11A063 Speech vs Power by Jim Davies, 3/4/2011    

Governments hate free speech, because it allows the possibility that some among their citizens will wake up to what's going on, and tell the rest. It's what took place here in the American Colonies, with Thomas Paine rousing the rabble, and it's a little to the founders' credit that they gave a guarantee to keep speech free, front and center in Amendment One. That was a fraud designed to capture enough votes for ratification, as I showed in 1789, but even so it has helped slow down the erosion of liberty in the centuries since.

This week two incidents relate. The Supreme Court announced that the loathsome spoutings of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS was "protected" by Amendment One, and Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in Pakistan for daring to suggest that prohibitions on free speech there were too harsh. Coincidence, perhaps, that both had to do with religion, the other subject "guaranteed" there to stay free of government interference.

The Church's founder Fred Phelps hotly opposes homosexuality (and has proved it by having 13 children) and members of his church proclaim that bigotry at such high-profile events as funerals for those killed in the government's wars. SCOTUS was (for once) quite right to confirm that they are free to advertise such opinions, but the repugnant way they choose to do so, causing additional grief to mourners, will - I hope - lose them a lot more support and credibility than they might otherwise gain.

At least those religious bigots don't kill anyone, but the bigots in Islamabad did. Their dislike of Mr Bhatti - himself a member of Pakistan's ruling class - sprang from his view that speech there should be more free; particularly that it should no longer be illegal to insult the Muslim religion. Some Muslims were so insulted and enraged by that, they shot him dead in his car. Their precious anti-blasphemy laws give another vivid illustration of the danger of letting religion get anywhere close to government, and of the extreme vulnerability of religion to rational examination.

Rational thought will prevail in the coming zero government society. I'm sure of that, because it cannot come at all unless and until the whole population turns to think rationally about government, and while doing that it will think rationally about other nearby myths. So when a residual preacher insists that "God hates fags" we will ask first that he define the meaning of the term "God", and then enquire why this alleged creator should hate something he makes. (Yes, I understand that some homosexuals are so oriented by choice, but cannot avoid concluding that some are hard-wired.) And when other religious bigots insist that their Prophet should be revered, we will ask why, exactly, anyone should honor the memory of a seventh century mass killer who helped secure his political domination by claiming he had been specially selected by the creator of the universe, after trying and failing to gain recognition as a Prophet from leaders of the neighboring Jewish religion.

But if our patient questions should happen to fall on deaf ears, such mythologists will survive and prosper only to the extent that they do not aggress, because unreformed aggressors will be so distrusted as to be unable to get a job or engage in trade.

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