Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In other unfree-speech news...

Despite the American government's propensity for spying on its citizens -- not much changed since January 20th it seems -- we still have more access to free speech than most countries. While Boston College took the condescending and cowardly decision to deny permission for even a satellite link-up to Bill Ayers, at least he's still allowed to move around this country. The idea of banning people with uncomfortable ideas is all the rage through much of the "democratic" West.

Oddly enough, the most recent examples are on the opposite sides. On one side is a member of the Dutch Parliament, Geert Wilders. He was banned from Britain. He managed a nice bit of theatre when he landed in London, was questioned by border guards, and hauled on the next plane out. Wilders is a far-right MP of the "Party for Freedom" and is not dissimilar from assassinated anti-Islamic Dutchman Pim Fortuyn. To be sure, his hyper-xenophobic rants about the "Islamicization of Europe" are way off, but not grounds for banning somebody from speaking. He's an MP -- an elected representative in the Netherlands, and a country that bans someone of his views from speaking also bans people from responding and countering his claims.

Meanwhile, somewhat ironically, the other victim is a British legislator with a polar opposite view of Islam and the modern day. George Galloway, a member of the House of Lords, has been banned from Canada. This very much pro-Islamist member of the House of Lords has put in appearances in Gaza and holds an honorary passport to the Palestinian territories, given him by a leader of Hamas. So he's clearly not of the warm and fuzzy type. And like Wilders, he comes across as an all too useful idiot. That said, banning his ideas only gives Wilders' fellow-travelers more ammunition, and shuts up people who desire to hears all sides of a debate. This is like trying to run the peace process without listening to Assad or Avigdor Lieberman.

I'd make two suggestions:
Fly in Wilders (who is quite good at English) and Galloway into New York City to debate the nature of Islam in the Middle East and Europe. At least this country has the grapes believe think about uncomfortable ideas, not attempt to turn them away at airports. I personally think the truth is well between these two men, but I would like to hear them counter each other far better than I can.

As for my second suggestion, I would simply quote Galloway's challenge to the mandarin in Canada who denied his visa: "Come out and debate me like a man."

Free speech, indeed.

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