"net.terrorist"/free speech

Ang uls at msn.com
Sun Jun 2 18:11:44 MDT 1996

I hope this thread keeps running re:  free speech and
possible restrictions on it or new ways of looking at
it because mass mobilization of workers will not easily
occur without our demanding accountability from those
that control the information we receive.  And I apologize
for the length of this post - it's simply my plea
to hear more about this topic from a lot of intelligent,
committed people.

>From Doug about a law which would ban racist speech :
These things aren't so easy to define. What about a black
nationalist denouncing white devils? Or a Marxist
denouncing the capitalist pigs? The first contains a germ
of truth, even as it essentializes; the
second carries more than a germ. But a strict
constructionist could easily view them as hate speech and
prosecute. Weren't the first materials seized under Canada's
MacKinnon-Dworkin anti-porn laws some lesbian magazines?

Angie - true, not easy to define, but possible, i.e., limiting
the reach of a law to prohibit racist speech against races that
have historically been discriminated against, which would exclude
whites.  Difficulty doesn't address whether something is
worthwhile.   Forget about the Marxist denouncing capitalist
pigs - I'm not talking about generic hate, the example is
limited to racism.  Also, so what if it's true that Canada's
anti-porn laws were used against lesbian magazines.  That doesn't
end the debate.  For the sake of argument, let's say that there
was a law that effectively ended the depiction of women as sex
objects but in the process some lesbian magazines which didn't
depict women that way were banned in the process.  What if the
impact of such a law were overwhelming positive?  Does something,
a law, have to work perfectly before we'll consider it?  I think
there's a natural knee-jerk reaction to say any restrictions on
free speech must be bad.  Now, if there was a meaningful right to
free speech in this Country, I would agree with the knee-jerk
reaction.  How meaningful is that right when the majority of all
the information/speech is sent to us by a few multinational
corporations?  Instead of calling the First Amendment the right
to free speech, we should call it the right to ineffective free
speech - the right to stand on a street corner and yell when few
people will hear you.  The first amendment, and people's belief
in it serves to legitimize the control of information.  I think
it's so ingrained in us, that we don't think about how the
conglomerates' lock on information and its presentation should
be attacked.  We should stop thinking about the first amendment
as being on hallowed ground. Remember all the posts about raising
workers' consciousness? Or the posts about what the average G.E.
workers are talking/thinking about?   Horrible values are
indoctrinated in us by the corporate media who use the first
amendment to their advantage.

Novel approaches should be examined and not summarily dismissed.
Zodiac presents some history that shows the negative impact on
feminist literature of a Canadian Supreme Court decision
regarding sexual images and I'm sure she's right.   And I thank Boddhisatva
for correcting me - that using the U.S. RICO -
racketeering laws  to prohibit anti-abortion activists could
backfire on protesting workers.   If those novel approaches
don't work, and even hurt, could there be other approaches
that could be successful?

Zodiac believes that in supporting any form of censorship, we
are building our own gallows and that "in class struggle terms,
you don't start strengthening the status quo [with any form
of censorship] until we are the status quo".   How will we ever
get to be the status quo without some drastic change in the
way information and values are controlled and presented by
the mass media?

Zodiac also says that "censorship has only worked to uphold
the status quo.  It keeps the strong strong and the weak weak."
I could say the same thing for the first amendment in the
United States.  When corporations -in addition to actual living, breathing,
human beings- also have first amendment rights,
doesn't the belief in the first amendment keep the strong
strong and the weak weak?

Carol and Ken agree that urging state censorship is suicidal
and Carol indicates that this doesn't mean that "we cannot
through mass struggles of one sort or another attempt to
silence some forms of reactionary speech" but that this
should never be done by appealing to the police power of
the state.  And Ken says that we shouldn't "create legal
institutions to punish speech when those institutions
are controlled by distant individuals in a class with
directly opposing interests to your own class."  These
statements mean to me that we should never try to
change/reform the system until we are the system.  What
about appealing to the police power of a state to void
apartheid law or to enforce anti-apartheid laws?  Isn't
that a good beginning on the long road to a workers'
revolution, attacking the ways the workers are divided?

Also, Carol, shouting down our opponents isn't effective
on a mass scale, just like the first amendment isn't,
because we are not in control of the flow of information
and we don't have the same resources at our disposal as
the initial speakers, and I don't advocate waiting until
we do.

Simple reform isn't taboo on this list.  For example,
there's a lot of speculation about whether a third party,
a labor party, should be supported which would participate
in our so-called "democratic elections".  And there's
support of Castro for the incredible reforms he has made
in Cubans' quality of life.  When it comes to free speech,
I have none of the answers, but lots of questions and the
feeling that reforming our "right to free speech" shouldn't
just automatically be off the agenda.  Now, I'm sorry to
bother you with just "my feeling", but I hope that others
who have been thinking about these issues a lot longer than
I have  will pass on to me their ideas and suggest readings
or whatever.   Yes, the First Amendment as it exists now will,
with the ACLU's capable assistance, successfully protect the
net "terrorist" who wrote about skinning a Senator
(and Boddhisatva with his later witty post) because both
are so clearly political speech, but doesn't the First
Amendment or our belief therein also work against us?


	Until the lions have their historians, tales of
	hunting will always glorify the hunter.
		An African proverb.

     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list