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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Ban on Stupidty (if only)

Great Britain’s recently published list of individuals banned from visiting that country causes me some consternation. I sympathize with the good folks of England. Some of the individuals on the blacklist deserve to be banned.

Certainly, some people foster extreme views that should not be tolerated. And that is the point of the GB blacklist – GB does not wish to welcome into England those who espouse hard line, extremist views. I sympathize: who would want some of the people on this list to come calling and spout off their hateful nonsense? Not I! If some of these folks came to San Francisco, I would shudder. Why should I or anyone else have to tolerate extremists who espouse hate – sometimes to the point of murder?

But it’s one thing to ban those who incite others to violence and who commit crimes themselves, it’s another to ban those who are voicing ideas that many others find repugnant and ill founded. Can you really ban stupidity?

The issue then becomes: who decides? And how much censorship are you willing to allow?

Clearly, Artur Ryno of Russia, who at 17 was convicted of 37 murders and who lead a skinhead gang that committed 20 racially-motivated murders is an easy call – stay out! And stay out of the U.S. too! But this fellow is a criminal– so the censorship, the banning, is easily justified.

US pastor Fred Waldron Phelps, also on GB’s list, is a homophobic, hateful little man. This guy believes and preaches that God hates gays, that aids cures fags, and 9/11 and some of the natural disasters we’ve experienced in the past several years are evidence of God’s wrath at those who tolerate or promote homosexuality. Phelps is off the deep end.

As much as I find Phelp’s doctrines to be hateful, intolerable, and intellectually deficit, I cannot support banning him. Let him speak. Let him protest. As long as he doesn’t break any laws, he has a right to speak out. But Phelps could easily cross the line - his hate speech could easily incite some to violence. But the tightrope between free speech and illegal conduct is just that – a tightrope. If Phelps shows up in San Francisco, I’ll attend his rally – sporting my own sign and protesting his views. That’s my right. And my responsibility. That’s how we deal with those whom we find intolerable – not by shutting them up, but by challenging their ignorance.

Also banned: Talk show host Michael Savage. Now this charming fellow spurts forth unbridled, passionate bigotry and ignorance over the airwaves. But he too, has committed no crime, though again, he walks a fine line – and one day his virulent bigoted outbursts might provoke some violent incident. Savage deserves a muzzle. I muzzle him by turning him off – or rather, by not turning him on.

As much as I see both Phelps and Savage as intolerable extremists void of any rational logic, I wouldn’t support the U.S. government if it banned him. Until these fellows commit a crime, citizens need to enforce their own ban, their own muzzle on such extraordinarily deficit human beings. We do that by challenging their assumptions, engaging in legitimate debate (arguably difficult to do with folks that have no reason) and by turning them off. Democracy demands this of us – if you don’t like what you’re hearing, turn it off or challenge the ideologue. Fight back with your intellect, with your words.

Great Britain doesn’t have something akin to our First Amendment. Maybe they’re better off without such a thing – maybe sometimes we carry our First Amendment rights too far. How much easier public debate would be if we saw things as simply black and white, good or bad; if we could compile a simple list of those who can speak and those who cannot.

When it comes to Phelps and Savage, I find sticking to my values quite difficult for I’d love to shut them up. Nonetheless, I’ll stick to my liberal values: I’d rather keep things messy and complex – and err on the side of too many rights than too few.


Blogger Jack K. said...

bird, I am inclined to agree with you. If you don't like what you hear then take the options you have so eloquently mentioned.

Phelps has done some things that are quite reprehensible. Picketing funerals seems a bit far out to me. Particularly since his targets are deceased members of the military who have given their lives to protect his freedom of speech.

Yes, I know, the wars we are waging may be a little far off that target. But, military personnel do sign up to protect and defend the constitution. They go where the must and do what the must.

It may also be a little much to expect that folks come from a different culture and try to change a culture. Freedom is a wonderful thing. It should not be taken for granted. It must be protected and defended. People who desire to have freedoms need assistance to reach that place in their lives.

Another thought about Phelps. I wonder if a case could be made for child endangerment or abuse when the children of his followers are fed his view of the world as the only one to believe? From where I sit, it seems quite likely that he has crossed the line. But, then, isn't that what Hitler did?

Just some thoughts. Thank you for a most interesting posting.

Keep up your fine flapping and swooshing.

May 05, 2009 2:07 PM  
Blogger LeftLeaningLady said...

Amen. I actually just posted on this same issue re: Carrie Prejean's rights to express her completely wrong opinion on marriage equality. You have done a much more eloquent job than I.

Phelps is insane and I do not understand why he does what he does, but he does not have the reach that Savage does. Here in the deep dark south if you want talk radio, you get Savage or NPR. Obviously I choose NPR, but many many many people around here listen and believe in Savage's vitriol. I think IQ points drop 20% everytime he comes on the radio.

But he does have the right to say what he thinks, as I do. And you are 100% about the rights issues.

May 06, 2009 6:29 AM  
Blogger Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

I am neither for black listinmg, nor for taking people's rights away, so I do agree with your point!
and all that insane terror-scare-BS!
you might be interested in this as well:

I just don't understand why people always want to make themselves completely safe by denying freedom and human rights. Because it of course doesn't work! of course they don't get any safer that way!

May 06, 2009 10:50 AM  
Blogger boneman said...

I dunno. It almost sounds 'easy' doen't it?
Freedom of speech, rights passed down from before any of our times, that's for sure.
But then there's Rodney Coronado.
Now this bright eyed hustler actually trains children how to make firebombs, and how to deploy them.
And, while i think he may be in jail right now (or, at least hope so) the thing is, when he gets out, what's to stop him from continuing his 'love sermons' and training sessions?

Other than banning him from the country, say?

May 07, 2009 4:54 PM  
Blogger boneman said...

I can already see where my argument stands up on one leg, tries to stand taller with each rise upward, but begins to sway in the wind.
Does it do the smart thing and stop rising to the occasion?
No...it just keeps trying to get taller and taller till...uh oh.

Here it comes now.
It's falling and I'm getting the dickens out'a here!

May 08, 2009 8:16 PM  
Blogger Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

Just read Boneman's comments.
of course it's disastrous that kids do that kind of shit these days!
Imagine this: a bunch of kids gets really excited about not geting away with something. a building is involved, the politicians won't give in, so the order is given to assault the building and the kids from the air - seriously! Just as if they were dealing with terrorists. anyway, the kids get really noisy, the media loves it and everybody everywhere gets even more excited and now much more noisy!
the kids naturally want revenge on top of their original demands and because of all the noise the political climate isn't that good anymore and the politician behind all this feels the urge to do something against her popularity crisis, so eventuallty, afeter all taht noise and trouble and a hudge, hudge budget for the entire operation they settle it by giving the kids what they want. Of course! That kind of behaviour really does need to get rewarded, doesn't it?! So we're sending the right signal for everybody in future. Please do anything to us, we give into blackmail and we'll reward you any way you wish, as look at you stirr up enough dust!
Why I am so pissed about this? Well not only because this is my taxmoney going down the drain one more time, but also because one of those completely messed up kids had to absolutely leak some information to me and do you think you can get anybody to act apon that?! Of course not!
Anyway, nothing happend... or at least nobody got killed... and what in fact did happen was actually very, very funny! Knowing what they had planned and what they in fact ended up doing really made you crack up laughing and confirmed that those kids had more than just one screw loose! What a world!!!

May 10, 2009 6:02 AM  
Blogger Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...


May 10, 2009 9:59 AM  
Anonymous rott weiler said...

first they came for michael savage......

i think you want to have the voices of phelps et al heard so we can know who and what they are.

i see a new PC kind of censorship and its very weird. that ministry of whatever in the UK is seriously out of control. some radio host from ireland who does a show on pubs and the countryside said something like "rural communities are entitled to the same protections as homosexuals.." or something to that effect and he was charged with hate speech. then there is the case of geert wilders who cannot come into the UK because he *rightfully* observes the negative effects of mass islamic immigration on a western host nation.

im with you bird. its getting closer to thought control all the time.


May 12, 2009 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

censorship sucks

end of story

personally, bird,
i hate hate and think
all extremists should be shot dead ;)

¤ ¤ ¤


May 13, 2009 8:58 PM  

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