Is there any kind of person on Earth more ostentatiously clueless than the free speech purist? Here’s a recent letter in the New York Times written by former ACLU director Norman Siegel and Saralee Evans, a former acting judge of the New York Supreme Court:
The controversy over the film “Zero Dark Thirty” is troubling (“Hollywood Makes Case for ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ ” news article, Jan. 20).
Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain’s criticism of the film because of its depiction of the efficacy of torture and their request for Sony Pictures to alter the film’s content smacks of government censorship. History, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, demonstrates that government officials should not use their official status and power to try to censor citizens’ private political viewpoints.
We, as a country committed to open and robust freedom of expression, should have learned that the concept of an open marketplace of ideas means that we allow all viewpoints to be expressed in the belief that the good ideas defeat the bad ideas. We have learned that censoring ideas that some find offensive, inappropriate or wrong-minded is antithetical to democratic principles.
The better course would be to encourage all citizens to see “Zero Dark Thirty” and to encourage them to make their own decisions about the validity of the film, including the scenes involving torture.
Oh mercy me, no. Congress mustn’t interfere, via polite letters, with the free artistic expression of CIA operatives and their Hollywood collaborators. How else but through manipulative, formulaic films with scrappy CIA heroines can we, as a society, determine whether torture and extrajudicial killing are good or really good? Who will mildly chagrined Congress people write letters to next: Bond rating agencies that freely expressed inflated ratings? Large cable companies exercising their first amendment right to monopolize programming? Groups that robustly challenge our society’s stodgy conventions around death and funerals? The mind reels!
No. Let the marketplace of ideas choose, lest we go the way of authoritarian regimes where people with controversial opinions are denied the right to assemble, put in cages, assaulted by police, jailed, and even murdered!