Most Americans, particularly the zealously patriotic ones, herald freedom of speech as one of the crowning achievements of American democracy. Countries like Iran and China are lambasted in the American media for their censorship and ruthless tactics used to weed out political opposition. The American government, on the other hand, is promoted as being a champion of speech rights across the world. The reality of the situation, however, is dramatically different. Those who claim that the United States of America protects and individual’s freedom of speech are deluded. They have never spoken out against the government and do not belong to a group of people targeted by said government. In this post, I want to make you aware of the dangerous path that the US government is on in terms of restricting free speech. In the past decade, we have had a string of rulings which have systematically limited behaviors and speech rights of US citizens under the banner of security and anti-terrorism measures. Most people are unaware of these decisions and their content because, well, most people are unaware of Supreme Court decisions altogether. Not only that, most people are also not members of the groups of which have been targeted by these decisions. Are you a Palestinian solidarity activist? Do you support the Kurds in Turkey? Do you spread awareness of the rebel fighters in Libya and Darfur? Do you voice your support for the humanitarian arms of Hezbollah? Well, it is currently against US law to do any of these activities.
I will spend my time here talking about the most recent Supreme Court case that I am aware of, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. Please click the link and read the background information to the get facts first. The problem with this case isn’t necessarily the ruling itself, but rather the implications of it, implications I suspect, after reading the transcripts and opinions, the wise justices on our bench did not consider when handing down their ruling. In earlier cases, the court had ruled that it was unlawful to provide material support to terrorist organizations. This makes sense. We obviously don’t want people living within our borders funneling money and arms to Al-Qaeda. Although, we protect political candidate donations under freedom of speech, and yet we don’t allow people to donate to campaigns of leaders we associate with terrorist actions and organizations, even if these leaders are running for legitimate political office. Not surprisingly, Netanyahu and the IDF are not on the black list. The problem with Holder is that it vastly expands the definition of “material support” to include organized free speech and advice. So, I can no longer post online a list of options for oppressed populations in Turkey to seek international NGO assistance. I cannot attend a peace conference where members of “terrorist organizations” are present. These terrorists include Kurdish activists, Tamils in Sri Lanka, and nearly all Libyans. Hell, Nelson Mandela was only recently removed from the State Department’s terror watch list. Yes, that’s right, Nelson Mandela, the guy who fought his entire life to end Apartheid in South Africa and led a remarkable post-Apartheid government. Then again, the United States government did provide material support to the Apartheid government, and not in the form of organized demonstrations.
The issue is that the innocent peace-seeking individuals who are actively involved with these political issues are now being persecuted for demonstrations, organized events, and travel. Freedom of speech is becoming more and more limited under the banner of security. More people need to be aware and speak out against these limitations on the freedoms of their fellow citizens.
A link to the story which inspired me to write this post: