Friday, September 28, 2012

What the Heck is Freedom of Expression?

I love this picture, because it captures so much. This is a CNBC/MSNBC pundit/activist named Mona Eltahawy, spray painting over a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim poster in the New York subway. If one could look up "entitled self-righteousness" in some dictionary you might see a close-up of Eltahawy's face. Beautiful.

The other woman in the picture, the one trying to block Eltahawy, protested that Eltahawy had no right to censor the speech of others, to which Eltahawy said she did, justifying it as freedom of "expression."

One tends to hear this bromide a lot on the left, so, what does that mean, exactly? We know we have freedom of speech, so why not just say that? Because freedom of expression is different, even though it's advocates would like us to think it's all the same thing. There is some linguistic sleight of hand going on here.

"Speech," of course, refers to things you say, or write. "Expression," on the other hand, can be anything you want it to be. I can burn down your house and claim I'm expressing myself.  Hey, it's performance art. I can strip naked in Times Square and claim the same thing. People have actually done that one. But hey, if I am self-actualizing, it must be okay.

I exaggerate to make a point. The term covers any behavior that its purveyors wish it to. Thus, Eltahawy's decision to unilaterally deny others the right to read the message was simply an act of self-expression. Got it? College students who routinely shout down conservative speakers also love citing their rights of expression, believing that it somehow trumps the very speech they are shouting down. We've seen this playbook before.

On the ACLU's own website they have a whole page where the two concepts are deliberately muddled. These things are not accidents, nor is this merely some silly argument over semantics. The left has always had an active interest in legitimizing the widest range of behaviors possible, particularly if they assist in the drowning out of inconvenient voices.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of freedom of expression. At its core, the idea is about ginning up phony rights in order to trump the legitimate rights of others, rights that have been getting chipped away bit by bit for decades now by the forces of political correctness. But, like the frog that doesn't notice it's being boiled slowly, most Americans don't pay enough attention to see what's happening. They need to.

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