Monday, November 20, 2006

The True Threat to Our Liberties

As we confront the threat of terrorism, it is essential that we do everything possible to safeguard our liberties, even as we wage war against a jihadist movement determined to destroy them. Yet, to make a point that sometimes seems to be forgotten, the right to life is the ultimate liberty. Writing in the New York Sun, Harold Evans notes how political correctness and a reflexive blame America attitude have led to a seriously distorted view of where the true threat to our freedoms lie:

The culture of complaint I find indulgent is typified in the 52-page document issued earlier this year by the International Federation of Journalists — 52 alarm bells. The federation describes the response of government to terrorism as "a devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights established almost 60 years ago … we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society."

A devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights?

Speaking personally of challenges to human rights, I'd rather be photographed by a hidden surveillance camera than travel on a train with men carrying bombs in their backpacks. I'd regard being blown to bits on the street as more of an intrusion of privacy than having an identity card. I don't protest some curtailment of freedom of expression: Incitement to murder should not be protected.

I would disagree with Mr. Evans on one point: freedom of expression does not need to be curtailed, nor should it. After all, "incitement to murder" is not protected speech to begin with.

As Mr. Evans notes, many of those who claim to be worried about official censorship are themselves unwilling to tolerate opinions that offend their political sensibilities:

Something similar happened at this year's Hay-on-Wye festival, sponsored by the Guardian, where a five-person panel discussed "Are there are any limits to free speech?" One of the Muslim panelists said if anyone offended his religion, he would strike him. A lawyer, Anthony Julius, responded that Jews had lived as minorities under two powerful hegemonies, Christian and Muslim, and had been obliged to learn how to deal nonviolently with offense caused to them by the sacred scriptures of both. He started by referring to an anti-Semitic passage in the New Testament — which passed without comment. But when he began to list the passages in the Koran that denigrate Jews, describing them as monkeys and pigs, the panelists went ballistic. One of them, Madeline Bunting of the Guardian, put her hand over the microphone and said words to the effect, "I am not going to sit here and listen to any criticisms of Muslims." She was cheered, and not one of the journalists in the audience from right or left uttered a word about free speech — not hate speech, mind you, but free speech of a moderate nature.

(Emphasis added-DD)

There is certainly cause for legitimate debate about where to draw the line on anti-terrorism measures. However, one salient fact must be kept in mind: The threat to our freedoms comes from bin Laden and Zawahiri, not Ashcroft or Gonzales.

(Link courtesy of Normblog)


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