Free Expression: The Only Desideratum?
The Russians are annoyed. Are they so far off base? Or are those notorious anti-democrats just uncomfortable with what seems to some people to be the only thing that matters on God’s green earth — “freedom of expression”?
ABC News broadcast an interview with a guy who is — what do they call mass murderers now? Oh, yeah. He’s a “militant.” His name is Shamil Basayev:
Among other attacks, Basayev has been linked to a 2002 hostage-taking assault on a Moscow theater that left 170 people dead, a 2003 suicide attack in the Moscow subway that killed 41 people, and a 2003 double suicide bombing at a Moscow rock concert that killed 17 people.
One man’s freedom fighter, right? They’re only Russians, after all, not Englishmen or something. (Almost like being Israelis, I guess, ironically enough.) So now Russia won’t renew ABC-TV’s accreditation.
What does our ever-vigilant, terrorism-fighting State Department think of this?
In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said any decision that limited ABC’s operations in Russia would be regrettable.
“I think we believe that ABC as well as all other members of the media should have the opportunity for freedom of expression and have the right to report as they see fit,” Casey said.
I’m sure they’d feel the same way if the guy in the picture in the blog post below (not Burt) were interviewed on U.S. television telling “his side of the story,” right? Actually, considering that it’s the State Department… I am pretty sure of that.
I’m pretty big on free expression. It’s all over this blog. But I do not believe that mass murderers are “entitled” to free expression. They cede whatever right to it they may have had when they depart from civilization’s standards by killing civilians to make their political points. More: Because they use murder to make political points, helping them make their points by giving them air time or column ink is a bloody business indeed.
It’s been said often enough that liberalism — and I don’t mean left-wing-ism; I mean classical be-a-good-chap liberalism — seems to carry the seeds of its own destruction. We see this in action often enough, too; and in some places, the risk of that destruction seems frighteningly acute. Our own society usually manages to survive its self-induced wounds and bears the scars of “excessive liberalism” proudly and, seeing as how we (well, most of us) are still here, maybe it’s not a bad outcome. But in the case of Russia, democracy has virtually no roots. Transporting our hardy variety of free-speech-at-any-cost journalism to Russia, a land that is at war with Muslim extremists in Chechnia and that has no experience with free speech, is not a formula for encouraging democracy. To the contrary, this tactic seems more likely to choke it off before it can indeed take root.
Does the State Department, supporting ABC here, really care about the long-run fate of democracy in Russia, the fight against terrorism, and the future of our relations with the most likely counterweight to China? Or does it just automatically pump out statements like this as it does the usual bloodless “condemnations” of
terrorist atrocities militant expressions of root causes?
UPDATE: Looking at a trackback I found my way to a blog called Caerdroia , which took the other side of this issue, writing, “And let’s face it: a free society can tolerate a badly behaved press to some degree, but no society can tolerate a tyrannical government, and the silencing of criticism of a tyrannical government is simply unacceptable.” I posted a comment there (it is being reviewed while I write this), and after posting it, I got this message:
I will also either not post or will edit any comment that contains information which may cause harm, such as revealing personal information about a law enforcement officer or information that may in any way aid the enemy
UPDATE: Ranting Profs develops the argument.
UPDATE: Great discussion here, too.