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Maintaining Liberty Is The Hardest Thing to Do (Op/Ed)

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posted on May, 24 2006 @ 07:48 AM
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Among the most difficult things modern free societies have before themselves is the effort of maintaining hard-won liberties. Erosion of critical freedoms come from all sides. Among the most talked about are the popular new items related to domestic spying and abuse of executive power. But there are far more subtle causes of erosion, causes we often find ourselves accidentally supporting.
 


Recent international news points to an effort to shut down certain discussion board websites because of the nature of the conversions. This news article in particular mentions a site we here at AboveTopSecret.com love to hate, Stormfront. I've made no secret of my exceptionally intense loathing for the existence of that (and similar) sites, the owners, and the people who participate in the mindless orgy of hate rhetoric. And many sane people will find themselves nodding their heads in agreement over the prospect of shutting down such sites because the content may incite hate crimes.

I propose that is among the most insane thoughts from anyone who professes they support a free society.

The challenge of supporting free expression is the ability to defend that which you abhor. There is only one thing I despise more than racism and bigotry, limitations on free expression. We cannot allow the criminalization of mere opinion. And we certainly cannot do so based on the fear of what may result from that opinion. The danger is significant.

If today, racist opinion websites are held responsible for their content, what will tomorrow bring?

Will ATS be responsible for content that potentially encourages resistance to governments?

Will ATS be responsible for rhetoric that calls for the destruction of "enemy" nations?

Will ATS be prosecuted for sedition?

The often used term of "slippery-slope" is appropriate. We can't demand the ability to freely post harshly critical speculation of deep government conspiracies while allowing another segment of harsh opinion to be punished. The ideals of our motto, "Deny Ignorance", require us to vigorously support the expression of any opinion, no matter how uncomfortable those opinions may cause us to feel.

Certainly, on AboveTopSecret.com, racist hate-filled rhetoric is not allowed. But this isn't through any law or legislation, it's simply because of the standards that have been established as part of the management of this privately owned online community. However, there are those who would certainly view the vast majority of our content to be promoting anti-government opinion and sedition. If operators of racist websites are targets today, will websites with harsh government criticism and scandal speculation be the targets of tomorrow?

That's why this is hard. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We can't Dream of Liberty but allow it to slip away through well-intended limitations.

Related AboveTopSecret.com Discussion Threads:
The issue of "Freedom of Speech" on ATS




posted on May, 24 2006 @ 08:40 AM
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Oh my, once again a post that cuts right to the heart of the matter.

I have never heard of the above-mentioned hate filled chat room, but a place like that would indeed be horrible; although in my opinion it has every right to exist, and its members every right to post their opinions.

If such a thing as the government shutting the site down does happen, then we here on ATS do indeed have something to . . . well, not fear, as I first thought, but at least worry about. And despite the fact that we may steer away from issues of racism and other hate or ignorance-incited emotional or overtly expressive topics, there is without a doubt a definite anti-government sentiment here, something that would surely threaten any power that wished to have absolute control.

In the few years since this site started, the limit surrounding these issues has shrunk considerably, so much so, in fact, that I believe that posters are soon - i.e. within the next 4/5 years - going to have to watch how they word their posts very carefully indeed, so as to not give any legislative body an excuse to take action against the boards.

I suppose all we can do is hope that the situation will not get that extreme; and hope that the government will not interfere with the unique community here; although we do not have much of a say in this, do we?

What sway does a haphazard group of tinfoil hat wearing farcical conspiracy theorists' really have?



[edit on 24/5/2006 by watch_the_rocks]



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 10:10 AM
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Free speech is not protected any more. Speaking of the countries in which I reside, Britain and Australia, there are no protections for freedom of expression. Sedition laws are being dusted off and incitement to racial hatred/glorification of terrorism laws are already passed and implemented.

Freedom of speech is, sorry for the pun, only being given lip-service in the United States. Does anyone believe that the US government/people have any qualms about shutting US run terrorist websites down? How about sites with bomb making instructions?

Stormfront is only up and running because it isnt causing the PTB any problems. If Stormfront started to organise resistance against the government to any real degree it could be shut down under the auspices of any of the Patriot Act provisions.

Unfortunately its not really a question about maintaining our liberties, for we have already lost them. Its actually about protecting against the implementation of these new illegal and unconstitutional laws.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 10:12 AM
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That may sound like a crazy thing to say but think about it. Without liberty we have totalitarianism and dictatorial rule. I simply won't spend my life in the pursuit of another's ideals or work for the sole betterment of the few in power.

Reading S.O.'s Op-Ed brought to mind the kkk rallies I saw on TV. My feelings were terribly mixed over what I watched. On the one hand I wanted to take an ax handle to every moron dressed up in a bed sheet, parading around and beat some decency and sense into them. On the other hand I felt proud that even scum like this have protected rights of expression in my country.

I view the StormFarters and other sites like theirs as the "morons on parade" of the web. While I would love to knock some sense into them and completely loath all they stand for and spew from their fetid keyboards, I would never want to see ANY government shut them down. If people simply ignored them they would go away, the "Nanny Government" should NEVER be used to make ideas and beliefs illegal.

I am insulted by the rhetoric "this type of material could cause hate crimes and must be removed" right...

No, this kind of material can only cause more eye strain, and maybe a headache or two. But that's beside the point. The point is, people who are ignorant and low enough to attack a fellow Human Being simply because of his/her race, sexual preference or religion are not going to stop simply because they can't discuss it openly on the web.

That line of BULLSHOT the government is selling really stinks. Their true agenda is to usurp the liberty of free expression from the masses in the one venue they simply can't control no matter how hard they try, the Internet Discussion Communities.

The media, ALL the media can be controlled. An executive order for a "gag" on a story and the story is gagged. Usually for reasons of "National Security" one wonders who gets to define what has ramification upon National Security?

The internet on the other hand has no restrictions like this. The government has no way of communicating a gag order much less enforcing one here in the wild wild web. That has to be getting pretty frustrating for them. Seeing touchy subjects revealed in blogs from around the world on CNN must drive them crazy.

The seriousness of this most recent attempt to "rein in" the internet in the hope of controlling and censoring can not be overstated. I believe the initiative will fail miserably but fear there will come a day when they figure out how to control and enforce. One need only look to the NSA to see they are working hard at figuring it out.

Springer...



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 10:35 AM
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I do not support hate in any manner, but I must agree that people should be free to express their
own opinions regardless of whether you and I agree with them or not.

We have a much tougher battle protecting out privacy and our right to protest and expose
fraud waste and corruption in our government.

Now the government is doing all they can to stop normal law abiding citizens from using extreme measures to protect their data, phone calls, e-mails and chats.

There are many legitimate reasons that individuals, businesses and journalists are now
resorting to strong military grade encryption to protect their privacy.

People like inventors, software developers, scientists and researchers must be able to protect their intellectual property.

Obviously this throws a wrench in the plans for Total Information Awareness.

Journalists and their sources are the primary reason this administration is attempting
to shut down privacy.

I guarantee you that Hayden's appointment to CIA is a last ditch effort to plug
leaks that they would find extremely embarrasing.

This administration knows that there is a serious growing revolt in the ranks and they
are doing all they can to save their a$$es before there is enough viable evidence to
warrant impeachment proceedings.



posted on May, 24 2006 @ 10:44 AM
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Internet service providers (ISPs) always seem to get the first call when a problem arises on the internet.

Lawmakers want them to assist with investigations into cyber crime, parents want them to filter out harmful content, consumers want them to stop spam, and copyright holders want them to curtail infringement.......and............

Adopting this approach has required strict adherence to a cardinal rule often referred to as "network neutrality." This principle holds that ISPs transport bits of data without discrimination, preference, or regard for content.

The network neutrality principle has served ISPs, internet firms and internet users well. It has enabled ISPs to plausibly argue that they function much like common carriers and therefore should be exempt from liability for the content that passes through their systems.
Emphasis added by MrPenny


article here

This article illustrates why this discussion is so important. Any attempts to diminish the openness and "neutrality" of the Internet establishes precedence for further restrictions.

Any attempt to alter the Internet's "libertarian" attitude should be strongly opposed.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 07:14 AM
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Student faces expulsion for Web post


A 17-year-old student who posted on his blog site that he was being bullied and threatened by the Plainfield School District will face an expulsion hearing this week, a local attorney said.

Superintendent John Harper, who cannot comment on student cases, said the district will take action if it believes there is a safety issue. Meanwhile a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said school districts must be careful not to discipline students on matters that occur outside school. The student's attorney believes Plainfield School District is overstepping its boundaries
[...]
On a second post on May 2, without mentioning the school the student wrote: "I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public Web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. Where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? ... Did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what the did because they were bullied. ... In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga's that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. We voiced our opinions. You are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it."


Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


The student maintained his blog outside of school time, on his own computer. And now, because he was critical of his school, his education may be taken away.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 07:50 PM
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America is experincing one of its periodic contractions of liberties and freedom of expression. Other such times was the red scare in the late teens, when for example a man was aquited of murder for shooting another man in the back of the head because he refused to stand for the national anthem at a ball game...and then there were the McCarthy years when just the rumor of a connection to socialist or communist parties (who were so very active in the labor movements is the 20's and 30') was enough to get you blackballed. The hard right has been using the cultural spasm of the 60's (see an excellent artilce on it on alternet.org) as an excuse to crack down on license and now with the threat of international terrorism and the authoritian presidency of Bush/Cheny we see even greater restrictions. We are doing this to protect America and our liberities is their mantralike lie. Fortunately we humans are as fickle as we are dense and no author/totalaterian system can ever last long before it either collapses from its own weight (what is happening with the republican machine today) or people get fed up and slouch off their yokes. What is happening on the planet today with global warming and the shifting of ecosystems (and in some cases collapsing) will put every political machine on the planet to the test. How we fare in an age of deminishing resources will be very interesting to watch. While the Bush cabel has done their best to deny global warming the pentagon paper of feb. 2004 makes no such ideological mistakes and is very sober reading.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 08:00 PM
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It's like when I was growing up, and the KKK would march through the main strip of our town, even though I despised the action, I knew that it was a necessary "evil", only because I knew it had to happen.

Well said again, SO, it is truly a "slippery slope", once we start denying or limiting the freedoms of speech that we are endowed with. I've seen so much to-do over events that have occurred, and I cannot help but defend those events, as it is only fair to allow those. Some people may (and more than likely, do) think that we are absolute nutters for discussing many of the threads that we discuss. Thing is, it's so darn (for a lack of a passionate expletive) beautiful, even in anger, to see these sites exist without interference as ATS does.

At the end of it all, we can only be who we are, and stand for the ideals that we see fit to expand our consciousness as humans. To that, I owe a lot of respect to "los tres amigos" for allowing the freedoms to be enacted through this online community.

Let us all hope that others will see what they are missing in life, by denying ignorance, and see what beauty there is inside of what we are doing.

Cheers to everyone, even those that have totally annhilated whatever I have posted, because at least we have the freedom to do it.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 08:13 PM
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Originally posted by SkepticOverlord
The challenge of supporting free expression is the ability to defend that which you abhor.


Bravo! SO, you speak like a true leader. And I'm not just kissing up.


The tough part about holding onto our freedoms is respecting that they are granted also to those we disagree with. That seems to be the hardest part for people to grasp.

In this story, school kids had a day to honor gay students. On that day, some kids wore T-shirts with sayings such as "homosexuality is a sin". Those kids were told to turn their T-shirts inside-out or be suspended.

Tolerance CAN Co-exist with Freedom of Speech



If some students wished to wear a T-shirt proclaiming "gay pride," would that cause a disruption on campus? Would that be a controversial message? Would some students be offended? Yes, yes and yes. But they still should be allowed to wear them because it is merely a statement of their beliefs.


It seems like the schools are a fertile breeding ground for stomping on freedoms. They're teaching them young.

We're not granted the right to not be offended.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 08:15 PM
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I think the person who sumbitted this will agree with the statement I am about to make:
We are afraid of the possible fates (death) that may await us from terrorism. This fear makes us wonder how can we stop it. The best way to stop it, of course, is before it gains any momentum. UNFORTUNATELY FOR THOSE WHO FEAR DEATH, we live in a free society. Are you not willing to risk your life to live free? For every one that is a Vet, do you not believe the same morals as you did when you were in the service? you do NOT have to be in the military to risk your life for freedom. Any person, regardless of race or religion, risks their lives everyday when they say "I will NOT let any threat, from any being, restrict me from living free".

Every single person who does that is a true patriot of the real united states of america. We cannot predict crimes, and that is the price of living free. For any person who has forgotten that freedom isn't free, shame on you. Freedom comes at a price for all of us. Never forget that its worth paying for, as our founding fathers had said.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 10:40 PM
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Well done once again SO. Threads like this one make me proud to be a member of this forum.



posted on May, 25 2006 @ 11:59 PM
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I find myself in agreement with all the rest of you in regards to free speech. I have always believed that it is much better to let an idiot speak his mind and reveal himself as such than to force him to keep quiet. Bring them out of the shadows, so to speak. The current lashing out against hate speech and all other forms of verbal excrement is worrying because it encourages people with these ridiculous views to keep them private. They could then be placed in positions of authority with no one knowing their true beliefs.

Unfortunately, what do we do about it? It is easy to complain about 'The Gov' taking away our rights, but that is only the symptom, not the cause. What then is the cause? We are ourselves. At least those of us who live in a country with a representative type of government. How did the people in power get there? WE PUT THEM THERE! What is the solution to the problem of a representative abusing power? WE REMOVE THEM! The downside of this, of course, is that it requires us to be involved in our own governance. (Downside?) We are the ultimate power, but only if we choose to be.

In my eyes, it all comes down to taking responsibility for our own actions, and encouraging others to do the same. If your concern is the pornography available to your children, then assume responsibility and control what your children do. You know- Be a parent. If your concern is hate speech, then become equally vocal about tolerance. If your concern is authority figures taking away your rights, then become involved in the process to remove them from authority. This may mean you will have to serve in their place if there is no one else willing to do the job. And no sane person WANTS that job!

We must get up from our computers occasionally and do something. Although, thank goodness, there are some things we can do with our computers to help the situation too!



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 01:18 AM
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Yet another wonderful op/ed piece, Skeptic Overlord. It is always nice to think about the freedom of speech. And even though there are things that we are offended by, we have the right to speak against them as a manner of dissent. The words of offense and well as the right to speak against it are equally protected.

People can say whatever they like in America. However, the same rights are afforded to other United State citizens to counter those claims in the form of rebuttal. That alone is a very important thing to remember as we engage in debate on this board as well as interact discursively in the "real world".

That is the one lesson I have learned and thought about the most today: what is the use of the Constitution, if American citizens are not allowed to exercise its full rights? The one thing that everyone must remember is the right for free expression no matter what it is.

However, to protect that right of free speech rests in the hands of the populace. Because if we don't protect each other, who will? And if we deny the rights of others to speak--even when it offends us, are we being patriots--or hypocrites?


[edit on 26-5-2006 by ceci2006]



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 02:12 AM
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SO, can I ask how you come up with these topics? Also, how do you go about writing so eloquently? I find these posts to be very thought provoking, as well as very deeply emotional.

I envy you're ability to write so well. It's something that I'd wished that I had learned in college. God Bless the 3 Amigos for having allowed someone of your writing caliber to join our ranks. We all love your writings SO, keep 'em coming.

TheBorg



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:01 AM
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Originally posted by SkepticOverlord
If today, racist opinion websites are held responsible for their content, what will tomorrow bring?

Will ATS be responsible for content that potentially encourages resistance to governments?

Will ATS be responsible for rhetoric that calls for the destruction of "enemy" nations?

You , and by "you", I mean the staff and admin, esp. the 3Amigos, most certainly will be responsible. You set the standards for this board, you determine what is acceptable to post, so most certainly you will be responsible.


Will ATS be prosecuted for sedition?

That can't be answered here or now. It would take a particular incident and a court of law to decide that.


Certainly, on AboveTopSecret.com, racist hate-filled rhetoric is not allowed. But this isn't through any law or legislation, it's simply because of the standards that have been established as part of the management of this privately owned online community.

Exactly my point why you would be responsible. You can't have the privilege of making the rules without the accompanying responsibilities.


However, there are those who would certainly view the vast majority of our content to be promoting anti-government opinion and sedition.

Anti government, no argument. Seditious? Not imo.


If operators of racist websites are targets today, will websites with harsh government criticism and scandal speculation be the targets of tomorrow?

Who knows? What about kiddie porn sites? Should we protect them? Of course not, because they are illegal. So the answer is not a simple one.


from subz
Freedom of speech is, sorry for the pun, only being given lip-service in the United States. Does anyone believe that the US government/people have any qualms about shutting US run terrorist websites down? How about sites with bomb making instructions?

I would hope that our gov't is doing everything in it's power to shut down terrorist websites. You may want to protect them, but I do not.



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:33 AM
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Originally posted by jsobecky
I would hope that our gov't is doing everything in it's power to shut down terrorist websites. You may want to protect them, but I do not.

Thats what I mean, there are people who actually WANT the right to freedom of expression removed from civil liberties. Terrorist websites havent blown anyting up, or murdered any body. They are expressions of their beliefs and ideals. Much like the KKK marches dont kill anybody, but the KKK most certainly do. I see shutting down terrorist websites as the same as banning KKK marches.

It's a thorny issue and by no means a simple one. One of these days, we as Westerners, have to decide what we hold more sacred. Our lives or our freedom. I chose freedom atleast 4 years ago.



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:38 AM
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How ever, it is my turn to take the blame this soon to be month any way. So no, no and no.

There is a difference, right and wrong. Every one knows from within, that difference. "We hold these truths to be self evident", speaks for it'self. It was originally "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable;", but it was changed.

What do "we" hold as such;


that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson

[edit-to add sig]
The truth,against the world.The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.-Thomas JeffersonATS MOTTOIn the beginning of change, the patriot is a scarce man;brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however,the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot-Mark Twain

[edit on 26-5-2006 by ADVISOR]



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:46 AM
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I think the difference in trying to preserve the freedom of speech can be defined as this: are you a collaborator or are you a freedom fighter?

Collaborators are the ones who easily think of themselves instead of the higher purpose of the country. For self-preservation, they are willing to rat out their neighbors for the sake of a buck to suit their own needs. They fight against change because it would trouble them needlessly. They would rather keep their head in their turtle shell only poking it out and biting when someone tries to move them.

Freedom fighters are the ones who think of all the citizens and their rights in preserving freedom within the country. Freedom fighters are ones who are willing to aid others in the pursuit of keeping rights available for everyone. They embrace change and welcome the struggle in order to gain progress.

And in this topic, the dichotomy is split amongst those lines: the collaborator who wants things safe; the freedom fighter who embraces danger in order to gain a higher cause.

And when keeping the right for self-expression available, not many people choose the route for change. They would rather wallow for their own self-interests. And that is sad.





[edit on 26-5-2006 by ceci2006]



posted on May, 26 2006 @ 06:03 AM
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So what's the solution to this little dillemma? What do the people need to do in the position that we find ourselves in currently? If change is warranted, what kind of change, and how should it be gotten? I've already got an idea which I've posted in other threads. If anyone's interested, U2U me or post here and I'll reply with the links.

To quote ADVISOR's quote of the Declaration of Independence:

"that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

I edited the quote to emphasize my point here. This statement illustrates what the Founders wanted for the people when it came to freedoms. They even went so far as to say that when/if our government becomes null and void that it is our obligation to fix it. Has that time come? Or is there still time to stop it before it does become so? I think there's still time, but not much.

TheBorg



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