Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 29, 2006 Free Speech

Consider This for November 29, 2006-Free Speech

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I first heard this quote when I was working as a staff writer for Spring 3100, the New York City Police Magazine,. All the writers sat in a very large room reminiscent of the old TV show “Barney Miller”. I was making some sort of proclamation from my desk when a more seasoned writer shouted out the quote from the far corner of the room.

That was forty years ago but I think of that comment often as I trundle through life. It is probably the most succinct interpretation of our cherished first amendment to the Constitution. We see and hear things many times every day that we may not agree with but, at the same time, we must defend a person’s right to say them. If we prevent someone from saying something we are eroding our own right to make a statement.

I have been watching post mid-term election coverage on CSPAN and this has come up many times. There is a major clamor to prevent negative campaigning. People are fed up with the ads and are ready to take some sort of legislative action to prevent this advertising in the future.

The more informed speakers are continually reminding the pundits that negative advertising is free speech. It is guaranteed in our Constitution regardless of the fact that it offends us on a regular basis.

Last week I subjected myself to the most extreme example of this phenomenon. I went to see the hit movie “Borat.”

I was never more offended by anything in my life. It is the worst movie I have ever seen. There is nothing in the movie that is redeeming in any way. From the beginning to the end I found everything that was written or acted offensive.

It has been the number one movie in America for the past three weeks, breaking all kinds of sales records. That alone should indicate that it has some value to a large portion of the movie- going public.

Someone commented years ago that the basest humor is directed at pre-pubescent boys. If you include a lot of jokes about urination and defecation you can win that age group over. It is called bathroom humor. “Borat” is a winner in that age group. There are no more references left anywhere on this planet about bodily functions. They are all contained in this film.

Yes, I do realize that by writing about how much I disliked the film I will, in fact, because more people to go see it to see if I am right. Such is life.

There was an older couple sitting next to me. We all were laughing in the beginning. They eventually stopped laughing and sat in total silence for the remainder of the film. I am sure they were feeling what I was feeling.

Every group in our society was attacked with a heavy emphasis on putting down women, people of the Jewish faith, and every minority group. Incest was a common theme and I cringed each time it came up in the dialogue.

Blacks and Christians were ridiculed as well. No sector of our society was left untouched.

Some of the people featured in the film have now filed lawsuits against the producers after finding out how they appeared in the final cut of the film. They claim they were duped.

But no one put a gun to my head. No one forced me to sit through the entire movie before getting up and deciding that I had wasted my time and money. I made the decision to see the film of my own free will.

The fact that the movie is a financial success probably puts me in the minority on this one. Most of the movie- going public must have liked it to spend all that money to see it.

As much as it might hurt, I will defend to the death the right of the writers and producers to create films like this and to show them wherever they would like.

After all, this is America and we do enjoy free speech.

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