Friday, October 26, 2007

Democracy should be made of sterner stuff

Say, here's some good news:

While you're just trying to finish up your week, the Bush Administration has your back, making sure that you aren't inadvertently exposed to "irresponsible expressions of opinion by prominent aliens."
Two cases pending in federal court in Manhattan will soon test how far the government can go in keeping Americans safe from what a State Department manual calls the "irresponsible expressions of opinion by prominent aliens."

One case concerns a decision by the Bush administration to bar a Muslim scholar from visiting the United States. The other is a criminal prosecution of two Brooklyn businessmen for transmitting Hezbollah’s television station on their satellite service.

The government’s actions in these cases are reminiscent, civil liberties groups say, of another era. For about four decades that coincided roughly with the cold war, the United States routinely barred intellectuals and literary figures from visiting here based on their political views. Graham Greene, Gabriel García Márquez and Doris Lessing were all excluded. [...]

The government [...] denied a work visa to Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss philosopher and Muslim intellectual. As a consequence, Professor Ramadan had to give up a teaching appointment at, in the words of The Guardian newspaper, "that hotbed of Muslim extremism, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana."

In the three years preceding the denial, Professor Ramadan had visited the United States 24 times, lecturing at Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton — and the State Department.

Three academic and literary groups sued the government last year over the denial, saying they had a First Amendment right to hear from Professor Ramadan. [...]

Lawyers for the defendants in the television case, Javed Iqbal and Saleh Elahwal, say the case against them, similarly, is "nothing less than a full frontal assault on the fundamental values inscribed in the First Amendment." The men are charged with providing material support to Hezbollah, the radical Islamic Shiite group in Lebanon, by making its television station, Al Manar, available in the United States.

In a brief filed in July, the government said, in an echo of the Ramadan case, that the satellite case was only about business dealings and "has nothing to do with speech, expression or advocacy," adding that "the defendants remain free to speak out in favor of Hezbollah and its political objectives." But they may not transmit Al Manar’s message.

Defense lawyers noted that Fox News and CNN had also broadcast material from Al Manar.

And to think it's conservatives who say that liberals are the ones wanting to create the Nanny State. What could possibly be more nannyish--what could treat us more like infants--than obsessively making sure we don't hear ideas that the government thinks might hurt us?

We're a strong nation--or at least we were until Bush and his cronies got their hands on the wheel. Fear does not become us.

(Hat tip to Doctor Beyond.)

No comments: