“What we saw on display on the one hand was very heartening, to see so many people come into the streets,” says Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept. “But on the other hand, this is a sort of circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. Every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists.”
Fox News’ Hebdo confusion: Why its new “free speech” obsession is a sham
David Dayen, Salon
Tuesday, Jan 13, 2015 07:00 AM EST
(T)here’s a giant gap in this newfound war on censorship. It neglects the most prominent recent example of this country shutting down free speech. I’m talking about the repression of public protest movements, most notably the violent dismantling of Occupy Wall Street encampments, a censorship directed by the state.
The right to peaceable assembly is as much a part of the First Amendment as the right to free speech, and in fact they intersect. In 2011 the tens of thousands of Occupiers across the country had no access to a printing press or real estate in a newsweekly. So they used their collective voice, basically all they had to use, to call attention to an economic system that doesn’t work for the 99 percent. In their view, the best way to maximize the reach of that opinion was through an ongoing protest, using public spaces to register dissent.
This was not welcomed as a new addition to the public debate, or an example of boldly exercising the sacred, inalienable right to speak out. In fact it was immediately seen as a problem to be solved. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security gathered intelligence on Occupy protests from even before it began, coordinating this surveillance with local police nationwide and even the New York Stock Exchange and private businesses. City councils subsequently passed a host of new laws, presented as protections for health and safety, to criminalize assemblies and justify evictions from encampments.
With public protest undergoing a renaissance in America, this is more than a rhetorical point. You cannot pick and choose which free speech is worthy of defense and which can be allowed to wither. You cannot vow eternal support of the right to blaspheme the Prophet Mohammed and go silent with that support when someone questions the secular religion of our economic and political system.
The dissolution of Occupy is rarely discussed as a free speech issue. But maybe amid a new round of protests for justice and dignity, we can get a reassessment. The marketplace of ideas shouldn’t have a boundary around it to keep out anything outside the range of acceptability. If you tweet #JeSuisCharlie, to be consistent you should add #JeSuisOccupy.