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Distinguished Bibliophile
KathyS
Posts: 6,898
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: smear tactics

The only conversation between us was what I posted.  I didn't try to straighten this situation out, with her in an email.  I will see her tomorrow, and I figured that was soon enough to discuss it.  I hate emails in these cases.  If I have the choice to have personal interactions with someone, I'll make that choice to talk in person.  

But she did send me this, tonight.  I think it was her way of apologizing.  I'll post the whole thing.   I thought you might like to read it.  I left what she said at the end.  I love this person, and I know she knew I was just a little upset!  My emails are usually longer than one line! :smileyhappy:   But there is no way I can stay angry with her. (p.s. We're both potters)

 

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a
pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in
it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion
of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the
cracked pot arrived only half full.
 
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home
only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud
of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own
imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had
been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter
failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to
leak out all the way back to your house.'
 
The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your
side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have
always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of
the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two
years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the
table. Without you being just th e way you are, there would not be this
beauty to grace the house.'
 
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we
each have that make our lives together so very interesting and
rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and
look for the good in them.
 
SO, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to
smell the flowers on your side of the path!
Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: smear tactics

Now that email, I have seen before, the story of the cracked pot feeling useless. Good little uplifting story.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: smear tactics

[ Edited ]

Vivico wrote: 

I think there are so many reasons for all this going on now, that you can't pin it down to just one. Yes, we have to admit that some of it is racism and yes we have to admit that some of it is sexism because its true, unfortunately. This is a time too of so much fear about what is going to happen to people's jobs, their homes, their money, their health, that cooler heads are not prevailing right now when an election is going on too. Each candidate has found things to blame on the other. Then some people blow these things up, add to them, use them to discredit, or try to, the person they don't want in the white house. It is the fear of the unknown being constantly fueled by each candidates sides and the media itself of course. The news used to report events and is supposed to be objective but its not. I watched both of the last two debates and then listened to the comments by the newsmen and political analysts on two different channels, NBS and CBS. They were so opposite over the exact same speeches just made moments before that you could see which station was for whom. The American household has been hit so hard in the pocket book in the last couple of years especially, with gas prices, grocery prices and the housing problems, people don't know who to believe now and this long election has worn on everyone. One of the worst human traits is a need to place blame somewhere and all the crap that goes on during an election just adds to that. I am in hopes that once all this is over, that people will calm down but with what they say about the economy problems continuing into next year, even with the bailouts, there will be many people still scared and angry and looking for someone to blame or even hurt. But we hope. We hope that first the madness will calm down and then, that the promises of bipartisan work will really happen. I hope that humaneness, humanity, comes back into just being a human.


 

 

 

Thankyou Vivico.  Thousands here were upset by the long term (11 years) which Mrs Thatcher had in office but her opponents (like me) did not trash the opposition in the way that is being done in the US. Unemployment then went up to 4 and half million, higher than in the Great Depression and people here suffered enormously.  The most vitriolic opposition came from the miners who were the most affected but not from politicians or the general public.  We are also suffering just as much as Americans are now in the current depression and there is a lot of disatisfaction with the present Labour Government but there is no vitriol, just passionate exchanges of views - decent, rational debate.  However, our candidates do not go in for the hate talk that your candidates and their supporters do.  Some of it would be deemed slanderous/libellous here (or just plain bad form) and this is perhaps where your famous (infamous) Free Speech culture lets you down.  If you can say anything you like about a person publicly it will inevitably lead to the 'lowest common denominator' of public exchange both by candidates and their supporters.  We are just more polite, more 'politically correct' as it is called now.  Perhaps this is what the difference is in the UK.  It certainly isn't that Americans are worse off than Brits and Europeans.  You are still the richest country in the world, financial crisis or not.  The dollar is riding high against sterling and the euro even now. I am fearful of the future, so are all the people I know but neither I nor they would dream of saying the sort of things that are commonly said in the US (even on B&N) about our Opposition party.  A little bit of kindness and a little bit of the benefit of the doubt - 'christian' charity perhaps? - can go a long way in such situations.  There are worse times to come - will all this vitriol get worse too?  Poor America:smileysad:.     

 

 

 

Message Edited by Choisya on 10-24-2008 07:27 AM
Scribe
debbook
Posts: 1,823
Registered: ‎05-03-2008
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Re: smear tactics

Is it possible that the rejection of public funding, and therefore the flood of much more money for negative ads than was ever available in the past, is an element of this?  I don't know, but I certainly think it's possible.

 

I don't see how as more of the negative ads are from McCain and he accepted public funding. Could this be an effect of all this negative campaigning( on both sides) fueling the fires of an already anxious nation?

A room without books is like a body without a soul.~ Cicero...
"bookmagic418.blogspot.com
Distinguished Bibliophile
KathyS
Posts: 6,898
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Together we stand

[ Edited ]

Deb, I'll be honest.  I hate politics. My biggest fear with a two party system is, it divides people.  Even with these minority parties, nothing changes.  The small voices are drowned out by the money machines. 

 

I think we should have equal funding for campaigns.

 

I know that all the unions back the Democratic party.  I've seen it as an option on my pay checks, volunteer donations.  Now that I'm retired, I see it on a monthly stub that I pay for a life insurance policy, giving me the option of donating two dollars to the party.  I don't donate to any party, I never have.  But this is part of the fundraising for that party.  The Republican's never have had this.  But either way, donated money is all part of the lobby, just saying, I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.  They don't give money for nothing.

 

If these campaigns were directed towards issues, instead of character assassinations, everyone would be better off.  Hate  always shows, even when people smile at each other.  The SNL was funny at first, which wasn't much different than the cartoon characters drawn of political figures in the newspapers, years ago.  Now it's just more verbal.  I laughed at first, but now it's not funny.  It's just plain mean.  I think the worst thing Palin  could have done, was go on that show.  It was out of hand.  To me, it didn't show she was a good sport, to me it meant she condoned this type of making fun of someone. 

 

Yes, I've said, here, that I want someone representing this country (me) that could speak well, and be able to give a clear and accurate statement, to show us what these issues are about, whether about here in the US, or around the world.  I want someone who is not just knowledgeable of their own state in which they come from, but know what the issues are in other states, and other countries,  and what we are all in for, when it comes to surviving together in this world. 

 

Healthy debate of issues is one thing, but debate that drags someone into the mud, is another.  What does this say to everyone who listens, and watches these things?  Does that mean it's okay for me to do this to my neighbor, or to you?  I think these changes that these politicians talk about, need to consider reformation.  Reform of these political tactics.  The bottom line of it all, comes with it the issue of freedom of speech.  I think it's gotten way off the original intention.  We don't stand together anymore, we're divided right down the middle, by two parties.  The good guys, and the bad guys, and the saddest thing of all, both think they're the good guy.

This is my depressed outlook, this morning.

Message Edited by KathyS on 10-24-2008 10:22 AM
RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008
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Re: smear tactics


Choisya wrote:

Thankyou Vivico.  Thousands here were upset by the long term (11 years) which Mrs Thatcher had in office but her opponents (like me) did not trash the opposition in the way that is being done in the US. Unemployment then went up to 4 and half million, higher than in the Great Depression and people here suffered enormously.  The most vitriolic opposition came from the miners who were the most affected but not from politicians or the general public.  We are also suffering just as much as Americans are now in the current depression and there is a lot of disatisfaction with the present Labour Government but there is no vitriol, just passionate exchanges of views - decent, rational debate.  However, our candidates do not go in for the hate talk that your candidates and their supporters do.  Some of it would be deemed slanderous/libellous here (or just plain bad form) and this is perhaps where your famous (infamous) Free Speech culture lets you down.  If you can say anything you like about a person publicly it will inevitably lead to the 'lowest common denominator' of public exchange both by candidates and their supporters.  We are just more polite, more 'politically correct' as it is called now.  Perhaps this is what the difference is in the UK.  It certainly isn't that Americans are worse off than Brits and Europeans.  You are still the richest country in the world, financial crisis or not.  The dollar is riding high against sterling and the euro even now. I am fearful of the future, so are all the people I know but neither I nor they would dream of saying the sort of things that are commonly said in the US (even on B&N) about our Opposition party.  A little bit of kindness and a little bit of the benefit of the doubt - 'christian' charity perhaps? - can go a long way in such situations.  There are worse times to come - will all this vitriol get worse too?  Poor America:smileysad:.     

Message Edited by Choisya on 10-24-2008 07:27 AM

I think this is a shockingly skewed description of both U.S. political dialogue, and the “free speech culture.”  Neither campaign commercials, nor media coverage, nor the discussion on the B&N board regarding U.S. politics is indicative of how I see political dialogue engaged, daily, in the U.S.  And I think if you rely on campaign mudslinging or this forum to make your findings regarding political dialogue in the U.S., you’re not really getting a representative picture.  But, for that reason, I don’t choose to engage political discussion with regard to U.S. parties on this forum, so I’ll set that speculation aside.

 

But, let me say that free speech does not protect against either slander or libel.  As for the suggestion that free speech leads “to the ‘lowest common denominator’ of public exchange,” I’d like to caution against causation presumptions.  And, further, I’d like to ask if what you’re suggesting is that we limit free speech under the assumption that it will, somehow, elevate discourse?  And, if that is what you are suggesting I’d like to ask two follow-up questions.  First, can you demonstrate how limited speech does actually lead to elevated discourse?  And, second, even if there is a corollary (which I think you will be hard-pressed to demonstrate), do you think it’s necessarily a virtue to silence speech in an effort to elevate discourse?

 

RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008
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Re: smear tactics


Everyman wrote:

 

But I don't recall such vitrolic violence in any past election of my memory.

 

 


I certainly have no idea what, from U.S. history, constitutes your memory, but even if we look only as far back as the second half of the 20th century, considering the type of demonstrations and elections we had surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or efforts such as Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 DNC, I don’t think either vitriol or violence are particularly new to the U.S. electoral process. 
Frequent Contributor
Jon_B
Posts: 1,893
Registered: ‎07-15-2008
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Re: smear tactics

[ Edited ]

RTA wrote:

Everyman wrote:

 

But I don't recall such vitrolic violence in any past election of my memory.

 

 


I certainly have no idea what, from U.S. history, constitutes your memory, but even if we look only as far back as the second half of the 20th century, considering the type of demonstrations and elections we had surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or efforts such as Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 DNC, I don’t think either vitriol or violence are particularly new to the U.S. electoral process. 

 

If anything I think vitriol and violence in our politics are something that has largely decreased throughout US history.  While this election - and to a lesser extent, the 2004 election - is certainly more heated than the elections of the 1980's and 90's, it's rather polite and civilized in comparison to the politics and campaigns of the 19th and late 18th centuries, especially those of our nation's formative years. 

Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-24-2008 12:22 PM
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Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: smear tactics

Thanks RTA.  I have obviously upset you here and for that I am sorry.  I do think that silencing some speech can elevate discourse - hate speech for instance (as it is called in Europe)  but I can offer no proof at this present time.   Certainly since our hate speech laws were enacted I have heard far less hate speech than I used to do when walking out with my black husband in the 1970s**

 

However, we will never agree on this because of our different cultures.  I consider my society, and that of Western Europe, as free as the American one and as dedicated to civil liberties etc. but we have a narrower definition of free speech, perhaps based on our long history of  bitter religioius conflicts.

 

I have not said that the free speech culture in the US allows slander and libel there. I am saying that we have a different attitude to what constitutes slander and libel.  It is well known that our libel laws are tight in this respect  and do not allow as much 'freedom of speech'.  I personally prefer that there is more of a rein on it over here and I think that it has advantages.  Virtue doesn't enter into it.  It is a difference in culture, that's all.          

 

On the subject of  me relying on 'campaign mudslinging or this forum' for my picture of your election campaigns, others here have complained about the acrimony and vitriol in your campaigns and are upset by them.  Is this smoke without fire?   I have read a great deal about and around the subject over a number of years and there have been quite a lot of commentaries along the same lines, although I will agree with you that things were a lot worse in the 19C, as they were here.  After all the benches in the House of Commons are two sword lengths apart so that MPs can no longer attack one another! 

 

**As I write I am listening to a documentary on America by our respected historian Simon Sharma.  He is in the deep south and a pastor has just said at a prayer meeting that 'It is well known that black people are responsible for venereal disease, prostitution and crime'.  This would be hate speech in most parts of Europe and the pastor could have been prosecuted for it.  I assume that what he said is allowed under your freedom of speech legislation.  I prefer our method.  I think of it rather like we bring children up not to swear by cautioning them and forbidding them to swear or to say nasty things about people.  Eventually they cease swearing and find other words to express themselves which are not hurtful to others.  Just as we have legislated over the centuries to outlaw violent behaviour and have thereby reduced it.  This is the sort of 'proof' I offer, if proof it is.

 

 


RTA wrote:

Choisya wrote:

Thankyou Vivico.  Thousands here were upset by the long term (11 years) which Mrs Thatcher had in office but her opponents (like me) did not trash the opposition in the way that is being done in the US. Unemployment then went up to 4 and half million, higher than in the Great Depression and people here suffered enormously.  The most vitriolic opposition came from the miners who were the most affected but not from politicians or the general public.  We are also suffering just as much as Americans are now in the current depression and there is a lot of disatisfaction with the present Labour Government but there is no vitriol, just passionate exchanges of views - decent, rational debate.  However, our candidates do not go in for the hate talk that your candidates and their supporters do.  Some of it would be deemed slanderous/libellous here (or just plain bad form) and this is perhaps where your famous (infamous) Free Speech culture lets you down.  If you can say anything you like about a person publicly it will inevitably lead to the 'lowest common denominator' of public exchange both by candidates and their supporters.  We are just more polite, more 'politically correct' as it is called now.  Perhaps this is what the difference is in the UK.  It certainly isn't that Americans are worse off than Brits and Europeans.  You are still the richest country in the world, financial crisis or not.  The dollar is riding high against sterling and the euro even now. I am fearful of the future, so are all the people I know but neither I nor they would dream of saying the sort of things that are commonly said in the US (even on B&N) about our Opposition party.  A little bit of kindness and a little bit of the benefit of the doubt - 'christian' charity perhaps? - can go a long way in such situations.  There are worse times to come - will all this vitriol get worse too?  Poor America:smileysad:.     

Message Edited by Choisya on 10-24-2008 07:27 AM

I think this is a shockingly skewed description of both U.S. political dialogue, and the “free speech culture.”  Neither campaign commercials, nor media coverage, nor the discussion on the B&N board regarding U.S. politics is indicative of how I see political dialogue engaged, daily, in the U.S.  And I think if you rely on campaign mudslinging or this forum to make your findings regarding political dialogue in the U.S., you’re not really getting a representative picture.  But, for that reason, I don’t choose to engage political discussion with regard to U.S. parties on this forum, so I’ll set that speculation aside.

 

But, let me say that free speech does not protect against either slander or libel.  As for the suggestion that free speech leads “to the ‘lowest common denominator’ of public exchange,” I’d like to caution against causation presumptions.  And, further, I’d like to ask if what you’re suggesting is that we limit free speech under the assumption that it will, somehow, elevate discourse?  And, if that is what you are suggesting I’d like to ask two follow-up questions.  First, can you demonstrate how limited speech does actually lead to elevated discourse?  And, second, even if there is a corollary (which I think you will be hard-pressed to demonstrate), do you think it’s necessarily a virtue to silence speech in an effort to elevate discourse?

 


 

Frequent Contributor
Jon_B
Posts: 1,893
Registered: ‎07-15-2008
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Re: smear tactics

[ Edited ]

I agree with RTA - and probably most of my fellow Americans - on this issue.

 

I generally oppose hate speech laws.  Furthermore, even though I'm Jewish, I think the laws like those in Germany and France that make Holocaust denial a crime are a terrible idea and, in the long run, counterproductive. 

 

Sure, there are some unpleasant experiences that result from free speech.  Once, when I was living in Pittsburgh, I woke up one morning and walked down my street to find it littered with fliers detailing how the Jews had invented the Holocaust in order to gain power and money. And here in the US, the people behind it weren't committing any sort of crime other than littering.  In several European countries they could have been thrown in jail for hate speech. 

 

But I'd rather wake up to anti-semitic fliers every day than live in a country where the expression of ideas or opinions - even hateful ideas or opinions - could put someone in jail.  Not just because of the principle - although that's a big part of it - but because it doesn't work.

 

Putting a preacher in jail for making a racist speech isn't going to make them any less of a racist.  Putting a fascist historian in jail because he or she denies that the Holocaust happened isn't going to convince them that it did, nor is it going to make them any less of a fascist.  It's only going to convince them of one thing - that the government is afraid of their message.  

 

Nor is jailing such people going to prevent the spread of the message.  In fact, it'll help it.  A fascist historian on their own might attract a small number of followers but will generally be dismissed by the world at large as a delusioned, racist nutcase.  Throw them in jail, however, and they aquire appeal of the oppressed.  "What I'm saying is something the government doesn't want you to hear", they can say, and they'll be right about it.  It lends them a certain legitimacy in various circles that they might not otherwise have.    

 

And indeed, in countries with strong hate speech laws, there's certainly no absence of racism! I've seen substantially more anti-semitic and racist vandalism in France and Germany than in the US and my girlfriend, who is of Sri Lankan origin, experienced much more blatant racial discrimination from average people while living in France than she has in the US.  Both Britain and France have fairly large political parties based on anti-immigrant sentiment with rather obvious racial undertones.  Germany and several Scandinavian countries have a fairly substantial problem with neo-nazi groups.  Sweden, Germany, and Britain all have thriving racist metal and punk scenes. 

 

These exist in the US as well, but in many respects the racist fringe of these European countries is growing more popular than it is here.  In the US, there are some young racists to be sure, but for the most part racism is seen as a generational issue, a vestige of the segregationalist past - young people joke about the unintentionally racist remarks their grandparents make without thinking about it, laughing it away, acknowledging that its a problem - and used to be a very serious problem - but that we're moving away from it.  But in many European countries, racism - and race-based nationalism - has a growing appeal among young people who consider themselves in some way disenfranchised.   Following the tendency of one generation to rebel against the next, many Germans, Croats, Ukrainians, Hungarians in their teens and twneties now rebel against what they see as their parents' constant apologies for fascism and look to some radically different future to grab on to.  And when some historian gets thrown in jail for denying the holocaust or expressing some other racist opinion, these young people think "here's someone the government doesn't want us to know about - so what are they saying? Why are they being silenced?"  It plays right into that rebellious nature.  And in a world with constant, instantaneous communications, these ideas can never be truly silenced - attempting to do so simply gives the ideas an additional appeal among those who seek out whatever messages authorities try to stamp out... while at the same time encouraging secrecy and subterfuge among racists.

 

I'd rather let racists openly say whatever they want than give them the ability to cry oppression and give them motives to meet secretly and spread into the underground.  I'm proud of the fact that we don't have popular nationalist parties here, winking and nodding their way into power.  I'm proud of the fact our younger generations - while they may be flippant and materialistic and flawed in various ways as every generation is - can be said, for the most part, to loathe racism.   There's no question that our country has an ugly past when it comes to race.  And that in some places there's still an ugly present.  But I'd rather that ugliness is out in the open and free where it can be dimissed openly by those who oppose it, then have it be forced by law into the cracks and gutters where it grows like mold and spreads.

Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-24-2008 02:48 PM
Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-24-2008 02:49 PM
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RTA
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RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008
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Re: smear tactics

Choisya wrote: Thanks RTA.  I have obviously upset you here and for that I am sorry. 

 

Not at all, no worries.  This is an exchange of ideas, nothing for me to get upset over.  I was, admittedly, shocked that you seemed to rely on such a small representative to define the tenor of U.S. politics, generally, but I wasn’t upset by it. 

 

Choisya wrote: I do think that silencing some speech can elevate discourse - hate speech for instance (as it is called in Europe)  but I can offer no proof at this present time.   Certainly since our hate speech laws were enacted I have heard far less hate speech than I used to do when walking out with my black husband in the 1970s**

 

So, then, I guess we should probably get at a fuller understanding of what we each mean by elevating discourse.  I think it’s an interesting topic, especially here in the U.S., where eloquence (especially in political discourse) has taken on a sort of bad rap.  I wouldn’t really consider the chat, or the slurs, that one would hear on a street discourse.  At least, without getting into too technical discussion, I think discourse presumes a format and structure different than an everyday conversation.  So, assuming that we’re talking about something more structured than a racial slur shouted on the street, I see no difficulty in allowing all speech into a dialogue, so long as it follows the structure of that discourse.  In any rigorous discourse, if there is that which may amount to hate speech, certainly those on the opposing end are able to counter such speech by offering their own perspective.

 

With regard to hate speech generally, I agree with Jon’s post, particularly with his emphasis on the idea that, in addition to the principle of the matter, silencing speech often works counterproductively.  Silencing ideas doesn’t change those ideas; it more likely allows them to fester.  If the ideas are in the open it allows them to be examined and debated, and hopefully finally debunked.  All I’d like to add to Jon’s discussion on hate speech is this statement from the ACLU’s website:

 
Free speech rights are indivisible. Restricting the speech of one group or individual jeopardizes everyone's rights because the same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you. Conversely, laws that defend free speech for bigots can be used to defend the rights of civil rights workers, anti-war protesters, lesbian and gay activists and others fighting for justice. For example, in the 1949 case of Terminiello v. Chicago, the ACLU successfully defended an ex-Catholic priest who had delivered a racist and anti-semitic speech. The precedent set in that case became the basis for the ACLU's successful defense of civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s and '70s. 

 

The indivisibility principle was also illustrated in the case of Neo-Nazis whose right to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1979 was successfully defended by the ACLU. At the time, then ACLU Executive Director Aryeh Neier, whose relatives died in Hitler's concentration camps during World War II, commented: "Keeping a few Nazis off the streets of Skokie will serve Jews poorly if it means that the freedoms to speak, publish or assemble any place in the United States are thereby weakened." 

 

Choisya wrote: However, we will never agree on this because of our different cultures. 

 

Just so it’s clear, I am not, in the slightest, motivated by an effort to have you agree with me on this or any other topic.  I approach dialogue in a thoroughly different way.  The point, for me, is to gather up a comprehensive (or as comprehensive as possible) understanding of a number of different perspectives in an effort to responsibly inform my perspective.  I offer my perspective in exchange for yours, in the hope that we each can grow to a fuller understanding of the topic.  But my goal isn’t to change your mind, any more than I presume your goal is to change mine.  (Though I do often hope that interesting perspectives—like I’ve seen from you—will create inflections on my perspectives.)

 

Choisya wrote: Virtue doesn't enter into it.  It is a difference in culture, that's all.    

 

By “virtue,” I wasn’t referring to a moral judgment, I was referring to a value judgment.  That is, even if a corollary between silenced speech and elevated discourse could be reasonably demonstrated, would you necessarily think it’s beneficial to silence speech in an effort to elevate discourse?  To be honest, it was a question for me as much as you, because it’s something that I hadn’t considered before.  And, though I don’t think a corollary between silenced speech and elevated discourse could really be demonstrated, I think even if it could, I still wouldn’t value such an effort.  Essentially, I wouldn’t think the ends (elevated discourse) would justify the means (silencing speech), even if one necessarily led to the other.

 

Choisya wrote: On the subject of  me relying on 'campaign mudslinging or this forum' for my picture of your election campaigns, others here have complained about the acrimony and vitriol in your campaigns and are upset by them.  Is this smoke without fire?  

 

Oh no, I don’t mean to claim that either do not represent some part of the U.S.’s political discourse, I just don’t think they’re nearly fully representative.  That’s the only point I was trying to make there. 
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Free speech.

[ Edited ]

The fascist party in the UK (British National Party) is very small Jon, nothing like the ones in mainland Europe.  They thrive in a few inner city areas and have managed to win a few council seats in areas where immigration is perceived as  a problem. They have never come anywhere near getting a seat in Parliament or a majority in local government.  Hate speech would not get a prison sentence here, only a caution from the police and, if persistent or particularly vile, a prosecution leading to a fine. Holocaust denial is not a crime here.  Many fascists in other countries 'shelter' within other political parties of the right until they gain strength or money to 'launch' themselves.  This happened in the UK when the Conservative party was much more right wing than it is today.  It happened in France before Pen gained support over immigration issues.   It may be happening in the US today. Unfortunately, the US is unlikely to be escaping this political trend:smileysad:

 

Do you think that the sort of things Hitler's Nazis did/said/wrote about the Jews was part of their freedom and should have been be allowed?  Don't you think someone should have tried to curtail it?  Wasn't that partly what the war came to be about?   If Hitler's hate crimes had been stopped or curtailed earlier maybe 6 million Jews might still be alive and we might not have had WWII.  Wishful thinking I know.

 

Americans have not had pogroms, wars and genocides in their country so it is perhaps easier to take an intellectual approach to such things.  For the people of Europe these have been problems which have dogged them for centuries and they have had to evolve ways of dealing with them.  Imagine the fear of Jews who had already suffered in the Holocaust in, say, Germany, if today they saw neo-Nazis distributing the same sort of leaflets the Third Reich produced, and jack-booting around the streets in the same way.  (Imagine the fear of Jews in Austria today...)  Such things are too 'near the bone' for them and I believe we should protect them and future generations from having to suffer such hate if we possibly can.   

  

It may also be that you do not have such groups because you have not had a long history of violent anti-semitism, not because they are allowed have free speech or display nazi-like behaviour.  Your government has not yet felt the need to legislate against anti-semitism but as soon as you had 9/11 and felt similarly attacked, it felt the need to draw up quite draconian anti-terrorist legislation just as other governments did.  It even felt the need to set up Guantanamo and in some instances, I understand, use water-boarding techniques of torture to extract information. Surely this is a far greater abuse of civil liiberties than curtailing hate speech to protect innocent civilians?    (Not that two wrongs make a right etc...)

 

I agree there is a danger of driving such things underground but that can be monitored.  Jihadists have been driven underground in both our countries at the moment because of punitive legfislation against terrorism but they are being monitored and 'cells' are found almost weekly (over here at least). 

 

I would still prefer that my late husband and Jews like yourself did not have to run the gauntlet of abuse on the streets or anywhere else.  I would be more ashamed of that than ashamed of legislation against the 'freedom' to do it.  And I am more worried about their right to freedom from fear than the rights of nazis and/or religious fundamentalists to spread hate, even though I agree that their rights must be protected from measures that go beyond what we would call 'civilised'.  I do not believe in any form of torture, for instance, water boarding or anything else.   But as I have written elsewhere, I do believe in a 'hearts and minds' approach to changing the hateful, murderous and otherwise dangerous a views of such citizens.

 

So, once more we must amicably agree to differ:smileyhappy:.   It is a clash of cultures.  After all, a very big Pond separates us and thousands of years of history.  

 

 


Jon_B wrote:

I agree with RTA - and probably most of my fellow Americans - on this issue.

 

I generally oppose hate speech laws.  Furthermore, even though I'm Jewish, I think the laws like those in Germany and France that make Holocaust denial a crime are a terrible idea and, in the long run, counterproductive. 

 

Sure, there are some unpleasant experiences that result from free speech.  Once, when I was living in Pittsburgh, I woke up one morning and walked down my street to find it littered with fliers detailing how the Jews had invented the Holocaust in order to gain power and money. And here in the US, the people behind it weren't committing any sort of crime other than littering.  In several European countries they could have been thrown in jail for hate speech. 

 

But I'd rather wake up to anti-semitic fliers every day than live in a country where the expression of ideas or opinions - even hateful ideas or opinions - could put someone in jail.  Not just because of the principle - although that's a big part of it - but because it doesn't work.

 

Putting a preacher in jail for making a racist speech isn't going to make them any less of a racist.  Putting a fascist historian in jail because he or she denies that the Holocaust happened isn't going to convince them that it did, nor is it going to make them any less of a fascist.  It's only going to convince them of one thing - that the government is afraid of their message.  

 

Nor is jailing such people going to prevent the spread of the message.  In fact, it'll help it.  A fascist historian on their own might attract a small number of followers but will generally be dismissed by the world at large as a delusioned, racist nutcase.  Throw them in jail, however, and they aquire appeal of the oppressed.  "What I'm saying is something the government doesn't want you to hear", they can say, and they'll be right about it.  It lends them a certain legitimacy in various circles that they might not otherwise have.    

 

And indeed, in countries with strong hate speech laws, there's certainly no absence of racism! I've seen substantially more anti-semitic and racist vandalism in France and Germany than in the US and my girlfriend, who is of Sri Lankan origin, experienced much more blatant racial discrimination from average people while living in France than she has in the US.  Both Britain and France have fairly large political parties based on anti-immigrant sentiment with rather obvious racial undertones.  Germany and several Scandinavian countries have a fairly substantial problem with neo-nazi groups.  Sweden, Germany, and Britain all have thriving racist metal and punk scenes. 

 

These exist in the US as well, but in many respects the racist fringe of these European countries is growing more popular than it is here.  In the US, there are some young racists to be sure, but for the most part racism is seen as a generational issue, a vestige of the segregationalist past - young people joke about the unintentionally racist remarks their grandparents make without thinking about it, laughing it away, acknowledging that its a problem - and used to be a very serious problem - but that we're moving away from it.  But in many European countries, racism - and race-based nationalism - has a growing appeal among young people who consider themselves in some way disenfranchised.   Following the tendency of one generation to rebel against the next, many Germans, Croats, Ukrainians, Hungarians in their teens and twneties now rebel against what they see as their parents' constant apologies for fascism and look to some radically different future to grab on to.  And when some historian gets thrown in jail for denying the holocaust or expressing some other racist opinion, these young people think "here's someone the government doesn't want us to know about - so what are they saying? Why are they being silenced?"  It plays right into that rebellious nature.  And in a world with constant, instantaneous communications, these ideas can never be truly silenced - attempting to do so simply gives the ideas an additional appeal among those who seek out whatever messages authorities try to stamp out... while at the same time encouraging secrecy and subterfuge among racists.

 

I'd rather let racists openly say whatever they want than give them the ability to cry oppression and give them motives to meet secretly and spread into the underground.  I'm proud of the fact that we don't have popular nationalist parties here, winking and nodding their way into power.  I'm proud of the fact our younger generations - while they may be flippant and materialistic and flawed in various ways as every generation is - can be said, for the most part, to loathe racism.   There's no question that our country has an ugly past when it comes to race.  And that in some places there's still an ugly present.  But I'd rather that ugliness is out in the open and free where it can be dimissed openly by those who oppose it, then have it be forced by law into the cracks and gutters where it grows like mold and spreads.

 

Message Edited by Choisya on 10-24-2008 07:28 PM
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Re: Free speech.

I agree with both of you RTA and Jon. I do not think limiting speech, even racist speech can "elevate" discourse, it just limits what it said. It can not elevate the thoughts of those who can not speak their thoughts, they will always think what they think.

I do hate things we hear and I hate that groups like the KKK can have marches, with the right permits, and that if anyone tries to stop or harm them, they are the ones thrown in jail. But at the same time, those very laws that protect them, protect my rights to say what I feel about what they are doing, or as a wiser choice sometimes, just let them speak their stupidity without reaction and watch it fade out. They want reactions, that keeps it going. But also, we do have some laws against certain dangerous speech. It is not anything and everything goes. Anything that sounds like a terrorist threat, even from a school age kid will lead to arrest at the least. Those laws too that protect against such things that we associate with the "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater" law. Yes, Jon, I would rather see hate fliers than be silenced by those same laws of open opinions and ideas. And beyond our laws against some speech, we do have hate laws. No one can stop a person from thinking what they want to think, not even by stopping them from saying it, as you say, but what we can do is stop actions and we do have strong hate laws here. Speech very often now is being looked at in light of those laws too.

You can't stop their believes by stopping their talk, but you can stop their actions and that is a very different thing. You can argue that people should not be allowed to say this or talk about that but you will not only stop the unkind, you will stop the flow of ideas that lead to positive change. Sometimes letting the ugly air out, is to find ways to help the underlying causes or to expose it at least. Political correctness goes too far when for example, Christmas, which is the actual name of the actual holiday, is changed to "The holidays", or only being allowed to say "Happy Holidays" because it might offend the non christians. My Jewish friends are not offended by it, they know its about our religious believes. But, if we were to say, you can not Happy Hannukah, it offends non Jews, that is considered racists and definitely politically incorrect. One Jewish friend told me, they would be offended if someone tried to change Hannukah to Holidays! Would it not be more politically correct and just plan polite, to allow each group to celebrate their special days and allow all of them to say what it is called when it's here? If you do not believe, you have the right to say happy holidays but why be offended or tell Christians or Jews or other groups, you can not wish me a merry or happy anything I do not believe in, even if its because you are happy and want to share glad tidings with me, because I do not believe it and so thats offensive and I come first always. This really is political correctness gone amuck and these people need to wear boots if their little toes are so easily stepped on.

Might I add too, that this is not unique to the US, any form of hate speech. Nor are some countries more "civilised" in their speech than we, its often just hidden more. I have a friend who lives outside of London and she used to always tell me about all the many forms of racist remarks the Brits have, like anyone else. This came up only because in comparing some slang I found that some things i say would really get me in trouble in England, not because they are more gentile there but because what is innocent here, is a very vulgar term for something else there. And she tells me of class distinctions and racism too. Its in about every industrialized nation. We all know that. I think those very few people who have not been touched by "civilization" (like in the Amazon) are probably the most civilized of us all, and probably have few hate words for one another but also are probably not so quick to take offense either.

On the other note, about all this mudslinging being worse now than ever before. There was an author on TV this morning who has written a new book called Mudsligging (I don't remember the rest of the title) about this phenomenon in American politics and he said, as bad as we may think it is today, this doesn't even make the top 20 list lol. The number one worst was considered between Andrew Jackson and John Quncy Adams. It was so bad Jackson was called a murderer and it took such a toll on his wife, she died within a few weeks or months after the elections. He said, it just sounds worse today because more people can hear or read it.
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Re: smear tactics

RTA wrote:  I think this is a shockingly skewed description of both U.S. political dialogue, and the “free speech culture.”  Neither campaign commercials, nor media coverage, nor the discussion on the B&N board regarding U.S. politics is indicative of how I see political dialogue engaged, daily, in the U.S.

 

I see somewhat of a middle ground.  The campaign commercials, particularly on a national level, are the tip of the iceberg, a very unpleasant tip, but the most visible tip.  You have to go a bit deeper to get the intelligent discussion, but it is definitely there, and a great deal of it.

 

Also, in my experience the vitrol diminishes significantly the lower down the political power chain you go.  Our local elections here are really quite civilized, with the discussion focused primarily on the issues and realistic campaign promises.  I have only seen one politician here run a campaign that was even mildly negative, and he lost by a wide margin.  And even on the state level, most of the negative campaign ads I see are by third parties who are not controlled by, and who by law cannot act in concert with, the campaigns.  

 

 

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Re: smear tactics

Thanks RTA. 

 

I consider discourse to be 'written or spoken communication or debate' and I make no distinction as to whether it is 'pub talk' or the talk of the most intelligent intellectual.  I might prefer the discourse of the latter but all of it is 'grist to the mill' of human communication and each impinges on the other.  Therefore what is opined by the intellectual can elevate the discourse in a pub and vice versa

 

I read the ACLU website and understand all the high principles and have read such statements many tmes before.  These arguments rage over here too. Voltaire was a European:smileyhappy:. However, I am still opposed to the idea that the 'First Amendment to the US Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content' and I consider that taking that principle to the extreme is damaging to society for the reasons I have already stated.   As I have said, it is a cultural difference and one that is no doubt based on Europe's long history of protecting its citizens from the sort of extreme hate that, fortunately, America has never experienced.

 

I should be in bed now - I am not well and have not been sleeping the night through. I am finding it difficult to get my thoughts together so I will end my contribution to this particular debate here.  Thanks for an interesting discussion RTA (and Jon).   

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Re: smear tactics

The violence in those days was largely the work of a relatively small number of people.  Yes, there were strong feelings, and there were a many people unhappy with the direction the country was taking, but I didn't see the widespread deep hostility we see today.   Certainly the Kennedy/Nixon campaign was hard fought, but I don't recall it being fought with strident negative advertising or the politics of personal destruction. 

 

 


RTA wrote:

Everyman wrote:

 

But I don't recall such vitrolic violence in any past election of my memory.

 

 


I certainly have no idea what, from U.S. history, constitutes your memory, but even if we look only as far back as the second half of the 20th century, considering the type of demonstrations and elections we had surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or efforts such as Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 DNC, I don’t think either vitriol or violence are particularly new to the U.S. electoral process. 

 

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Re: smear tactics

I agree Eman.  And I wonder if this is linked to the increasing use of television and the 'voyeurism' that encourages.  It seems to me that the public are seeing politicians as they might see people in the Big Brother House or as celebrities eating insects in a man-made 'jungle'. There is a 'playing to the gallery' element in the coverage and this fuels over-the-top reactions of the audience, which is the public.   It is like an ongoing 'reality' show exposing all the warts of the families concerned.   People just want to see the worst and then more and more of the worst:smileysad:.   

 


Everyman wrote:

The violence in those days was largely the work of a relatively small number of people.  Yes, there were strong feelings, and there were a many people unhappy with the direction the country was taking, but I didn't see the widespread deep hostility we see today.   Certainly the Kennedy/Nixon campaign was hard fought, but I don't recall it being fought with strident negative advertising or the politics of personal destruction. 

 

 


RTA wrote:

Everyman wrote:

 

But I don't recall such vitrolic violence in any past election of my memory.

 

 


I certainly have no idea what, from U.S. history, constitutes your memory, but even if we look only as far back as the second half of the 20th century, considering the type of demonstrations and elections we had surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or efforts such as Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 DNC, I don’t think either vitriol or violence are particularly new to the U.S. electoral process. 

 


 

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Re: smear tactics

However, I am still opposed to the idea that the 'First Amendment to the US Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content' and I consider that taking that principle to the extreme is damaging to society for the reasons I have already stated. As I have said, it is a cultural difference and one that is no doubt based on Europe's long history of protecting its citizens from the sort of extreme hate that, fortunately, America has never experienced.

 

 

I do not mean this as argumentative but Choisya, I think Americans have experienced all forms of hatred just as long as over the pond. I know we are a "young" nation, but all that means is before that time, are ancestors were yours too and experienced the exact kind of things yours did. After the little "tea party" between us, I think many Americans could say they have experienced as much too. Immigrants, something we once all were, became not much more than slaves in the cities, children and women as chattel. And tho things are better today, our Black Americans can tell you I am sure even much more about mistreatment here than there. As a matter of fact many Black American men stayed in England after WWII, instead of coming back here to become second class citizens, if that, again. Jews still face hate here as anywhere. Middle Eastern immigrants, wow, thats tough to be here now.

 

We may not fight wars on our own ground like in Europe but then neither does England, and yet each of us have fought terrrorism on our soils now. Gays are still bashed. In cities where there are openly gay people and clubs and activities, there are still laws that if anyone wants to enforce them, will put them on lists for the rest of their lives as sex offenders, well for that matter even if they wanted to enforce those laws against straights and sometimes they do! We have faced tragedies fighting in wars on other continents and for people we don't know because at times, even the world expects us to lead in the battles. Then we are damned if we do, damned if we don't get involved. The world expects much of us, but then hates us when we act.

 

We know what these experiences are. Many brought onto ourselves, many brought on by others. But we too care about protecting our citizens and whats more, because our our freedoms we have also the rights and responsibilities to take care of each other, regardless of how or if a government helps us. And those things do unite us. We are not a perfect nation, what nation is, but we care about our nation and our people even against these evils from within or without. I live in Oklahoma. I live just south of Oklahoma City and had friends who worked downtown, just a couple of buildings away from the bombing. They still have troubles sometimes but at the same time, I have never seen a city, a state, just people of every walk of life come together so so fast and caringly as that days and those that followed. All they had to do on tv was say, these things are needed, whether it was water, a shovel or big machinery or a simple sandwich and companies and individuals were down there with those things in minutes. If there can ever be beauty in tragedy, it was in that experience born out of hate. I am most sure that New Yorker's would say the same for 9-11.

 

We know as well and as long as any other nation the effects of hate, but we also know the importance of freedoms and of each other when tragedy strikes. We speak our frustrations here and now about this election and things because we are blessed to live in a land where we can. We debate because we can and want to hear others and we have the freedom to turn a deaf ear to those things we do not wish to hear, be it online, in person or with the push of a button to silence a tv, knowing that another person has their rights to hear it or speak it safe still. If you hear us moan over some things, it's not a sign of "poor :smileysad: America". It is just average citizens with no thought of class or race or religion knowing we have the freedom to do that with each other and that within that ability, we will find friends, and hope and ideas that will comfort and uplift us all. When all the other things fall away, you will find us all, standing for our nation, our home.

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Re: smear tactics

[ Edited ]

Everyman wrote:

The violence in those days was largely the work of a relatively small number of people. 

 


To clarify, I wasn't making any statement about the amount of violence compared to the past.  I couldn't possibly make any factual conclusion about that; I haven't done, and don't care to do, the research that it would require.  So I couldn't responsibly make a statement declaring which eras' elections are more vitriolic than others.  Anything I could say about how much violence there had been in the past, compared to today, would be pure speculation, and probably largely anecdotal.  I was just responding to the possible inference that just because you don't remember any vitriolic violence, there actually hadn't been any in the past.  And, as I think you now recognize, there has been violence surrounding elections in the past. 

 

That said, I'm wondering how you know that the incidences I mentioned involved "a relatively small number of people."  And I'm assuming you mean relative to today.  In which case, let me also ask, what numbers are you relying on to know that the violence is greater today than it was in the past during some really intensive racial issues.  Just curious from where you're getting your information.  Because Vivian mentions a book wherein the author claims that, in the past, there were at least 20 incidences of mudslinging that he deemed to be greater than what we see contemporarily.  I'm imagining he must have done some research.  But I don't know how reliable his work might be.

 

BTW, I wasn't able to find the book you had mentioned Vivian, do you recall on which television show you saw the author?

Message Edited by RTA on 10-25-2008 09:20 AM
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Re: smear tactics

I couldn't find the book either so I had to think hard about what show was on tv when I saw them talking about it LOL. Here is a page tho about the book I did finally find. 25 worst mudslingers

Some of the ones he mentioned, I did find on Wikipedia under negative campaigning too like, remember the LBJ one against Barry Goldwater showing the little girl and the nuclear bomb going off if Goldwater was elected? I was just a little kid then but I thought that was on a lot. They said, it was actually only shown one time people were so horrified by the image that it got yanked. We have some real mudslinging going on in local races too. One woman, things from her divorce that are open records to the public were brought up. What I am finding interesting is that there is a lot of mudslinging and also what the mudslinger will do instead going on locally without saying what their party affiliation is. I get a lot of ads in the mail for candidates too with nothing about what party they belong to. I think they are really counting on this mudslinging to get them in regardless or in spite of their political party affiliation. This is the first time I have seen this here. I have never seen ads that did not say which party they were with before.

 

For example, I got one from the undersheriff of our county asking for votes but I really have no idea what party the sheriff or any of those under him are in but I am going to find out and vote the whole darn group out if I can because the Sheriff was tossed out, but not right away, for running an illegal gambling room with his wife and several of the officers running it. Then what was even worse was he was then indicted for using female prisoners for prostitution and down right rape. They are still investigating all involved. I want anyone under him or with him gone, whatever their party and I think this undersheriff is trying to distance himself from that by not saying. If its going to take such a long time to take all these people to trial then hey, its time to vote, lets vote them out. I have a lot of local elections and bond issues, etc, to check out this week before I go to vote and I am going to do the best I can. I said that I told that pollster I was going to vote a straight Republican ticket, but that may not be so. I just am tired of them taking these little polls and "deciding" the election before its done. The same thing with election day. I don't think they should be projecting a winner at 1% of the vote in or at all until all the polls are closed, clear out to Hawaii, because it has the effect of some people thinking their vote doesn't count then and so they don't get out and vote. No projections should be made until all the polls close and to me, that should be a law. I have a feeling, locally, I may be voting both parties. I just want the best people in there I can find according to what I can find on their records.

 


RTA wrote:

Because Vivian mentions a book wherein the author claims that, in the past, there were at least 20 incidences of mudslinging that he deemed to be greater than what we see contemporarily. I'm imagining he must have done some research. But I don't know how reliable his work might be.

 

BTW, I wasn't able to find the book you had mentioned Vivian, do you recall on which television show you saw the author?

Message Edited by RTA on 10-25-2008 09:20 AM

 

 

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb