Furthest Right

Egypt, meet the free speech hypocrisy

When we have an internal problem, we often seek to make ourselves feel better by distracting ourselves with the problems of others.

For bonus points, we can pretend to be helping those others when, because we ignore our own internal problems, we are in fact carriers of those problems in the form of memes or ideas.

Right now, just about everyone of a leftist, liberal or progressive (these three mean the same thing) persuasion is gearing up to cheer for the Egyptian Revolution:

The people of Egypt are reacting to a very real threat to their rights as citizens, which might have proved to be the first of many such attacks on them had they not reacted the way they did. Naturally, this is speculation, and shutting down the Internet for a country is arguably less heinous than gassing one’s own people, but the point I’m making here is that the people are the ones taking control of the situation, as opposed to some other governing body. This revolution could be classified as the ultimate act of democracy: If your government no longer has your best interests at heart, tear it down and start fresh. This is part of our own Constitution, and this is also what the people of Iraq should have done before we poked our nose into their business. Should that uprising have failed, then we might be called upon to save the situation, but not before. – Miscellany News

The usual suspects — outsiders, dropouts, low self-confidence cases, abused children, revengeful underdogs, self-pitying sociopaths — are gathering to cheer on Egypt. This is a Revolution, like in France or Russia! The People have overthrown the corrupt dictator, and now we’ve brought modern society (liberal democracy, consumerism/capitalism, and a cultureless focus on the individual, equality and “freedom”) to Egypt and they’ll be just like us!

But we’re merely spreading the sickness.

While all the panderers who make money off this vast crowd of undifferentiated and disaffected individuals are having a field day with the simplistic freedom meme, in the meantime here in the USA, our internal sickness spreads: we cannot talk honestly about the decay that is undermining our civilization. We can give it away, but not look at it with clear eyes ourselves.

For example:

The hotel abruptly cancelled those reservations last week, saying management had learned more about the controversial nature of the American Renaissance group. Taylor says the group warned the hotel all along of its contentious reputation and had advised the hotel to keep the group’s presence confidential.

City Council member Patrick Cannon sent an e-mail to a constituent last week that suggested he was working to keep American Renaissance from coming to Charlotte. Cannon said area hotels “seem to be cooperating” with keeping the group out. “An attempt was made for accommodations at another hotel but based on what I ask to take place they were denied again,” Cannon’s e-mail said.

We don’t know precisely what Cannon or anyone else did to make things difficult for American Renaissance. But their solution was wrong. The First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are meaningless if they do not protect speech that most of society despises. The way to counter offensive ideas is to a) ignore them or b) contrast them with your own, better ideas, not ban them. – Charlotte Observer

We may not all agree with the message of American Renaissance, but we can agree that if “freedom” and “free speech” are our goals both in Egypt and at home, we’re getting it wrong when we allow a mayor to censor a conference in his town.

After all, the hotel was OK with the conference — they’re pretty well known for hosting everything from GM Food conferences to conventions of Furries — until government stepped in, along with a horde of angry “activists”:

And screw that nonsense about them not having their freedom of speech. Were it not for them using it, we would not have known just how sick and depraved those attendees are. And to that end we all used our freedom of speech to win the day. Meanwhile as it goes with white supremacists, while they crow about all the publicity they received in all of this, our mission benefits from that publicity more than theirs. If we were afraid that people would know about them, we would have tried other approaches this past decade. But we don’t because sunlight is the best disinfectant – and it all but killed this germ. – One People’s Project

While we’re busy preaching to Egypt about “freedom” and “democracy,” we don’t have it here at home. Freedom after all is just a word, and unless we agree on the meaning of the word and understand it, we’re just shouting empty political slogans at each other. In the meantime, that ambiguity allows us to abuse freedom: when we want something, it’s the flag of our demand; when we are attacked, it’s how we style ourselves as better than you.

But don’t let it stop there. Read 2010 Top 10 Outrageous Assaults on Academic Freedom and Education in General. Do you notice a pattern? Those who speak a truth which is not popular to the majority get removed quietly, like we might shuffle winos and criminals outside the city when dignitaries visit. Their dissident views do not get debated, or even challenged. They are just denied on grounds of politeness/aesthetics and then removed.

We can keep telling the Egyptians that it’s time they have our freedoms. But they would be right to be cynical. After all, our freedoms don’t exist. What exists is a pleasant illusion, and underneath its cuddly fur coat, fangs to remove any who point out that the illusion is indeed not reality.

Egyptians can look forward to — including, as many commentators have pointed out, an Islamic theocracy replacing Mubarak’s quasi-totalitarian but stable and relatively peaceful reign — the sort of hypocrisy that we indulge in the West. While we all pretend that us, former peasants, are now Victorian aristocrats who look down our noses at anyone gauche enough to point out the unsubtle truths of nature, we suffocate our ability to speak the truth. And so when discontent emerges, it’s in far more virulent forms:

Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora was infuriated by “insults” made by presenters Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May during Sunday’s episode of the cult show, which has been sold to television channels around the world.

“Why would you want a Mexican car? Because cars reflect national characteristics don’t they?,” said Hammond as they discussed the Mexican sports car, the Mastretta.

“Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.”

The trio then described Mexican food as “refried sick” before suggesting Mexicans spent all day asleep. – AP

The type of discourse above, while of a humorous intent (and someone else will have to gauge its effect; it’s not to my liking), emerges only when we cannot honestly broach these topics. As a result, they pop up in tangential forms like humor, entertainment or cultural resentment. Wouldn’t honesty just be better?

But Egypt’s We The People may be figuring out that they’ve made a devil bargain. They’ve traded honesty for “freedom,” stability for “empowerment,” and have left behind a strong government imposing stability on an unstable place for the whims of the people, which inevitably will turn toward popular illusions and away from unpopular truths.

Welcome to democracy, freedom and the end of your innocence, Egypt. And join us in hypocrisy, because soon you too can be as neurotic as we are, and then we’ll fear you all the less.

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