by Alex Blagojevic
I remember attending a conference and hearing Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, speaking on the Benghazi attack and condemning the short video “The innocence of Muslims” mocking Islam on Youtube. She underlined how the Obama administration was right in compelling the owner of the website to remove the video from circulation, since such videos were regarded as bigotry. I could not help but use the opportunity in the Q&A session to ask Mrs. Albright if there wasn’t a double standard when it came to freedom of expression. It seems that criticizing and mocking certain groups, especially those espousing Judeo-Christian values, is deemed to be constitutional, and thus a right of citizens and the press, while doing the same in turn against other groups is seen as bigotry and “hatred.”
Apparently, there are two sets of rules— one for favorite groups and another for those who are out of favor?
My parents dealt with censorship under the communist regime in the former Yugoslavia. My own experience growing up in socialist France was not exactly smooth sailing either. Those holding to a belief system contrary to the establishment were arbitrarily singled out, defamed, and censored by the ”intelligentsia.” These practices have come here, and as a result, freedom of expression in America is under assault.
The First Amendment is being slowly chipped away in the name of tolerance and sensitivity. The word “intolerance” has taken a whole new meaning. We are told that “intolerance” will NOT be tolerated anymore! Do you see a problem with that? Who defines the terms? Who decides what is and is not intolerant and when society through the legal system and civil authorities can take action towards those identified as intolerant, hateful, and bigoted?
Obviously, some in the “elite group” believe they know better than the rest of us what falls within such definition.
In a society that is becoming more “politically correct” by the day, “infringing material,” such as writings or videos that are perceived to be hateful by the establishment, could one day be banned by civil authorities. Imagine this in America!
We thought that was the world of China or other state controlled systems, such as fascism, communism, or Islamic Sharia. And yet we are following trends that lead in the same direction. For example, some of the laws being proposed in Washington (such as Hate Speech Crime, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act), would give the government the right to shut down websites and speakers they perceive as “hateful.” The type of thought-controlled practices in totalitarian societies could soon become a reality here. Far-fetched?
Just look at Europe and Australia where similar laws are already in place. Our educational system, the media, and the courts are moving in a direction that should be worrisome to those, like myself, who are in love with the kind of freedom we thought our nation’s founding documents guaranteed.
Recently, I had the privilege of having a private lunch with a retired United States Navy Admiral and the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During our interaction, I asked him if he was aware that over 80 percent of mosques in the U.S. are built and funded by radical Muslim organizations. After he acknowledged such fact, I then politely asked him why we allow groups who openly hate our system to infiltrate our country, even our political arena.
His answer was that loving America and its system is not a prerequisite for being allowed to reside in the U.S. Furthermore, he disclosed that as long as such groups do not use force and are not an imminent threat to our national security, it is their right to subscribe to any belief system they choose.
That answer surprised me but after some reflection I understood its premise. There might be value to that rationale and reasoning (since I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech) but then why isn’t that same paradigm applied to the groups denied that same right? Why is someone who does not subscribe to the Islamic
view considered and labeled islamophobe, against gay marriage homophobe, not seeing eye-to-eye with Obama and his political agenda racist and anti-poor?
My desire is to see the same First Amendment protections that are granted to some groups, extended to all people without discrimination. Why can’t some understand that you can love people while openly disagreeing with their actions and the ideologies they uphold?
The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Isn’t freedom of expression precisely about challenging social, political, and religious ideologies, powers, and taboos?
Alex Blagojevic is a native of Paris, France and has been living
in beautiful Southwest Florida for 17 years with his son Elias and
his wife Elizabeth, who is a professional harpist with the local
symphonies and teaches music at FGCU. Alex has a Finance degree
from FSU and a Master’s degree in Theology from Biola University.