Posted by: paulacunniffe | 09/27/2010

Free speech – tolerance for the intolerant?

When looking for a ‘divisive’ blog to analyze a blog called Crooks and Liars immediately jumps out at you.

I picked a blog post about Glenn Beck from Fox News, who claims that a lot of Americans, particularly conservative Republicans, think Obama is Muslim. David Neiwert, who writes the blog, says that Beck skews the statistics, ignoring the fact that 60% of Americans get their information about Obama through the media, and focusing on 11% who say they think he is Muslim based on his actions and what he says.

There is a clear ‘us’ and ‘them’ slant to this blog. Neiwert calls Fox a ‘propaganda channel’ that ‘with the help of right-wing radio talkers, including those with Fox shows — constantly reinforces the view that [Obama] is a dark-skinned foreigner with secret allegiances.’

The comments that follow focus on Beck’s religion – he is apparently Mormon. People call Beck a ‘cult member’, a sociopath. Another user calls him a ‘stupid ignorant racist’ (DarkStar).

Others talk about ‘them’, people who are ‘too stupid’ to understand and who buy everything Fox says. These comments show, as Cammaerts says, the clear line between ‘the identity of the self and ‘the other’, whereby ‘we/our’ is being construed as good and morally just while ‘they/them’ are being projected as evil, dangerous.’ (p 564) The comments draw a clear line between ‘stupid Americans’ and ‘us’ – those writing the comments.

The second article I chose was about Pastor Terry Jones and how Republican leadership were not commenting on the Quran burning. (I chose this story for two reasons. Firstly, I have no clue who a lot of the politicians in other blogs are. Secondly, I thought the story would provoke some good comments).

The blogger, Heather (no last name), is clearly not a fan of Republicans. She says: ‘The Republicans who have been happy to stoke the Islamophobia for political gain are either silent on the issue… or they’re not helping matters much or making them worse.’ She continues to say that they are spreading hatred and that they ‘stir up racial and religious resentment, thus motivating their angry, scared white base’. She certainly doesn’t sugar coat what she’s thinking!

The comments mostly agree with Heather – they are not favorable of Republicans. People give examples of other books that should be burned – The Book of Mormon, any book by any conservative etc. As in the last blog, there is a clear divide between us and them. And ‘they’ are the ones in the wrong – the ‘sacred white’.

I don’t think freedom of speech should be limited on the internet. As Cammaerts says, who decides what is ok and what is not? Mill’s ‘harm principle theory’ poses a similar argument. No-one’s actions should be interfered with unless they are harmful to others. But who decides what is harmful and what is not? I also think that if someone says something completely ludicrous you can counter or disprove their argument. Take the Pastor Jones story. He was denounced worldwide.



  1. This was the big debate in class, if we agree to censorship of speech on the internet: what speech is censored and who makes the decision to censor it. However one point you made in your post has my wondering. “No-one’s actions should be interfered with unless they are harmful to others.” What do we classify as harmful? Are we referring to physical harm, mental/emotional/psychological harm because if we are I think hate speech can cause such things and I think hate speech can also incite physical violence. This is where it really gets dicey. We can always say just ignore it but that doesn’t mean it’s not there and ignorance is not necessarily bliss.


  3. Pastor Jones was denounced worldwide — but not by the Republicans noted in the blog post your read. It seems like most of the comments supported the idea of the post — that Republicans are cowed by their Religious Right voter base, etc. Not much dissenting opinion. So are we to conclude that the only people who read the post were those who already agreed with it? What good is that? 🙂

    The post about Glenn Beck has only 49 comments. You were supposed to choose posts with 50 or more comments. The comments here also seem very much in agreement. I wonder whether Neiwert deletes dissenting posts. These seem overwhelmingly in agreement.

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