A bad wind is blowing

These are bad times for this whole business of free speech.

It is easily enough protected in theory. It just takes a lot of people who understand what it is and are willing to use it enough to defend it.

In practice, that is lacking. The results are bad. They are getting worse.

Let’s start with the latest.


These are bad times for this whole business of free speech.

It is easily enough protected in theory. It just takes a lot of people who understand what it is and are willing to use it enough to defend it.

In practice, that is lacking. The results are bad. They are getting worse.

Let’s start with the latest.

PBS President Pat Mitchell has announced that she won’t be coming back when her mandate resigns in 2006. You’ve heard the jokes about the PBS being the ‘Pentagon Broadcasting Service’, but the important thing is why she is stepping down. It is, to quote the AP, because she was “spending public money on a cartoon show that also featured a real-life lesbian couple.”

If you google ‘real-life lesbian couple’ in the Internet, you will probably see various depictions that American society seems to be able to assimilate. They will be sexist, they will objectify. But an ordinary lesbian couple like the one shown on PBS, is unlikely to come up. Well there’s always the private networks, right? Wrong. CBS and NBC refused last year to air an ad from the church encouraging tolerance and acceptance of all people, including gays and lesbians. “Too controversial”, NBC said. “If there is a public policy debate going on, as there is on the issue of gay marriage, we do not accept advocacy advertisements”, CBS said. The church didn’t even try ABC.

I remind you of Eason Jordan of CNN’s case, which I discussed yesterday.

A little further back, I didn’t blog here about the case of Tariq Ramadan, a liberal and mainstream Muslim scholar who got a professorship at the University of Notre Dame last year. His visa was approved in May, then revoked – without explanation. He resigned from the job in December when the visa just didn’t come. Nor did I blog about Aliakbar and Shahla Afshari’s firing from the Center for Disease Prevention, though Zeynep and Jonathan did at Under the Same Sun

And of course, there’s Ward Churchill, currently being ‘reviewed’ so that his university can find some pretext to fire him.

I keep waiting for a backlash against all this from the left. But a liberal backlash won’t cut it. How far can they push before they generate some real anger?

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.