We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Probably an inbred trait of human nature renders the attraction of censorship perennial. Most people (the highly literate are among the worst) believe that what is good for them will be good for others. Besides, a regime of censorship must claim to derive its authority from settled knowledge and not opinion. Once enforcement and exclusion have done their work, this assumption becomes almost irresistible; and it is relied on to produce a fortunate and economical result: self-censorship. We stay out of trouble by gagging ourselves. Among the few motives that may strengthen the power of resistance is the consciousness of having been deeply wrong oneself, either regarding some abstract question or in personal or public life. Another motive of resistance occasionally pitches in: a radical, quasi-physical horror of seeing people coerce other people without having to supply reasons. For better or worse, this second motive is likely to be mixed with misanthropy...
Margaret Thatcher declined to prosecute The Satanic Verses for blasphemy; and once the fatwa was issued Rushdie was accorded police protection from the extraordinary threat. Still, the cravenness of the early reactions has not yet been forgotten. The novel was initially banned in Canada, and US bookstores were slow to risk the title on their shelves. Cautionary words about the need for sensitivity were uttered by academic as well as priestly authorities. ‘We respect each other’s religious beliefs,’ wrote Syed Shahabuddin, who led the campaign to ban The Satanic Verses in India. ‘We do not intentionally outrage the religious feelings of others or insult their religion or ridicule the personalities to whom we are emotionally attached or mock our religious susceptibility.’ The chief rabbi of England, Immanuel Jakobovits, emphatically concurred: it was wrong to ‘tolerate a form of denigration and ridicule which can only breed resentment’. In an essay on ‘Religious Anger and Minority Rights’, Tariq Modood, the director of Bristol University’s Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, wrote that ‘the group which feels hurt is the ultimate arbiter of whether a hurt has taken place.’ On this view, to experience the feeling is to suffer the injury.
Rushdie’s defenders were on solid ground when they invoked his right to publish a book that could elicit a plausible charge of blasphemy. Christopher Hitchens spoke early and courageously on those lines. ‘Behind the use of bleating words like “offensive”,’ he wrote in his Nation column on 13 March 1989, ‘one can sense abject trahison: the ecumenicism of the philistines’; as for conciliation or compromise, ‘it would be suicidal to suppose that any concession made to the superstitious will ever be the last.’ But the odd appearance of the word ‘philistine’, in such a strictly political context turned the argument from a libertarian defence of publication to an aesthetic defence of the contents of the book – a sign of things to come. On the cable network C-Span, on 21 February 1989, Hitchens broadened his criticism:
"Tomorrow, shopping malls of the United States, which contain now one third of the book outlets in this country, will, of their own volition, not sell that book, because they are scared of a foreign despot … To be scared of a crazy foreign tyrant in this way is a really serious challenge to what we think of as the safe assumption of free speech and free inquiry, free expression and the necessity to defend it."
It seems that free speech has resulted in the room becoming so loud that the genius can no longer be heard without saying the most ridiculous things. What is the utility in that?
And with all due respect to the great Mr. Bromwich, it seems that history doesn't show that the highly literate are the worst perpetrators of chilling or freezing speech, but those in power. While one can look at history and make this statement, daily we march towards a more literate society, and were contention insinuated correct, that there is a correlation between literacy and freezing and chilling speech, should also expand. This has not occurred.
So, while it could be said that in the strictest sense our esteemed author is correct from a historical perspective, my strict catholic upbringing demands that I point out that this is a lie of omission as the leader feels empowered to either ignorance or worse.
Perhaps I am just taking a small portion of a statement and arguing that instead of what is the true issue. Perhaps dear David and I are guilty of the same logical fallacy. I suppose were that true, most would presume that I would insist on the removal of the offending script, but I am barely literate.