A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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A FORUM FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONES OF DEMOCRACY
[For the journal--guidelines, focus, etc.--go to www.theamericandissident.org. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com. Comments are NOT moderated (i.e., CENSORED)!]
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Michael Finch

The following essay I wrote in 2015.

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Let No Act of Censorship Go Uncriticized

FrontPage, an online right-wing journal, had rightfully been denouncing the increasing incidents of left-wing assaults on freedom of speech, especially with regards the shutting down of debate and creation of safe spaces and speech codes, on college campuses across the country from Yale to Missou, Smith,  Vasser.  

Hypocritically, its moderators (i.e., censors) also shut down debate.  Indeed, they refused to post my critical comment regarding a glowing review written by Mark Tapson, Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, of a book of poetry written by Michael Finch, Chief Operating Officer also at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  The egregious hypocrisy of that act of censorship left me fully disgusted.  And not one person at the Horowitz Freedom Center would respond.  

What had provoked me to comment, in the first place, was the very crux of the review, as clearly stated by the reviewer:  “But as many conservative writers such as Andrew Klavan and myself have noted for years, reclaiming America means reclaiming the culture, and that means engaging in the arts.”  Contrast that statement with the rather innocuous verse presented by the reviewer, as if somehow that verse would help in “reclaiming the culture.”  Mind-boggling!

         In my initial comment, I criticized the crux statement as insufficient.  Indeed, mere “engaging in the arts” would accomplish little if anything.  What was needed was active questioning and challenging of the “arts” machine, which I’ve come to term the academic/literary establishment. The poem fragments taken from Finding Home:  Poems in Search of a Lost America clearly did not even remotely attempt that.  Note, for example:  


My mind remembers a soft, warm wind,

Sweet earth scent, and billows of clouds

In a wide prairie sky of youth’s eternal hope.

Where have you gone?


Now, how might those lines help the right-wing in “reclaiming the culture” in an effort to establish its particular forms of censorship, let alone expose the lack of objectivity, egregious hypocrisy, and especially visceral knee-jerk rejection of any criticism regarding the left-wing “arts” machine?  Here’s another verse presented by Tapson:  


Years from now when the winds blow again,

When you stare at the midnight’s blue of

The setting sun, lined mountains black against

A cobalt sky, do one thing for the one who loved you:

Think of me when your eyes gaze at the wondrous sky,

Your eyes searching the heavens for one,

When the breeze blows one last time through your hair,

Do one final thing. Think of me.


Another big problem with the “arts” machine is the M.O. of egregious backslapping and self-congratulating.  In that sense, Tapson partakes in it, promoting the poetry of his admitted “friend.”  What else is new, eh?  Frank Kotter, whose comment was not censored by the moderator censors, sums up the inanity confronting poetry today.


I have not heard such touching and meaningful prose since Paul de Lagarde. May this also usher in a new era in our nation's consciousness just as those have who come before you.  I have ordered but am disappointed to see it is not offered in hard cover—A shame as this book will be cited in history books in centuries to come.


More often when an unknown/unconnected person like me questions and challenges the “arts” machine (i.e., the academic/literary establishment), the latter will respond with proverbial deafening silence.  Imagine, for example, I had the gall recently to question and challenge the new poet laureate of Boston, Professor Danielle Legros Georges, who, as the Boston Globe headline stated, “wants to make poetry comfortable for all.”  Of course, by simply mentioning that fact here, I greatly lessen my chances of getting this essay published because it contravenes the first commandment of the “arts” machine:  thou shalt not criticize the poets!    

Because I’d sent my q&c to the student newspaper editors of Lesley University, Legros Georges’ employer, and only cc’d it to her, she called me “cowardly” in her response and wrote that if I really wanted debate then she was ready for it.  So, I wrote with that regard… and received no response!  Then days later, I wrote again, asking what happened to her will for debate.  And again, no response was ever received.  In essence, that deafening silence was the reason I’d chosen to write the student newspaper.  Deafening silence was the norm for academics when challenged.  Sadly, it was also the norm for student newspaper editors.  Considering the innocuousness of the poem fragments illustrated in Tapson’s hagiography (for the entire piece, see 

www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/260860/finding-home-poems-search-lost-america-mark-tapson),  Michael Finch should have no problem at all getting published in “arts” machine magazines like Agni, Ploughshares, and Poetry.  

Finally, Thoreau famously urged:  “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”  To that, I’d add left or right-wing machine.   And tis better to chime with Thoreau, than climb the careerist ladder in search of vacuity, that is, fame, limelight, awards, invitations, tenure, and all the other crap serving to muzzle the truly cowardly like left-wing Legros Georges and right-wing Michael Finch.  


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

European Court of Human Rights


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The following essay was published in the Journal of International Ethics
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Freedom of Expression, 
Ethics, and the European Court of Human Rights

In other words, my right to speak freely is less important than protecting the religious feelings of others. This should ring warning bells for my fellow citizens across the continent. We should all be extremely concerned that the rights of Muslims in Europe NOT to be offended are greater than my own rights, as a native European Christian woman, to speak freely.  I am proud to be the woman who has raised this alarm.

—Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff1


Ethics can be/is a highly subjective term.  Ethics for you, might not be ethics for me, and vice versa.  How do attempts to define the term accord it a certain degree of objectivity and reign in its evident fluidity?   What is ethics?  How does freedom of expression meld with ethics?  In fact, without the former, there can be no accountability for ethics.    

How does ethics thus relate to freedom of expression?  Can there be ethics without freedom of expression?  What happens when politics and/or other powers seek to define ethics?  Indeed, is the ethics defined in Qatar or Iran the same as that defined in America?  And is the ethics espoused by the Democrat party the same as that espoused by the Republican party (e.g., the wall as immoral… or moral)?  And so, how to define the nebulous?  Wikipedia stipulates:  


Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.


Well, that doesn’t really help much at all.  After all, “right and wrong” are certainly not objective terms.  Is it right, for example, to outlaw female genital mutilation?  Well, a federal judge recently declared it to be wrong, that is, unconstitutional and dismissed charges against several doctors for performing it.2  And what about child marriage?  Is that ethical?  Well, the recent US Senate Report on that subject might lead one to conclude that it is not ethical.  The report mentions Naila Amin, for example, a US citizen engaged to be married when she was only eight years old, then married at 13 to her Pakistani first cousin.  Her application to bring her husband to the US was approved.  Amin stated:


He dragged me about twenty feet—the whole length of the house—by my hair.  He began kicking me in the head and it was so hard I saw stars.  My mother would watch my husband and my father kick me together in the head.3  


Google’s first result, which precedes Wikipedia, defines ethics perhaps even more simply, though again employing the term, “moral”:  


1. moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.

2. the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles.


Defining one nebulous term, “ethics,” with another nebulous term, “moral,” simply serves to emphasize the intrinsic fluidity (vagueness) of “ethics.”  The question thus remains:  ethical according to whom or what?  Does the term even mean anything at all?  And what’s the point of making statements of ethics if they’re not adhered to?  The American Library Association, for example, argues in its Library Bill of Rights that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view,” while simultaneously not really doing anything at all to turn that noteworthy principle into a reality.  Indeed, within the ethical principle of freedom of expression, would librarians stock periodicals, for example, that criticize librarians?  In fact, the ALA’s own periodical, American Libraries Magazine, will not even publish accounts regarding libraries that do not adhere to its principles.4

Is there a universal declaration of ethics?  Apparently not.  However, there is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. Its  Article 19 stipulates that


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. 5

However, the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966, seems to dilute Article 19.  Its article 20, section 2, for example, maintains that  


Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.


“Hatred” and “hostility” can, of course, just like “ethics,” be quite subjective.  Also, many countries now dilute article 19 with their own hate-speech legislation to the point where the Article has unfortunately become but a meaningless declaration of vacuity.  Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley has discussed a number of these laws in what he calls an “alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West.”

The European Convention on Human Rights, which was drafted in 1950 by the Council of Europe, mirrors the ICCPR’s will to restrict freedom of expression.  Its article 10, “Freedom of Expression,” clearly mirrors article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but includes a restricting caveat:  


1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. 

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in con dence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.8  


The European Court of Human Rights enforces and interprets the European Convention on Human Rights.  In a rather controversial decision, it recently decided against freedom of expression in the case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who had simply stated during one of her seminars in 2009 that 


[Muhammad] liked to do it with children.  A 56-year-old and a six-year-old?  What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?9


For that statement alone, Sabaditsch-Wolff was fined 480 Euros.  The ECHR thus permits ethics or lack thereof, in certain circumstances, to be excluded from questioning and challenging even when facts are simply presented.  Turley argues its decision “confirms the all-out assault on free speech that has taken hold of Europe.”7  Free speech or free expression tends to be the enemy of power… and also the enemy of Islamists.  Because Europe, after massive immigration from Islamic countries, now contains a large population of Muslims, blasphemy laws have essentially been reinstated long after the demise of the Age of Religious Inquisition.  

And so it has become unethical to state a fact in Europe, if that fact might be considered offensive to some people’s religious feelings.  The seven ECHR judges argued rather aberrantly that


[They] found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.10


In essence, the rather nebulous concept of “preserving religious peace” in Europe now supersedes a fundamental principle of ethics:  factual truth telling.  Censorship and banning are thus becoming the new ethics today.  To evoke certain truths and uncomfortable facts has become immoral and thus unethical.  Ethics seems to be turning into a twisted euphemism for political correctness in Europe.  Canada too seems to be on this twisted pathway, thanks largely to its human rights tribunals.11  

It is the First Amendment that will, hopefully, keep America from following in that darkness.  

Finally, when ethics is legally defined, as in the case of the ECHR, does that necessarily make the defined provision(s) ethical?  And for those who define and make the particular designations, like the seven ECHR judges, what makes them more ethical than those not in such positions of power?  

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1.  Douglass-Williams, Christine. “Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff responds to EU court’s ruling that speech insulting Muhammad is prohibited.”  Jihad Watchhttps://www.jihadwatch.org/2018/10/elisabeth-sabaditsch-wolff-responds-to-eu-courts-ruling-that-speech-insulting-muhammad-is-prohibited.  October 27, 2018.  


2.  Stempel, Jonathan. “Judge voids U.S. female genital mutilation law.”  WSAU.  https://wsau.com/news/articles/2018/nov/20/judge-voids-us-female-genital-mutilation-law/.  11/20/2018.


3. “How the U.S. Immigration System Encourages Child Marriages.”  US Senate Reporthttps://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Child%20Marriage%20staff%20report%201%209%202019%20EMBARGOED.pdf.  01/11/2019.


4.  Slone, G. Tod.  “Notes on the Office for Intellectual Constraint.  https://wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2017/04/james-larue.html.  04/11/2017.  


5.  General Assembly resolution 217 A. United Nations International Bill of Human Rights.  http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/217(III).  1948.  


6.  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.  https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx. 1966.


7.  Turley, Jonathan.  https://jonathanturley.org/2018/01/03/german-politician-blocked-on-social-media-placed-under-criminal-investigation-under-new-hate-speech-law/ and https://jonathanturley.org/2012/10/14/the-death-of-free-speech/.  


8.  European Convention on Human Rights.  https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf.  


9.  Kern, Soeren. ”A Black Day for Austria.”  Gatestone Institute. 

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2702/sabaditsch-wolff-appeal.  12/26/2011.  


10.  European Court of Human Rights (Press Release).  “Conviction for calling Muhammad a paedophile is not in breach of Article 10.”  10/25/2018.  


11.  Levant, Ezra.  “'Crazy' prosecutions.”  Financial Posthttps://business.financialpost.com/opinion/ezra-levant-crazy-prosecutions.  07/24/2015 and Mark Hemingway.  “Idiot’s Guide to Completely Idiotic Canadian ‘Human Rights’ Tribunals.” https://www.nationalreview.com/2008/06/idiots-guide-completely-idiotic-canadian-human-rights-tribunals-mark-hemingway/. The National Review. 06/05/ 2008.





Sunday, July 5, 2020

Donald Hall Poet Laureate


The cartoon below was sketched in 2018 after Donald Hall died.   
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