civilized cultures would never do such a…oh wait…

Things like this are part of why I’m so frustrated when people make broad generalizations about the noble attributes of ‘Western Civilization’ in opposition to “[Islam,] a rather sizable religious tradition [that] doesn’t seem even to comprehend the notion of free expression.”

Some guy I’m reading for class wrote the following a while ago:

It will be said, that we do not now put to death the introducers of new opinions: we are not like our fathers who slew the prophets, we even build sepulchres to them. It is true we no longer put heretics to death; and the amount of penal infliction which modern feeling would probably tolerate, even against the most obnoxious opinions, is not sufficient to extirpate them. But let us not flatter ourselves that we are yet free from the stain of even legal persecution. Penalties for opinion, or at least for its expression, still exist by law; and their enforcement is not, even in these times, so unexampled as to make it at all incredible that they may some day be revived in full force.
-J.S. Mill, “On Liberty”

More recently, a popular music group had this to say:

I know you’d like to think your shit don’t stink
But lean a little bit closer
See that roses really smell like boo-boo
Yeah, roses really smell like boo-boo
-Outkast, “Roses”

Wise sentiments, both.


10 responses to “civilized cultures would never do such a…oh wait…

  1. If you aren’t aware already, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that Iran has decided to host a Holocaust Cartoon Competition to “test the limits of free speech in the West.”

    The obvious flaw in your — and for that matter, Iran’s — reasoning in this matter is that Europe’s intolerance for free speech isn’t nearly so epidemic as it is in the Islamic Middle East and other Muslim countries. What made the Irving sentencing big news was that it was exceptional and rare. Nut jobs and blasphemers are usually allowed to run wild and prosper in the West — and we’re a richer, better society for it.

    You might get some snide comments from me for depicting the Virgin Mary masturbating and for thinking it worthy of academic credit. But those mean words are nothing compared to the fate that would befall you if you turned in a drawing of Mohammed in a similar pose at a Saudi university. Imagine the reaction, and then compare and contrast that scene with your happier, freer denigration of religious symbols here.

    Anyways, I like what Irving’s most consistent and dogmatic critic — Deborah Lipstadt, who he once sued for libel — said about this whole business:
    “I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don’t believe in winning battles via censorship… The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth.”

    How true — Austria really should change and develop a more robust free speech tradition like America’s.

  2. America may well have a great deal of speech, but it ain’t free if you want it to be heard by lots of people, as the price of a super bowl commercial will attest to. and wait a minute–haven’t the networks even rejected people’s money before because they didn’t like the intended buyer’s message? indeed they have.

    The result of free speech in America is in my opinion, and in someone else’s words, though I can’t remember whose is that “we’re allowed to believe anything, but to know nothing”

    A case in point is the way America has until now been able to ignore, willfully or not, clear evidence presented by the likes of Professor David Ray Griffin in this paper that there is no way on god’s green earth that the WTC was brought down with anything other than explosives. Forget the web fairy and other nonsensical websites and fake conspiracy theories. Read the actual accounts including the copious oral histories collected by the FDNY, and the critiques of official accounts which fail to explain how it is possible that pools of molten steel were found weeks after the towers’ collapses, when steel melts at 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and jet fuel, aka kerosene, burns at a maximum of 1700 degrees fahrenheit, and that only when it is fed pure oxygen.

    When laws of nature such as these can be overlooked by most Americans in favor of a conspiracy theory propounded by proven liars, it becomes clear that free speech, while a bedrock of our culture, is not a panacea for truth.

    THAT is the issue here, and anyone who cares about their country, Mr. Kavulla, owes it to that country to set aside their partisan persuasions and open their minds to science and historical fact.

    I know for a fact that this issue is slowly permeating the consciousness of what is an extremely intelligent student body. Who will be the last to wake up to the absurdity of this charade I wonder, and why?

    Travis, I challenge you to tell me where Professor Griffin is wrong in his analysis–I relish a breakout of free speech on campus–can you handle the truth?

  3. Also a fan of the right to remain silent I see. Or maybe it’s that there IS no possible rebuttal to Prof. Griffin’s analysis, because he is right. Since I doubt the Crimson will be putting their free speech where their mouth is by publishing my letter on the subject, I open the challenge to anyone in the Harvard community to find fault with Prof. Griffin’s case for there having to have been explosives involved in the collapse of the WTC. If I were as rich as Dershowitz, I would offer a cash prize for anyone who can accomplish the feat by actually reading and referencing Prof. Griffin’s short paper, without resorting to using the terms “aliens”, “holocaust denial”, or “tinfoil”. OK how’s this– $500 for a credible explanation of the molten steel found in the WTC rubble pile.

    Go ahead folks, it’s easy money right?

  4. Deep Throttle,

    I would recommend to you this conversation from last month in which Jersey Slugger also put forward these conspiracy theories on 911 and I offered the alternatives. Please don’t equate no one responding to your argument somehow being infallible. It is not and the conversation I’ve linked to, I believe, shows the various fallacies in both Griffin and other 911 conspiracy theorists approach.

    In general, I also think it’s important to have respect for where the conversation began. If you would like to turn this thread toward 911, that’s your prerogative. However, I think there’s another interesting interchange occurring about the nature of free speech in American v. Iranian and other Islamic societies. I would personally prefer (as would, I’m guessing, the two people previously engaged in this conversation) if you would allow that conversation to occur and pursue the 911 point of inquiry at another time. Obviously, you can choose to ignore my request at your will, but I think it would be generally appreciated. Thanks for commenting!

  5. I’m afraid some of us have class and, in any case, don’t entertain a single-minded obsession with “breaking news” we already know.

    Anyways: charming, Deep Throttle. I’d love to see your Crimson letter when you get the chance; I edit The Salient, which occasionally publishes such ephemera. Of course, you’d have to divulge your real name — the “old media,” in contrast the new, operates on principles of openness that require people who make claims (esp. those purporting 9/11 conspiracies) to stand by them.

    Perhaps Jersey Slugger or Katie concurs with your theory, though, or has some dissent?

  6. That’s interesting Andrew, because I just checked and nowhere in that entire back and forth is there a mention of Dr. Griffin’s work. Honestly, it’s a short paper, why don’t you read it? I will honestly give you $500 if you can explain the presence of molten steel in the WTC rubble piles (1, 2, and 7). Another point I found interesting about that debate is that someone claimed no one has written a book on the subject, and Slugger didn’t realize that there are in fact many books, and one is currently outselling the official report (Synthetic Terror by Webster Tarpley) and there are at least a dozen more close behind. Also, to refer to the Popular Mechanics article without mentioning (or is it without knowing?) that it was written by Ben Chertoff, cousin of Dir. of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff seems a bit disingenuous to me. My point in posting to this particular thread is that the issue of free speech is made moot by the much more important issue of censorship. Your failure to address Griffin’s point about the WTC demolition, and the innacuracy of your claim that his work was discussed in that other thread are examples of people’s propensity to protect themselves from cognitive dissonance. Again I offer the half grand to anyone who can explain the molten steel referenced in Griffin’s paper (though it is a matter of historical record, not a claim of his.) And speaking of the record, my name, for the record, is Gustavo Espada, Harvard College class of 1996. Now that you have some fuel for some ad hominem attacks, I fully expect you to keep avoiding the real issues. But I wish you wouldn’t, because it makes me think that a)you’re perfectly OK with people getting away with mass murder, or b)you just prefer to think that Muslims and only Muslims are capable of such a horrific terrorist attack on America and the world. So yeah, we don’t have to discuss this here, but it sure seems like you’re evading an argument you can’t win!

  7. Mr. Espada,

    Having googled your name, it is clear to me that you are involved with a series of questionable situations that would require a considerable amount of discussion to sort through. Many people have accused you of being a CIA operative trying to provoke people into breaking the law. I simply don’t know anything about you, so I don’t want to slander you if you have been misjudged, but I think it’s fair to ask for you to post to your own blog and post a link up here for people who would like to continue this conversation with you. I would appreciate it if you did that rather than continuing to post here, and I would like to warn the readers of Cambridge Common that the status of “Deep Throttle” is very questionable. I hope you think that’s fair.

    For more information you can google Mr. Espada’s name.


  8. Fair? Let’s see… First you completely ignore the substance of my post. Then you criticize me for posting anonymously. When I tell you what my name is you immediately google it and, still ignoring the questions you have no answer for (molten steel in the WTC rubble pile,) you mischaracterize the results of your google search by claiming that many people have accused me of something (that is completely false and the project of one lonely smear artist.) Those smears resulted from one man’s paranoid delusions which he based on the fact that I am an anti-war activist whose father is a (now retired) American Foreign Service Officer with a distinguished 20 year career. Our first posting was in Bogota, Colombia, a tour of duty that was cut short when a car bomb was placed at the American Embassy while my dad worked inside. I was 9 years old at the time and was subsequently evacuated along with my mom and brothers to the U.S. while my father remained in a dangerous situation for six months. After graduating from Harvard in 1996, I worked simple jobs because I refused to whore myself in the tech-bubble along with my peers, eventually finding my way back to Harvard where I’ve worked in a financial and IT capacity for the last seven years. I think I’ve earned the right to speak my mind and do so in the interest of peace, justice, and a better world for all. Your inability to carry on a reasoned dialogue speaks very poorly to the strength of your own convictions and to your knowledge generally. I’m done posting on your blog since I feel I’ve made my point in spades. You are sadly misguided and closed-minded, and I guarantee that you will one day realize how wrong you are. To anyone else who gets to read this before Andrew erases it from this blog and his special personal reality, never stop questioning the dominant paradigm and you will never stop learning.

  9. I sincerely apologize if you feel I’ve mischaracterized you if that is true. I’m not unwilling to engage your questions, I just don’t have time to do so right now. My interest is simply in not allowing the discussion to be hijacked, which I believe has been your intention. I would love for you to post a link to your blog so that readers can engage you on those questions, but I was worried that your identity and your points would distract from the original intention of this post. The reason I told people to google you is so that they can judge for themselves, internet accusations are obviously far from conclusive.

    I’m sorry you feel I was unfair, I do hope you’ll post a link where your points can be heard on their merits.

  10. Andrew, I appreciate your reply, and sincerely `hope you will read Dr. Griffin’s essay. I must take issue though with the insinuation that I have done something wrong or disruptive by contrasting Travis’s commentary on free speech with the general taboo on discussion of serious problems with the official version of the evnts of 9-11. This entire thread is in response, moreover, to Ms. Ioncke’s very valid criticism of the hypocrisy of the West when criticizing Islam. In my heart of hearts I believe the height of this hypocrisy to be the framing of Osama bin Laden for the WTC demolition, and the subsequent villification of Muslims, culminating in Dean Kidd’s recent unfortunate lapse into mass media induced generalizations that gravely offended the Muslim student population of Harvard. I admit that like many others, I succumb to the escalation of rhetorical jousting inherent in online discussions, and for that I apologize. I have, from years of experience, the utmost respect for the intellectual gifts of Harvard’s undergraduates and am just disappointed that because of the current atmosphere of war propaganda, many great minds are courting a dangerous misunderstanding of current events. That’s about as kindly as I can put it, sorry. I wish you the best in your quest for knowledge. Cheers!


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