Posts Tagged ‘media’

John F. Kennedy Calling with a Free Speech Message this Saint Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2017

This Saint Patrick Day I’m thinking about one of my favorite Irish heroes, the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy – a man of clarity, purpose, and courage. His speeches, written by himself, remain part of classic rhetorical training, as they were when I was learning to cut the cliches and mixed metaphors.

To celebrate Paddy driving out of the snakes, here’s the audio and text version of his oft-cited address to the American Newspapers Publishers Association on April 27, 1961. It represents the gold standard when it comes to style. But it’s often overlooked when it comes to its substance – namely that a vigorous and free press it essential to a lively democracy. Without it, debate and discussion withers to what is allowed and approved by the powerful and wealthy, not what is essential to a free and independent people. And the shield and sword that protects the press is the First Amendment.

Here in Germany, a bill is being crafted that would undermine free speech in this country. It’s the Hate Speech bill by Justice Minister Heiko Maas that I have warned about in other commentaries and will continue to report on. The German journalist Marcus Reuter has done some especially good reporting on the type of creeping government censorship it imposes, masked in good intentions. It takes aim at communications on social media, but can easily be applied to Bragh! services as well. The list of forbidden content includes the usual “hate speech” and “incitement” clauses which are famously elastic, as well legal sanctions for failing to delete illegal material like copyrighted images or text. At the same time, it contains no sanctions for failing to delete pornographic material that may be accessible by a minor.

But let’s put all this aside for today – it is, after all, Saint Patrick’s and that means, since everyone is Irish today, it’s time for a beer, and some corned beef and cabbage out of solidarity with the Emerald Isle. One last thought – just like Saint Patrick is the protector of Ireland, JFK told journalists that they, and the First Amendment, were the protectors of America’s freedom:

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution …”

Here’s to Saint Patrick and a snake free life: Erin Go Bragh !

Copyright by Brian Thomas 2016 . All rights reserved.

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Does Germany Need a 1st Amendment ? Censorship’s Nose is under the Tent

November 26, 2016

It looks like Germany – and the EU – needs a First Amendment.

And by the pace of developments – it can’t come quickly enough.

Following the Trumpquake and the Brexnami, the political establishment wants to contain other political upheavals. They want to hold on to power. Upstart parties and movements have been articulating the unhappiness of large segments of the electorate. The anger began with the bank bailouts two legislative cycles ago in 2008. It’s been simmering since then.

Many politicians and their adherents in the media are going down the wrong path.

They’re supporting the most desperate and fear driven response possible: the censorship of ideas they deem threatening and the technologies that deliver them. By doing so they will discredit themselves and undermine our democracies.

And they will fail for all their ardor.

Fake News – Schamke News – Who cares?

With a weather eye towards upcoming elections, and with a chill in her back from the US vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced to the Bundestag this week it’s time to debate government regulations for the New Media. Many of us hoped she would be the „torch bearer“ for the „European values“. It looks like her torch is dimming.

More than two centuries ago – America had a massive debate on free speech. It built on another much older debate in Europe that included Martin Luther.  It’s fruit was the US Constitution. The oldest and best guarantor of freedom of its kind on the planet.

A quick reminder: The fundamental values are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Liberty is enshrined in the 1st Amendment. It’s the first for a reason. Here it is:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

„No laws“ means no laws.

I’m Not Feeling the Freedom

Without a completely free press, there can be no other freedoms. That in a nutshell, powered the American, the French, and the German Revolution(s). It is still powering them today from Hong Kong to Turkey.

The threat to free speech in Europe today does not come from an Erdogan type of edict following mass arrests of opponents. It’s coming in the form of administrative directives from Brussels and government lawsuits at the local and state levels.

It has already started.

Brussels Overreacts – A Sign of Weakness, not Strength

Two disturbing events have taken place in Brussels in the last weeks. One of them is the October recommendation by the European Council to the British press which especially upbraids popular mass market tabloids in the UK for „excessively“ associating terror attacks with Muslims. You can agree or not agree with that. What’s alarming is the power and animus of the administrative organs churning out recommendations on „hate speech“. No one, of course, likes hate. We all want love. But associating „hate“ with speech is a mistake. You can outlaw hate as much as you can outlaw love. It is Orwellian. And look at the practical side. Who decides what constitutes „hate speech“? And the penalties for its use? Whoever is doing it right now in Brussels remains anonymous for most of us. Can you name the individuals responsible for determining what you can say without possible state sanctions?

I can’t. And I work in the „word and ideas“ sector.

These positions are too important not to be elected on a local level. And that’s the problem. Without a 1st Amendment, politicians will create a distant and huge administrative unit to „protect“ speech, which quickly becomes subject to a definition in terms of acceptability. It’s an old game and must be ended lest we destroy what made „The West“ an envied success.

It’s time for Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights to be replaced by the First Amendment.

Failed Templates

The Council of Europe is putting itself in the company of other abysmal failed Councils.

For starters: the Sharia Council will see you stoned to death for blasphemy in a number of Islamic jurisdictions. All for a good cause, of course, heaven. It’s a lot loftier than the „public safety“ the EU is pushing for.

In China, criticizing the political elite or exposing their business, plans will activate the „People’s Council“. “Equality” is the good cause in Beijing. I like heaven better. „Speech violations“ there will make you eligible for slave labor in a smartphone factory where  „suicide nets“ are part of the fashion landscape.

Just ask Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Ai Weiwei in China about free speech and Councils. I’ll wager they’d prefer a vigorously defended 1st Amendment.

Why do we rally to their defense and not jealously guard our own freedoms? We need to do both. Or we’re hypocrites.

The second disappointing and hypocritical case from Brussels is from the EU parliament. It has voted for a non-binding resolution to clamp down on Russian English news outlets like RT.

Here’s their assessment and the EU’s remedy:

Propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups is growing, MEPs warn in a resolution voted on Wednesday. It seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. To counteract anti-EU campaigns, MEPs suggest reinforcing the EU’s tiny “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy.

(More on that here : http://bit.ly/2fqP0KY)

The main goal here is shut down RT – the popular Russian news site, pure and simple. I’m not here to break a lance for RT. I am here to protect my and your right to listen to what they have to say. Or what anybody has to say about anything.

Here’s a „values“ quote we need to pass around again. Forgetting it is of too great a consequence:

„I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.“ A little Voltaire with your coffee.

By the way, no human, no „body“ gives me that right. I was born with it. That’s what’s meant by „inalienable“. It’s the fruit of the Enlightenment and puts all your holy „Councils“ in the shadows.

Today we take Ankara – tomorrow Berlin

The Chancellor’ s call for a debate on regulating speech is wrong on its face and its timing is catastrophic.  With the war against free speech intensifying from Turkey and the Islamic world to China and beyond – it’s time to for Europe and its political leadership, NGO’s and civil society to stand up for free speech. Germany and Europe need a First Amendment.  Compare it to what the European Council has to offer. It’s too long to quote (surprised?) so I’ve posted below.

The Path to freedom

The camel has stuck its nose under the tent. It’s time to deal with the beast. We need a swift and rigorous debate about introducing a 1st Amendment in Europe at the EU and national levels.

Without one, we risk sinking back into the darkness Europe has known all too often. Oppression thrives in the fine print and in lofty goals. The 1st Amendment is overdue in Europe. I challenge anyone to convince me otherwise.

 

In my next post, I explore how Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to China is bad for freedom, 1st Amendment rights and the small and medium size businesses that depend on free speech to thrive.

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Article 10 : http://bit.ly/1foTq0D