From the December 19, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1551)
By Jim Trageser
During a recent United Nations Commission on Human Rights meeting in New York, the topic turned to ways of controlling speech on the Internet. According to news reports and the U.N.'s own Web site (www.un.org), there was near consensus on the desirability of such controls -- and frustration with the fact that the United States both houses most of the Internet and has constitutional guarantees of free speech in place that make any such control problematic at best.
At the heart of the issue is the latest fad in thought control, banning what is designated as "hate speech." Most of the delegates to the U.N. meeting were vehemently opposed to hate speech, and wanted to see it banned from the Internet.
Now, few of us care to listen to what out and out bigots have to say. The Klan is despicable, the Panthers an equally insane response.
But the reason both of those groups have the right to express themselves in this country is that once you start trying to shut one group up, where does it end? Who gets to decide what constitutes hate speech and what doesn't?
The scary thing that there are plenty of people who are willing to ban the speech of those who disagree with them. Start banning "hate speech," and watch how the whole definition of the term starts to expand.
Think I'm kidding? There are already those claiming to speak for feminism who argue passionately that anyone who speaks out against abortion is committing hate speech against women and equally extreme pro-lifers who feel that supporting legal abortion is hate speech against the unborn. There are gay rights extremists who believe that opposing same-sex marriage is hate speech. There are some Christians who feel that anyone who disagrees with having creation theory taught in public schools is an anti-religion bigot. There are others who will argue that those who support immigration reform are anti-Latino racists.
See how quickly that slope gets slippery?
And if you think that such lunacy can't ever become law in this country, just look north. A few years back, pseudo-feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon argued before the Canadian Supreme Court that sexually explicit materials implicitly harmed women. That it constituted hate speech.
Shamefully, the court bought their argument.
And so while few of us might care to defend Hustler-style pornography, the upshot is that any and all erotica tasteful or not, between consenting adults, even lesbian erotica is now illegal in Canada. In other words, not only can you forget picking up Playboy in Montreal, don't even try taking any Henry Miller, Oscar Wilde, Erica Jong or even James Joyce's "Ulysses" on your next trip to Toronto.
It's hate speech, see.
Which is why you should be frightened as hell at what the bureaucrats of the U.N. propose. They want to decide what you can read and write on the Internet. What you can put on your own Web site. Whether you can advocate controversial positions.
Visit the U.N.'s Web site to read the comments. (Go to www.un.org, then click on "search" on the bottom menu. At the search page, type in "internet hate speech" under Search All Documents, and ask it to search for all words; from there, you want the "THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTIONS ON INTERNATIONAL DRUG CONTROL, ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN" document.) Read the proposals for yourself. Then get off your behind and contact your senators and local congressional representative (if you don't know who they are, pop over to the North County Times' Community Connection page www.nctimes.com/community-index.html and look for "government") and let them know what you think of this.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
All rights reserved