Civil Liberties

Teh Internets Saved His Tongue!


John Stossel's show tonight on Fox Business was all about free speech. It included segments with great friends of Reason John Stagliano and Judge Andrew Napolitano, arguing that speech and thoughts consumed in private are nobody's goddamn business (Stagliano, the Fellini of Fetish, is facing a 32-year sentence for distributing porn videos to folks willing to pay for the privilege of watching them).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the excellent memoir Infidel and the new Nomad (haven't read the latter yet) and subject of a fascinating (and contentious) Reason interview was also on, talking about how the thug's veto of free speech can never be allowed.

And Ezra Levant appeared too. As publisher of the Canadian journal The Western Standard, Levant published some of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons that caused the row that eventually led to Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Levant wrote about his travails in Reason. Fifteen government officials spent 900 days investigaratin' him, at a cost of at least $500,00 (Canadian!) to the taxpayers in the Great White North and 100,000 clams (again Canadian!) to the Western Standard crew. All trying to prove that Levant and his pub had somehow broken the law via discussion of a contentious issue (guilty as charged!).

Here's a snippet from Levant's Reason account:

The Western Standard was prepared to debate our decision to run the cartoons, but voluntarily, in a process involving our subscribers (who enthusiastically agreed with our decision), our advertisers (who were nervous at first but ultimately supported us), and our distributors (most of whom stood with us and saw strong newsstand sales). In the edition following the one in which the cartoons appeared, we ran an extended letters section, with the entire spectrum of views represented, including a worried mother of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, a Muslim immigrant to Canada who said she wanted to get away from Shariah law, and nutcases who said I published the cartoons only because I was Jewish. That's what a public debate in Canada looks like.

One of the points that Levant stresses is that new technologies allow for freedom of expression in ways no one really anticipates. A key part of his story (as the title to his Reason piece indicates) is that being able to document actions and tribunals in a decentralized way is a real game-changer when it comes to repressive state action. Think of it as Fox's Book of Martyrs 2.0. Here's a vid of Levant's inquisition by Canadian officials.

Go here for more vids that lay out the new ways in which government seeks to punish uncomfortable speech. Thankfully they failed this time around.