The Farce of Western Free Speech

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In practice, Western values like human rights and freedom of expression are no more than chimera. They are empty slogans whose mere espousal and conceited, disingenuous profession is for propaganda purposes, writes FINIAN CUNNINGHAM.   Speaking outside Elysée Palace in the aftermath of the terror killings in France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the violence as “an attack on civilization.” That’s a quaint turn in etiquette by a politician who is mired in allegations of sleaze and corruption, as well as war crimes. Sarkozy wasn’t too concerned about “civilization” when he and his British allies launched the NATO bombing campaign of Libya in March 2011 in stark violation of a UN mandate. That seven-month onslaught led to the murder of Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi – from whom Sarkozy had gladly received hush-hush political donations in the past, before stabbing him in the back. The illegal French-led NATO blitzkrieg on Libya subverted a constitutional government and resulted in the ongoing destruction of one of Africa’s most economically developed countries. So Sarkozy’s concern for attacks on civilization is well qualified – although you won’t hear it put quite that way in the thought-control Western media. One of the presumed touchstones of Western civilization that was allegedly defiled is “free speech” and “freedom of expression.” Sarkozy was joined by other Western political figures, from US President Barack Obama, to British Premier David Cameron, in condemning the murderous assault on the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in terms of a war on “our values.” The magazine had previously incensed millions of Muslims worldwide by its publication of images profaning Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). That is believed to have provided the motive for the gunmen who, while fleeing the scene in Paris, shouted: “The prophet has been avenged.” French President Francois Hollande declared the slain journalists and cartoonists as “heroes” who died for the lofty principle of freedom of speech. But like other presumed Western values, such as human rights, freedom of speech is a much over-rated principle – over-rated by the Western governments and institutions like the corporate-controlled media, who invoke it as an ideological badge of honor that distinguishes them and makes them superior to others. In practice, however, such Western values are no more than chimera. They are empty slogans whose mere espousal and conceited, disingenuous profession is for propaganda purposes. What human rights or respect for rule of law did Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama adhere to when they oversaw the destruction of Libya? Or in the ongoing covert destruction of Syria and Iraq (despite belated Western claims of liquidating the terror network that they spawned in the first place for regime change in Syria.) So, Western “free speech” is really just freedom for the powers-that-be to demean and demonize whomever the West requires for furthering its political interests. When free speech legitimately attacks Western interests, exposes hypocrisy and fraudulence, then it stops being a “universal principle.” Censorship is then the ironclad order. French comedian, Dieudonné, for example, has been banned from public performances by the French government owing to his farcical arm gesture, known as the “Quenelle.” The gesture can be interpreted in many ways, from a vulgar personal insult, to a derisory slur on the ruling class. The French authorities claim that the sign is “anti-Semitic” and a reverse Nazi salute. Dieudonné denies this and instead says the gesture is “anti-Zionist” and “anti-establishment.” The comedian has been banned from travelling to Britain by the London authorities, also as a result of his political parodies. His friend and professional footballer, Nicolas Anelka, was last year banned from playing soccer games in England and fined over $100,000 for signaling the Quenelle after scoring a goal. Evidently, it’s acceptable to insult Islam, according to Western select use of free speech because it suits political agendas of demonizing Muslim countries so that they can be attacked with Western warplanes or covert terrorist proxies. But it is not acceptable to satirize Zionism or Western ruling classes. And here is another revealing touchstone. Why is Press TV banned from British terrestrial and satellite television broadcasting? Why is the Iran-based channel banned across Europe and North America? Where is Western free speech in that case? What is the problem? Western free speech is nothing but a cynical charade by those in power to maintain their unlawful positions of power. A satirical magazine championed by Western war criminals for its “free speech” to dehumanize Muslims is hailed as “heroic?” While an informative, serious news channel like Press TV is banned. Now that is farcical cartoon.


Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. [For fuller details, see ICH, or Press TV, January 10, 2015]