January 27, 2006


I had read that Google was going to be censored in China, but it didn't really sink in until I saw this post at LGF:

tiananmen - Google Image Search.

tiananmen - Google Image Search in China.

Make sure you click them both to see the power of censorship.

Over the weekend my mother, husband, and I traveled to France to visit our relatives. Somehow at one point someone brought up Scientology, which apparently is illegal in France. You can't be a Scientologist in France. For the French relatives, this seemed totally natural: Scientology is weird and cultish, and so it should be outlawed. But later I pointed out to my husband that this conversation typified a fundamental difference between Americans and the French (or insert a variety of other nationalities). I too think Scientology is a bit out there -- what else can you say about a religion that was started on a dare -- but I think people should be allowed to be Scientologists if that's what they want. I really had a gut reaction to hearing that ideas could be illegal.

When I was teaching ESL in grad school, I opened up our argumentative unit with a brief discussion of hate speech. I played devil's advocate, arguing both sides of the issue in front of the class so they could get an idea of how to write an argumentative paper. So on one hand, I argued that although many of us are repulsed by the KKK and Matt Hale, they should be allowed to have the same freedom of speech rights that anyone else does. And a Korean student promptly filed a complaint against me with the department, saying I was intolerant and bigoted.

I'm proud that in my country you're supposed to be able to say anything you want. The free exchange of ideas helps people understand the world; censoring things that make us cringe makes the world a smaller place. I'd rather refute Matt Hale than exile him.

Posted by Sarah at January 27, 2006 07:21 AM | TrackBack

Hey, for once we completely agree. Although I think that this is because you found an issue on which your position is relatively liberal. This is superficial, but in a nutshell I think that the First Amendment is regarded with some ambivalence by both the more extreme conservatives in the U.S. and by those who are to the left of liberalism.

In practice, other countries may be as much if not more tolerant of free speech than the U.S. As far as I know, though, only we have something like the First Amendment. But this very fact gets at one reason that I think you were wrong to say that people to the left of you would probably be just as happy in some other country, or at least they would feel equally at home somewhere else as far as politics are concerned.

Posted by: Pericles at January 27, 2006 12:16 PM

Her position isn't liberal...not wanting the government to control and manipulate your daily life is a conservative belief, actually.

Posted by: Nicole at January 27, 2006 03:54 PM

Perhaps the concept of freedom of speech does not solely belong to either the conservative or liberal ideologies, but is instead a part of our common and shared heritage as Americans?

I also find it interesting that you were labeled a bigot for providing multiple viewpoints. How did that get rationalized by the student?

Posted by: Jason at January 27, 2006 05:52 PM

I notice that Sarah isn't advocating that Matt Hale use his option to leave the country. In fact, she'd rather not exile him... hmmm...

Anyway, I agree with the previous posters who already pointed that free speech is a bi-partisan ideal. Defining hate speech, on the other hand, can become a heated topic, even for people without a language or culture barrier, and I'm sure it must have been very tricky to deal with in an ESL environment.

Posted by: Will Somerset at January 27, 2006 09:16 PM

Was it conservatives or liberals who favored anti-sodomy laws that made homosexual acts between consenting adults illegal? Is it conservatives or liberals who are most concerned to establish and enforce laws against drugs like marijuana or against activities like prostitution between consenting adults? Tell the members of a committed gay couple who just want to enjoy the same legal rights that a hetrosexual coupole can enjoy by getting married that conservatives don't want to manage the details of their personal lives. Face it... in many respects, the Democrats are the party of limited government today, the ones who want to get government off of your back.

My real point, though, was that if you take the long view, the idea of nearly absolute individual freedoms like the freedom of speech is a liberal view. Historically, it is an idea that comes from thinkers like the liberal John Stuart Mill, not the conservative Edmund Burke. The political ideas that are most widely shared in our society toay are, historically, more closely associated with the liberal tradition.

Posted by: Pericles at January 28, 2006 02:32 AM


If you want to talk history, why don't you take a guess as to which party is "historically" racist? (I'll give you a hint: it starts with a D)

Posted by: Erin at January 28, 2006 02:19 PM

Will -- Maybe you need to go check last week's post again and try to not read so much of your own bias into it. I never said we should exile anyone, neither Matt Hale nor Michael Moore. If Hale chooses to leave, good on him. And good riddance. These two posts are not related at all, but it appears you just had to be snarky and twist my words around.

Posted by: Sarah at January 28, 2006 03:46 PM

Pericles -- I was wondering if you'd be interested in reading the book The Right Nation. It seems like you might be the type person who could be interested in checking it out. I think it defines well the two sometimes-concentric groups in the Republican party: the anti-government types (libertarians, if you will) and the social conservatives. I think social conservatives accept more government involvement in individual lives. I consider myself more squarely in the anti-government circle, though I pattern in small ways with the social conservatives.

And I think the word "liberal" has changed dramatically in meaning over the years. I don't think "liberal" and "conservative" are accurate defining terms for either party these days, but those seem to be the labels we're stuck with.

Posted by: Sarah at January 28, 2006 03:52 PM

I agree with Sarah on more than a few points and I think the links definitely support what's wrong with the idea of Google assisting the Chinese government in censorship.

I also agree on the concept of the use of "exile." I'm pretty opinionated...and definitely love the ability to voice my opinions in this free and open society. I tend to believe my beliefs further the greatness of this country, rather than attack it. It's not a mystery that I believe that the left in this country and other American hating groups tend to see a weaker America as the solution to world ills. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe Ronald Reagan's words that spoke of America being "a shining city on a hill." For America and everything she stands for to disappear would indeed be the beginning of the end for man.

While I may rail against some of the lunacy and intellectually dishonest arguments I read throughout the blogosphere, I see on television, or hear standing in line at the local Walmart I have and would continue to the death to defend the speakers' rights to say it. However, there comes the point where I also expect people to act with a certain amount of civility and decorum. Bad taste exists and I reserve the right to point it out whenever I see it. I'll be civil, I'll be polite...but I also might be offensive. Hey, it's my right...right?


Posted by: MajorDad1984 at January 28, 2006 06:27 PM

I agree with Sarah that the labels "liberal" and "conservative" have become too broad and over-reaching. However, when I made my comment I was thinking of certain issues...who is the party who opposed President Bush's intitative to allow parents to use school vouchers to send their children to private schools? Freedom of choice or having the government tell you where your child will be educated? Who is the party who consistently favors raising taxes?...the government telling citizens how their hard-earned dollars will be spent...And who is the party who favors government sponsored health care? Hmm...I agree with Sarah on the dangers of generalizing but saying that the traditionally liberal party is one of less government intrusion in our lives is absolutely laughable.

Posted by: nicole at January 28, 2006 07:22 PM

For clarification, I do not necessarily think that all "liberal" values are bad...and I also realize that the term is very broad and ill-defined. I was just trying to explain how I realistically see things...and not trying to advocate one position or another.

Posted by: nicole at January 28, 2006 07:28 PM


I'll agree with you there too! Not all liberal values are bad. What makes the hair on the back of my neck go up though is that liberals tend to want to make power grabs for programs that have traditionally been the work done through charities and churches. Have places like Boys Town done such a bad job over the years that we have to "federalize" such things?

Add to your list of "things" that have had their definitions bastardized...you probably need to include the two words "necessities" and "luxuries." Necessities include basic housing, clothing, medical and food. No, there's no room in there for cigarettes, lottery tickets, big screen TVs, XBox 360s, the latest cell phone, the latest Escalade, Expedition, Suburban out of Detroit (or wherever they make 'em). Those are LUXURIES.

See y'all on the high ground!


Posted by: MajorDad1984 at January 29, 2006 01:24 AM

Just time for a couple of quick thoughts--
Erin: Historically, both parties are thoroughly racist. It is just a sad fact about our country that racism was once that pervasive. Even Abe Lincoln made some patently racist statements.

Posted by: Pericles at January 29, 2006 01:46 AM


FYI, the Democrats were historically the party that dominated the South, and there was a lot of tension in the party between the Northern Dems, and the 'Dixiecrats.' When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, that was the end of the (generally) racist Dixiecrats, who began to slide to the Republicans which fundamentally altered the whole poitical map of our country. While before the '60s you would rarely, if ever, have seen a Southern state voting for a Republican for any office (they were, after all, Party of Lincoln), now they vote almost entirely for them. So while it is true that the Democrats had a history of racism, the racists have left the party for its stand on civil liberties, and have been accepted comfortably into the Republican party.

Posted by: Mr. Silly at January 30, 2006 11:03 PM