Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Does Iran Now Decide The Limits of Free Speech in the West?

By Barry Rubin

Something happened in Canada that's truly terrible, far more terrible than even the people who think it is terrible realize.

Here's the story from Canada's National Post, January 18:

"After receiving threats and two suspicious letters Tuesday, the National Archives of Canada cancelled the screening of a controversial documentary that critiques Iran's nuclear weapons program....

"Once we started to receive threats from the public and threats of public protest, we deemed the risk associated with the event was a little too high," she said...."

Can you tell me what is unique about this situation? No one has pointed it out yet. Yes, there has been frequent intimidation regarding materials about Islam when Muslims have complained and violence has been threatened. This in itself is an important issue involving free speech.

But that is not what's happening here. A film about a nuclear weapons program isn't a discussion of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. It's about a country.

So for the first time I'm aware of a state--a radical, aggressive, terrorist-promoting, genocidal regime at that--has blocked a public event including criticism of its policies in a Western democracy. This is a big extension of the existing problem. What's next, people scrambling to avoid being accused of Iranophobia?

Parallel things have happened before. For example, Saudi Arabia managed to block the showing of a film on British television about the execution of a princess and a British investigation into corruption in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. But that kind of thing, also increasing, was on a state-to-state level.

By the way, of course, in the Middle East the most extreme anti-Jewish, anti-American, and anti-Western material (it would be called hate crimes in the West) is churned out at high volume every day without Western complaint, much less threats.

This is part of the taming of Western democracy and the closing down of freedom of speech so prevalent today. Voltaire spoke of the torturable and untorturable classes in the eighteenth century. Now we have the criticizable and uncriticizable countries.

Here's the truth: A huge amount of what masquerades as public discourse today is the result of propaganda campaigns. The Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and their allies run a huge anti-Israel slander machine that masquerades as human rights, news, non-governmental organizations, and so on. Professors and teachers conduct indoctrination brainwashing in the guise of education.

If you don't know this is going on then we are all in serious trouble. And we are aware of only a small portion of what is happening.

Here's an example. By accident, I run into a family that lives in a small town in Maryland. The daughter who is in high school mentions to me that two Palestinian girls came into the classrooms and gave a presentation on how horrible and evil Israel is. You can imagine. I ask, "Was this part of some series or program with people coming from various countries?"

"No," she replies. It just happened. It is the only such session they've had this year.

So on the one hand there is a relentless onslaught of misinformation on behalf of anti-democratic movements and regimes; on the other hand a relentless onslaught of anti-democratic manipulation and intimidation to block the other side.

By the way, the group sponsoring the film showing in Canada is called the Free Thinking Society. Apparently, that is out of fashion.

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