Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.")

In the face of such outrages, we must demand that the U.S. government reverse its disgraceful stand and fulfill is obligation to protect our right to free speech.

Freedom of speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of physical coercion from anyone. This freedom includes the right to make movies, write books, draw pictures, voice political opinions--and satirize religion. This right flows from the right to think: the right to observe, to follow the evidence, to reach the conclusions you judge the facts warrant--and then to convey your thoughts to others.

In a free society, anyone angered by someone else's ideas has a simple and powerful recourse: don't buy his books, watch his movies, or read his newspapers. If one judges his ideas dangerous, argue against them. The purveyor of evil ideas is no threat to those who remain free to counter them with rational ones.

But the moment someone decides to answer those he finds offensive with a knife or a homemade explosive, not an argument, he removes himself from civilized society.

Against such a threat to our rights, our government must respond with force. If it fails to do so, it fails to fulfill its reason for being: "to secure these rights," Jefferson wrote, "Governments are instituted among Men." And if it fails to do so, we the people must hold it to account.

We must vociferously demand that our government declare publicly that, from this day forward, it will defend by force any American who receives death threats for criticizing Islam--or religion--or any other idea. We must demand that the government protect the stores and employees of Borders, of Waldenbooks, and of any other organization that reprints the cartoons.

We must demand this, because nothing less will prevent America's climate of freedom from disintegrating into Europe's climate of fear.

Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute has reprinted the 12 Danish cartoons on its Web site as part of its ongoing campaign to bring the Danish cartoons to the widest possible audience--and to arrange a series of panel discussions to discuss the vital need to defend free speech.

To see the Danish cartoons visit: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...ish_Cartoons_01

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Felipe, I doubt that letter is genuine. There have been a few such variations doing the rounds of the internet today.

In any case, I do not fault a businessman, nor any single individual, for being scared.

Individuals and businesses can only be faulted if they do not support government action that creates a climate where they have no reason to be scared.

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I do blame Borders for its silence on the issue. They are making no effort say that they are distressed by the situation in which they find themselves. Their corporate web site is completely silent.

The few quotes attributed to a Border's spokesman (via LGF) are as follow:

For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority.

... ...

We absolutely respect our customers' right to choose what they wish to read and buy and we support the First Amendment, and we absolutely support the rights of Free Inquiry to publish the cartoons. We've just chosen not to carry this particular issue in our stores.

The common aspect of NYU's reaction and Borders' reaction is the open statement that they are scared: they both cite security. The NYTimes supposedly did not carry the cartoons, but there's a deafening silence from them. As far as I know, they have not cited security.

Universities, the press and book-sellers deal with ideas. That is their business. When faced with fear to publish some particular thing, one can understand their backing off in that one concrete. However, one would expect them to lead a campaign to help change the status quo. It is analogous to expecting MSFT to lead a campaign defending its rights, even while complying with laws that take them away. Instead, the Border's spokesman talks of "challenge that priority". Talk about passive voice!

Regardless of what they say, I think Borders, the NYT, the NYU are not merely scared. I believe that a foundation of multiculturalist uncertainty disarms them intellectually.

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