Tag Archives: free speech

Best Quote of the Week – May 29, 2020

“Much as he might wish otherwise, Donald Trump is not the president of Twitter. This order, if issued, would be a blatant and unconstitutional threat to punish social media companies that displease the president.”

American Civil Liberties Union, in response to Trump’s executive order that could weaken legal protections for social media outlets.

“The president has no authority to rewrite a congressional statute with an executive order imposing a flawed interpretation of Section 230,” the ACLU continued, referring to the section of the Communications Decency Act that shields platforms from being held liable for what users publish on them.

Trump had issued the order in a toddler-esque tirade against Twitter for having the audacity to fact-check two of his posts; one claiming that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud (a long-standing conservative mantra used to thwart voting rights) and the other that the state of California will send mail-in ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.”

Twitter is based in San Francisco, a city with a notorious reputation for having a leftist political and social bent.  California Governor Gavin Newsom, an arch foe of Trump, recently issued an order to protect public health in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic while casting their votes in this year’s presidential election.

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Retro Quote – Arundhati Roy

“Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds… Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Arundhati Roy

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Worst Quote of the Week – November 8, 2019

“Just read the Transcript.  The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good.  We don’t have freedom of the press!”

– Faux-President Donald Trump, regarding his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the source of his current impeachment inquiry.

Here’s a much-needed refresher for Trump and other right-wing extremists.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees:

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PEN America in Dallas

Dallas author and co-founder of PEN Dallas/Fort Worth Sanderia Faye.

I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas.  Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression.  These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read.  It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won.  Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.

Pen International felt the need to establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016 U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed, womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.

“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.  The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom.”

This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone familiar with U.S. politics.  I’ve noticed over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack.  They have no problems loosening gun laws and sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart” war).  But, when it comes to education, health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the matter.

Regardless of how hard we have to fight to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always take up the torch of liberty and justice.

Everyone has a story and everyone needs to be heard.

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If Being Liberal Means…

Here in Texas, as well as in other predominantly conservative regions of the United States, the term “liberal” is equal to demonic.  Personally, I consider myself a political and social moderate – which, to most conservatives – still means liberal.  Anything to the slightest left of the small-minded rhetoric of right-wing, Judeo-Christian ideology is blasphemously liberal.  But, as you surely know by now, I deplore being placed in boxes to suit other people’s needs and desires.  Those who have dared to always end up with a rectal thermometer-style rebuke from me.  Their rules don’t apply to me.

But, for the past 30 years, liberals have allowed themselves to be defined by the opposition.  They’ve hidden their true sentiments about politics and social order within the lockboxes of their minds.  Outspoken liberals have been relegated to the coastal U.S. and urban America.  Thus, they are viewed as elitists and globalists; cretins who dismiss the notion of “American exceptionalism” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean).

In truth, liberal means educated and open-minded; compassionate and understanding.  I’m steadfast in my own outlook and opinions.  Overall, I’m just left of the center, which – again – means extremist, bleeding-heart, bed-wetting liberal to the right-wingers.  They can call me whatever name they wish, if it makes them feel empowered in their MINI Cooper of a mind.  I’ve endured worst name-calling grade school.

But, if being liberal means…

  • I believe true freedom begins with free speech and the right to vote and not with a gun.
  • I believe the United States was founded on religious freedom and separation of church and state and not Judeo-Christian beliefs.
  • I don’t believe White males have all the answers.
  • Europe is not the foundation of civilization.
  • I read more than the Christian Bible and a TV guide.
  • Men and women possess different attributes, but are still equal
  • The human race is really the only race on Earth.
  • There is life beyond this planet.
  • Industrial enterprises don’t have the right to profitably pollute the environment.
  • Queer people aren’t diabolically dangerous.

…then you can call me a liberal.  I call myself a human being with my own thoughts and opinions.  And I don’t have to run any of these by other folks, just to get their approval.

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Banned Books Week 2018

Many social movements begin with the simplest of acts.  In the fall of 1975, a group of parents called Parents of New York United complained to a local school board that school policies on library books were too “permissive.”  Among the offensive tomes were Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and Langston Hughes’ “Best Short Stories by Negro Writers,” which, the parents moaned, were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.”  In response, the school district removed the books in February of 1976.  But a senior high school student, Steven Pico, and four classmates challenged the board’s decision; claiming the books were removed simply because “passages in the books offended [the group’s] social, political, and moral tastes and not because the books, taken as a whole, were lacking in educational value.”  Other libraries and free speech organizations filed briefs on the students’ behalf, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 as Island Trees School District v. Pico.

While many parents surely were upset that a group of high school kids had the audacity to circumvent their authority, the more significant issue was the school board’s actions.  And, on a grander scale, who has the right to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable?

As the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once declared, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so.  But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Shortly after the SCOTUS reversal of the aforementioned school board’s decision, “Banned Books Week” was founded.  Since then it has grown into an international event with the goal of ensuring that true freedom begins with our ability and the right to read and see pretty much whatever we want.  There’s a reason, after all, why the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is first.

Like any legitimate scribe, I strongly support the right to free speech and free expression.  We in these democratic societies don’t often appreciate the importance of it.  But speak with anyone who grew up in a totalitarian state – where people are told what to read and how to think – and you’ll realize the value of it.

Sadly this battle will never be won.  We will ALWAYS have to combat those who feel that, since they’re offended by something, no else should have access to it either.  In the current chaos of extreme political correctness and assaults on the media by a deranged American president, none of us should have to tolerate the narrow-minded choices of others.

Keep writing and keep fighting!

Banned Books Week runs this year from September 23 – 29.

Frequently Challenged Books

Ten Most Challenged Books Lists

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Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2015

PEN_International_-_Day_of_the_Imprisoned_Writer

“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action – though often trivial in isolation – are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”

George Orwell

 

Today is the 34th Annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer, sponsored by PEN International.

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