The following dialogue de sourds was published in the last issue of The American Dissident. Featured is Charles Brownstein, director of Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. PM (P. Maudit) is my cartoonist sobriquet...
A PC-PeculiarityAdvocating Freedom of Speech,
while Justifying Suppression… of Freedom of Speech
By the Editor
So anyway, the thing that I come to—I used this phrase on TV the other day— the rise of the “but brigade.” I got so sick of the goddamn but brigade. And now the moment somebody says ‘Yes I believe in free speech, but,” I stop listening. “I believe in free speech, but people should behave themselves.” “I believe in free speech, but we shouldn’t upset anybody.” “I believe in free speech, but let’s not go too far.”
—Salman Rushdie, regarding the Charlie Hebdo massacre
The cancellation of [Robert] Spencer’s appearance based on ALA’s silent acquiescence to outside pressure from those who seek to destroy intellectual freedom [CAIR] isn’t inconsequential, and it is more than unsettling. This is, as Spencer has characterized it, a stealth jihad against free speech, which now claims the American Library Association among the jihadists.
—Attorney William J. Becker, Jr.
Free speech does not mean inoffensive speech only. It means all speech, left-wing and right-wing and in-the-fuck-between… with, of course, the exception of speech that calls for violence… but violence highly LIKELY to occur as a direct result of the speech… and that excludes any heckler’s-veto violence. Heavy constant indoctrination, however, is creating a populace that tends to disagree with this legal definition of freedom of speech.
Rare it was for me to engage in a free-speech fight with a free-speech advocate. Usually, the response was either very brief, as with PEN America Executive Director Susan Nossel and National Coalition Against Censorship Executive Director Joan Bertin, or simply non-existent, as with PEN New England Executive Director Karen Wulf and New England First Amendent Center Executive Director Rosanna Cavanagh. When such free-speech organizations are challenged, they usually prefer not to respond. After all, how can one challenge organizations devoted to free speech? Well, quite simply, one can and should when they behave hypocritically and have become politicized and/or prove incapable of accepting outside criticism (i.e., free speech).
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) boasts to be on “the front lines of the fight for free speech.” Yet, as co-sponsor of the American Library Association’s hypocritical Banned Books Week, it sides with librarian gatekeepers, who ban books (and patrons like me). The ALA boasts to be a fervent proponent of “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular.” So why did it cancel, at the request of CAIR, an Islamic organization, an event that was to feature Robert Spencer, a critic of Islam and such organizations (see http://www.investigativeproject.org/1101/library-association-abandons-principle-allows#)? Evidently, the reason is because the ALA is suffering from a rather virulent strain of gross hypocrisy.
As an evident member of the BUT BRIGADE (see Rushdie quote above), the CBLDF ought to be called the Comic Book But Brigade Defense Fund. Aberrantly, it refused to publish Bosch Fawstin’s cartoon, the one that won the Garland, TX Draw Muhammad contest, in its second issue of Defender, devoted to “Cartoonists under Fire.” How odd, thought Fawstin, who had been a decade-long member of CBLDF and had been literally under fire in Garland, TX. “I'm pissed off,” he wrote. “Bad enough I work in an industry that's dominated by gutless leftists, but even the one place that supposedly defends Free Speech doesn't give a shit about Defending Free Speech if it disagrees with it. This completely undercuts the idea of what kind of speech should be protected. To hell with them.” The following non-fictitious dialogue was pieced together from actual email correspondance with CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, whose only response to the concerns evoked in it was that I didn’t have a right to post his evasive and un-responsive opinions. Yet it seems that copyright law does give me that right (see, for example the Kansas Law Review https://law.ku.edu/sites/law.drupal.ku.edu/files/docs/law_review/v55/Snow.pdf). How might one explain a purported defender of free speech, who rationalizes why he should NOT defend free speech? That is the real question here. Brownstein was sent the dialogue, given the chance to add or contest certain remarks. He chose not to. What he and the ALA should do is get the hell out of the free-speech business, since he and it evidently do not believe in it!
P. Maudit: Before I cartoon you guys, I’d like to know why you’ve decided to ignore cartoonist Bosch Fawstin and the near Garland, TX massacre.
Charles Brownstein: Our news blog covered Garland in two separate articles at the time that it occurred.
PM: Yeah, but you didn’t mention the winner of the contest or publish the winning cartoon on your blog devoted to cartoons! Isn’t that a bit weird?
CB: Fawstin currently appears to be seeking publicity for his cartoon addressing a controversial topic.
PM: Yet any cartoonist seeking publication evidently seeks publicity, which includes 100% of those cartoonists you feature on your website. Don’t you also seek publicity with your organization and sponsorship of Banned Books Week? And do not most free-speech issues concern “controversial” topics? After all, non-controversial topics do not need free-speech protection.
CB: He is not experiencing censorship by any metric, including his own, given the content of an exchange we had on Facebook that was re-run on his website. His work is widely available, no government restriction of any kind is being placed on his work, and anyone can view it. If Fawstin's First Amendment rights were being restricted, we would certainly rise to defend them. But they don't appear to be.
PM: But Fawstin's winning cartoon was censored by the New York Times, as well as other media organizations, including yours and Fox News, institutions of higher education, and public libraries across the nation. How can you possibly believe otherwise in this era of islamophobia inanity?
CB: Editorial outlets choosing not to publish an item is not the same as censorship. Libraries choosing not to select an item is not the same as censorship. Censorship, as First Amendment jurisprudence illustrates, occurs when government causes the restriction of the publication or dissemination of an idea. That is not happening in Fawstin's case.
PM: Sure, First Amendment jurisprudence exists, but ONLY in America. So, why do you, for example, champion the cause of an Iranian cartoonist in Iran or that of Charlie Hebdo in France, if you are only concerned with First Amendment jurisprudence? Iran and France do not possess such jurisprudence! In essence, what you should be concerned with (and probably are when convenient) is the dictionary definition of censorship, not simply the legal one. You ought to be concerned with the suppression, banning, restricting, proscription, interdiction, prohibition, and excluding of cartoons (and opinions) deemed objectionable on subjective moral and/or political grounds, especially by the media and academe. Public libraries, by the way, are considered government entities. And many of them do restrict the “dissemination of an idea.”
CB: We ran a news story about the various international cartoonists facing government censorship as the issue we published went to press. That's not the same as championing them.
PM: So, now it’s “government censorship” and not “First Amendment jurisprudence.” By running a story on those foreign cartoonists, you are indeed CHAMPIONING their fight for free speech.
CB: [Fawstin’s] work is being published, and is widely available. No government agency is restricting access to his cartoons. That some venues choose not to publish his cartoon isn't censorship, it's editorial prerogative.
PM: A mentality of suppression (i.e., censorship) exists in the press that you seem to think is fine because it’s a matter of “editorial prerogative,” a term that ought to be added to the list of synonyms for censorship. How about academic prerogative and librarian prerogative and Banning Books Week prerogative and CBLDF prerogative, and on and on?
CB: Fawstin's cartoon was not the newsworthy element of the Garland, TX contest. The violence that occurred during a peaceful, albeit provocative, exercise of speech was newsworthy. It follows that most outlets chose to focus on the violence, which is the element of public interest.
PM: How can you possibly make such an argument? The Islamic assassins wanted to murder because of the CARTOONS! How then are the CARTOONS not newsworthy? If you can NOT understand this, clearly a desire for funding, renown, increased donations, and/or politically-correct mindset must be preventing you from doing so.
CB: Fawstin's First Amendment rights were never in peril.
PM: Yet two Muslims armed with kalishnikovs and with intent to murder CLEARLY were threatening his First Amendment rights. Cartoonist Molly Norris, as you surely know, has disappeared and given up her First Amendment rights in America… because Muslims want to murder her… just as they want to murder Fawstin. It was Fawstin’s CARTOON that made those Muslims want to destroy Fawstin’s First Amendment rights! It was not his haircut or skin color, but rather his freakin’ CARTOON, not to mention his status as apostate! How to understand someone like you, who on the one hand professes to be a free speech advocate, while on the other advocating the suppression of speech such as Fawstin’s “ALBEIT PROVOCATIVE” cartoon.
CB: Fawstin’s safety was at risk, but his rights never were. The government placed police at the organizers' disposal to protect the First Amendment protected activity occurring at the event he was participating in.
PM: Clearly, real death threats serve to reduce rights, serve to provoke self-censorship, and when carried out serve to completely eliminate rights… for what free speech does a dead man possess? What rights does Molly Norris possess? The right to go into hiding here in America.
CB: Fawstin is clearly seeking additional publicity for his work, which is his right.
PM: Seeking publicity is a damn weak justification for the suppression of Fawstin’s cartoon (i.e., his free speech) by you and the media. Who gives a damn what he’s seeking? Free speech is free speech! Dismissing the speaker (cartoonist) as a publicity seeker or egotist or islamophobe or whatever other epithet you can come up with to belittle him will NOT eliminate the fact that he stands for free speech and possesses the unusual courage to continue to do so.
CB: It is also the right of the media outlets you mention not to run that work. Simply put, there is no censorship issue here. Nobody is suppressing Fawstin's cartoon. Not running something is not the same as suppressing something.
PM: Why not try being HONEST and state outright why you did not include Fawstin in your latest issue of Defender, devoted to “cartoonists under fire”? After all, the response is evident: Fawstin is a conservative and anti-Islam. Moreover, the two articles written by Maren Williams posted on your site regarding the Garland, TX near massacre are clearly biased against the Garland, TX organizer Pamela Geller and Fawstin… and thus pro-Islam.
CB: Fawstin has the right to cartoon as he sees fit, and no one is restricting those rights, so there's nothing to cover.
PM: Sure, he has that right. But what about the serious death threats he now faces? Aren’t they affecting those rights? Shouldn’t you be speaking out in his favor and against the Islamic ideology that seeks to eliminate his rights in America?
CB: [No response]
PM: Moreover, I’d be leery, rather than open wide and swallow, regarding Banned Books Week, which your organization sponsors, and the nation’s public libraries that celebrate it. As an example, my books (and cartoons!), the poetry of those I publish, and my very person have been PERMANENTLY banned by my local public library, Sturgis Library (Barnstable, MA), which celebrates Banned Books week. And the 25 other libraries in the Clams Library System of Cape Cod and the American Library Association don't give a damn about that, nor does the ACLU, NCAC, PEN… and, apparently, CBLDF.
CB: [No comment]
PM: Well, we do agree on one thing: the right of the media to suppress (censor, ban, exclude, etc.) Fawstin’s cartoon. And it is also the right of the media to suppress anything else it does NOT like in accord with its political bias, right or left-wing. What we seem to disagree on is that the media should NOT be in the business of political bias, but rather in the business of NEWS and that includes Fawstin’s newsworthy cartoon. In essence, your organization is a sham because of its nitpicking with regards the term censorship.
CB: [No comment]
PM: Contrary to your very restricted and convenient definition, EXCLUSION (i.e., excluding certain cartoons, ideas, criticism, and comments) is a definite form of censorship. The mentality of censorship is one of EXCLUSION. In essence, the politically-biased media (right or left-wing) chooses to EXCLUDE what it does not like. That is a definite form of censorship. Libraries and universities that boast INCLUSION tend to EXCLUDE what they do not like… and often that includes criticism of them. How can you, as a free-speech advocate, not denounce the egregious hypocrisy?
CB: It’s clear that we have a difference of opinion on this matter. I appreciate that you disagree with our efforts in this area. Such disagreement is the soul of free expression.
PM: The “soul of free expression” would be manifest in your willingness to publish this dialogue and the cartoon I sketched satiriziing CBLDF on your website. Will CBLDF, which is purportedly “in the business of fighting government censorship and providing news about the censorship climate,” rise to defend my First Amendment rights vis-a-vis the PERMANENT banning of my cartoons from a public institution (i.e., government)? If so, you would be unique and the first to do so.
CB: [No comment]