9 Comments

A free speech advocate (I think Ira Glasser, but I’m not sure) once said, “I want to know who the Nazis in the room are,” so he could know to be wary of them. He was right - not only does censorship create martyrs, it makes it more difficult to spot the people with malicious views. I’d rather the defenders of Hamas be allowed to make themselves known, so I know not to respect them.

Expand full comment

We may enjoy our freedom of speech knowing that there are institutions in place to protect us when a line is crossed into illegal activity. Historically, however, minorities have not always received that same institutional protection, which can be an argument for additional protections for minorities such as hate-crime laws.

Expand full comment

I pretty much agree with everything you say, but the US (whose core legal structure includes the First Amendment) differs from other countries with weaker legal/traditional protections for free speech.

Expand full comment

All well and good, except that Jews are not, in fact, being protected. They're being ignored, they're being told to not hold their own demonstrations, they're being told to stay out of site.

Also, I don't think a celebration of murder, rape and other atrocities is simply "one side of a conflict".

Expand full comment

Hi, Ulysses, I'm not offended by your indignation on such an important issue, but just as one example, I would remind you of the massacre at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, in which the IDF was deeply complicit. Israel has just as much right to exist as any other state, but not at the expense of denying the human and civil rights of millions of people within their borders. It needn't be this way, if Israel committed itself to being a truly democratic, secular state that does not grant special status to any ethnic or religious group, and brutalize those outside that group.

Expand full comment

As a donor, albeit a small one, to FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), I applaud the author's principled defense of free speech in the context of the current round of violence in Israel/Palestine, but I believe he is missing a crucial component of contemporary pressure for censorship, as well as displaying an extremely one-sided, if somewhat conventional, attitude toward the horrific level of death and destruction being meted out by the state of Israel against a large captive population in the Gaza Strip.

The millions of inhabitants in the Gaza Strip have all been prisoners there under Israeli occupation - or siege, or whatever one chooses to call it - for almost twenty years, which is longer than most of them have been alive. Their ancestors were forced out of their homes in Palestine when the State of Israel was founded in 1948, and they now live as both refugees and prisoners, subject to the daily deprivation, violence and humiliation of occupation, punctuated by outbursts of outright Israeli military attacks like the current one. While the violence initiated by Hamas partisans on October 7 of this year may be shocking and repugnant, it is no more so than what their own people have been used to for decades. It is now clear that the Israelis intend to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine altogether, if they are allowed to do that, but other countries in the region, as well as the residents of the Gaza Strip themselves, might not be disposed to allow that to happen. Even Israel's most steadfast and powerful benefactor, the Unites States government, may start to have second thoughts, if the stakes get too high in terms of rising public criticism and potential damage to vital American strategic interests.

Herein lies the weakness of Mr. Mchangama's defense of free speech: it is often, if not usually, the most powerful vested interests - the US government and their enablers in the mainstream media - who are the most prolific purveyors of lies, distortions, and half-truths, and the current Administration's (seemingly) unquestioning loyalty to the State of Israel is precisely why it is so vitally important for the full range of alternative opinions and information to be available to the public, so that the official narrative does not go unchallenged. It is not just so that we can identify those with differing views as anti-semites, Nazis, or whatever, but so both we and they will at least have the chance to question our own certainties, to weigh different possible interpretations, and not live in the kind of Orwellian information bubble where only the official viewpoint, however often it changes, is ever heard.

Expand full comment