The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January, 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new, and quite dangerous, standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves: long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: it was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous. It became common to demand that one not only defend the right of the cartoonists to publish them but also, to show “solidarity,” one had to re-publish those cartoons no matter how much one objected to their content – thus adopting that speech as one’s own. Opposition to lavishing these cartoonists with honors and prizes was depicted as some sort of moral failure or at least insufficient commitment to free speech rights, as evidenced by the widespread, intense scorn heaped on the writers who spoke out in opposition to bestowing Charlie Hebdo with an award at a PEN America gala.
Tag Archives: Media
Terrorist attacks, and the emotions they spawn, almost always prompt calls for fundamental legal rights to be curtailed in the name of preventing future attacks. The formula by now is routine: The victims of the horrific violence are held up as proof that there must be restrictions on advocating whatever ideology motivated the killer to act.In 2006, after a series of attacks carried out by Muslims, Republican Newt Gingrich called for “a serious debate about the First Amendment” so that “those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules.”
When a head of state who behaves impulsively, and shows little interest in filling in the gaps in his knowledge, becomes commander in chief of the world’s most powerful army, there need to be plenty of safeguards. Yet, after President Donald Trump ordered his generals to bomb Syria and execute naval manoeuvres in Asia, he won the approval of US politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as almost all the media, including Europe’s. (A French national daily described the strikes on Syria as ‘somehow liberating’ (1).) The 59 missiles fired at an air base in the Middle East turned a president mired in unpopularity, amateurism and nepotism into a determined and sensitive man, unable to contain his humanity on seeing photographs of ‘beautiful babies … cruelly murdered in [a] very barbaric attack.’ The symphony of praise was all the more worrying in a climate of international tension, because Trump loves adulation.
IN EVERY TYPE of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.
Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.
So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles. It had seemed as though there was consensus among those in the anti-Trump camp. This man was a threat to US democracy and world peace. The echoes of 1930s fascist leaders were frightening. “This republic is in serious danger,” declared conservative writer Andrew Sullivan on the eve of Trump’s triumph. That this megalomaniac “pussy-grabbing” ban-the-Muslims ex-reality TV star would soon control the world’s most lethal military arsenal was chilling. Opposition would be uncompromising, a reflection of the Republican intransigence that Barack Obama faced from day one.It has taken less than three months for these illusions to be shattered. A man widely castigated as a proto-fascist only needed to drop bombs without observing due process.
People who care about truth and facts are up against a lot of challenges these days, from fake news to filter bubbles. But there’s another big problem we can’t ignore: The rise of the pseudo-experts who dominate our airwaves and social networks, offering opinions on subjects they know little to nothing about.To understand the issue, consider the old toothpaste slogan: “Four out of five dentists recommend Colgate.” If you take this claim at face value, it makes sense. Why not survey dentists about toothpaste? They are, after all, in charge of dental care and your overall oral health.
They are cynical about human rights. They don’t like immigrants or the European Union. They want the state to be strong and “defence”, generally, to mean attack. They are, basically, the racist grandad who is going to spoil your Christmas.
These are the people pollsters have labelled “authoritarian populists” and according to YouGov there’s a lot of them. Forty eight per cent of Brits surveyed exhibit some or all of these traits, according to evidence presented by the YouGov Centre Cambridge last week.
There was no real cognitive dissonance existing in the minds of most people in the Soviet Union of the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Everyone knew that everything said on the radio or on television, everything (with the exception of weather reports or sports results) was a blatant lie, spoken pro forma, just because that’s the way things were and had to be: outside, it was dark or light or drizzly or sunny or cold and snowy or pleasantly warm or too hot for comfort—and on the radio and on TV and in newspapers and magazines the untold legions of official-propaganda folks talked about the kind of reality which did not remotely exist in the reality of Soviet people’s lives.
PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING journalist Seymour Hersh said in an interview that he does not believe the U.S. intelligence community proved its case that President Vladimir Putin directed a hacking campaign aimed at securing the election of Donald Trump. He blasted news organizations for lazily broadcasting the assertions of U.S. intelligence officials as established facts.
This is the one thing Donald Trump, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and President al-Sisi in Egypt have in common
We reporters love crowd figures. The bigger the mob, the better the story. Politicians love them too. The greater the masses, the greater the popularity. Ask not who said: “I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people.” Ah, those millions.Back in 2011, the crowds in Tahrir Square were in their hundreds of thousands. A million Egyptians – that’s the figure Al Jazeera went for. Or maybe it was a million and a half people in central Cairo. They helped to overthrow Hosni Mubarak – with the help of the army, of course, the people’s protector. Experts thought 300,000 was the greatest number of Egyptians you could cram into the Tahrir district. But what the hell? It was a revolution.