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Tue

17

Apr

2007

Gag Me?
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 11:39
by Stephen P. Pizzo

Where are we going with all this?

Folks on the political right claim we Americans must give up some of our most cherished freedoms in order to protect our freedom from terrorists. They say we have to give up a our absolute right to privacy, water down the separation of powers, deny the right of an accused to face his/her accusers, challenge the evidence against them, or to even have a public trial.

Folks on the left have their own list of cherish freedoms they say we must protect, and that the only way to do that is to trim back other freedoms — like freedom of speech when it comes to the utterance of touchy, controversial, unpleasant, potentially offensive subjects and terms. They change the meaning of words, like "illegal immgrants," which becomes "undocumented immigrants." Laws were broken, but should no one is guilty.

Then there's the rest of us in caught in dead center of this growingly furious societal crossfire.

I worry where it's all heading. Ben Johnson once wrote, “Speak that I may see thee.”
His meaning was clear. And over the years I have learned there is no better way to judge a person's intellectual depth, education and character than by simply listening to what they have to say and how they say it. As a journalist it was imperative that I was able to quickly and accurately take the measure of a source. So I let them talk. I listened. And it never failed me.

Now what? Increasingly the morality police on the right and the political correctness police on the left are successfully shutting down speech they don't like. They are bullying those they disagree with to either shut up or self-censor. Those who refuse are forced, like Don Imus, into exile. The mainstream media is now so intimidated by this trend that they have willing adopted a form of media shunning of it's own.

Will any of this make America more moral, inclusive or tolerant? Or will it simply drive the uncomfortable, inconvenient truths, dark thoughts and desires into the shadows? How will I take measure of talk show host's true character if he/she cannot, or dares, not speak freely? He may say all the the “right” things, while not believing them. That's easy. Politicians do that already, and look where its gotten us.

If the thought and morality police ever get the power they clearly want to control the national discourse, racists, porn and women haters won't go away, they will simply go into the closet. They will stop speaking, which means we will no longer be able to “see”  them. They will no longer expose themselves to us.

Is that a good thing? Possibly. But I doubt it. After all, members of the KKK hid the faces behind hoods for a reason. They didn't expose themselves, but they were still there. They did their dirty work from the shadows.

Speak that I may see thee, please. Because if the right's morality police and the left's politically correctness hall monitors a allowed to succeed in purging controversial speech,  America will not only become a really boring place, but a nation unable to honestly confront its real problems. Because sometimes the real reasons for real problems are real touchy subjects.

For example, read what British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said out loud yesterday, and then try to imagine who on the radio, much less in Congress, would dare utter such a thing today:

April 12, 2007 — The Guardian: Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.

"When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?" Mr Blair said there needed to be an "intense police focus" on the minority of young black Britons behind the gun and knife attacks. The laws on knife and gun gangs needed to be toughened and the ringleaders "taken out of circulation." (More)

Here in the US there's plenty that can and should be said about the real problems that continue plaguing our own black communities. Some of those problems are everyone's fault, and those problems have the stamp of approval from the thought police – we have permission to talk about our common guilt. What we dare not talk about are the self-destructive ideas, music and behavior that  exacerbates those problems, the fault for which lays entirely within the black community itself.

But how to get at those problems and the contributing factors. Here is where I find myself in a schizophrenic quandary. While I hate gangsta rap, and I believe it contributes mightily to the problems that plague urban black communities in the US and Europe, I resist the temptation to demand it be banned. Because if we did, gangsta rappers wouldn't go away, because you can't make stupid go away. If banned they will simply go underground where they will be even harder to monitor and where their banned status will likely make them even more popular.

No, the only way to fight stupid — white stupid, brown stupid or black stupid — is with heaping doses of smart. So we need to talk more, not less. We need to speak and feel we can do so freely.

Because when we speak to one another we teach, we learn, but most importantly, we expose to one another who we really are.
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