True, But…..

Over at Masson’s blog, Doug addresses the misunderstandings that underlie the outsized reactions of Islamic fundamentalists to “provocations” like the amateurish film (or trailer–no one is yet certain an actual film was ever made) that set off the latest round of murderous rage:

Part of the problem seems to be, culturally, a lack of understanding and appreciation for our First Amendment. The Middle East is full of places where government can and does suppress speech it deems troublesome. When the U.S. doesn’t suppress something here, it probably looks to them like an endorsement on some level. In addition, our exposure to so much garbage because of the First Amendment gives us a sort of strengthened immune system we take for granted.

True on both counts.

But folks in the Middle East aren’t the only people who confuse a failure to censor with endorsement of the message. I spent six years as Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, and I can attest to the fact that far too many Americans share that confusion. I wish I had a dollar for every time the ACLU was accused of being for pornography because we defended someone’s right to choose his own reading material, or the times we were accused of being “the criminal’s lobby” because we were insisting on someone’s right to due process, or the many, many times we were accused of being “godless” and against religion because we were defending someone’s right not to be coerced into some government-imposed religious observance.

It’s understandable that people in other countries don’t understand the most basic feature of the American approach to individual rights–our right to make our own decisions about what to read, watch and believe, free of government involvement. It’s less understandable, less forgivable, that so many Americans don’t get it either.


  1. True, But… Sheila, you do admit that at times it is difficult to lose sight of freedom of speech when we are inundated throughout the day with the lies and distortions by the GOP, Tea Party and spouted by Romney and Ryan. I do have to remind myself frequently that freedom of speech is the “law of the land”, much like Wall Street, banks mortgage companies, etc. – without regulation. Guess it wouldn’t be freedom if it were regulated; a Catch 22 situation.

  2. That’s why we really NEED folks like Sheila
    Kennedy to educate the masses. As Jefferson
    said – if a democracy expects to be ignorant and
    free, it expects what never was and never will be.

  3. Agree wholeheartedly Nancy! I keep telling Sheila she needs to run for “Supreme Dispenser of Constitutional Wisdom”, but always get the old “if nominated I will not run……if elected I will not…” well, you know the story. So I guess we’ll just have to settle for keeping this a similar blogs alive and well.

  4. I think some people realize that (for better or worse) the ACLU/ICLU must pick which cases they spend their resources on, and their choice either reflects the ACLU view of maximizing use of resources on “important cases” or others view that they are ignoring very important cases to focus on views they personally support, suggesting they really DO support pornography or whatever.

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