Freedom of Speech and its limits

Recently some internet sites have been pumping out news and opinions reporting the reaction to Goodreads cracking down on those few who victimized authors with the goal of destroying reputations and careers in publishing. Some of the comments in this debate are angry; some are celebrating, and some are waiting to see if these changes are real.

I’m not going to go into detail about this issue. Instead, I want to look closely at freedom of speech and its limitations.

Do sites such as Goodreads and Amazon have a right to define limits to freedom of expression on their private sector internet sites? The answer is yes as you will discover.


The Limitations of Free Speech

If you read the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution carefully [it is short and to the point], you will discover that it was clearly meant to protect the opinions of American citizens from government harassment and persecution and in no way does freedom of speech mean you can say or write anything you want anywhere at any time without fear of censorship.

For example, Censorship in America.com says, “For much of the nation’s history, the First Amendment was not held to apply to states and municipalities.  Entities without any prohibition in their own charters [in the private sector these charters are known as terms of use] were free to censor newspaper, magazines books, plays, movies, comedy shows and so on. Many did, as exemplified by the phrase banned in Boston.”

It wasn’t until the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren [he served as Chief Justice 1953 – 1969] that the 1st Amendment was extended to local government—with no mention that freedom of expression in the private sector was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Shaw Valenza.com says, “Federal free speech protections apply only to the government. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example, does not regulate private employers.”

North Iowa Today.com says, “A private-sector employer has a lot of latitude as to what’s permitted or not with respect to political speech, or pushing any view for that matter.”


The Consensus of the Public

In conclusion, “The [U.S. Supreme] Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television, and public employees’ speech. … Furthermore, even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be restricted on the basis of its content if the restriction passes strict scrutiny.”

Even international law says, “Freedomofexpression is not absolute and every system of law provides for some limitations on it: For respect of the rights or reputations of others; for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals. This means that it is permissible to think the most evil and depraved thoughts, although giving expression to them may legitimately warrant a sanction.” Source: Centre for Law and Democracy

For sites such as Goodreads and Amazon, those restrictions are spelled out in their Terms of Use Agreements and these private sector businesses reserve the right to change the Terms of Use at any time.

Goodreads concludes its Terms of Use with “IMPORTANT: These Terms & Conditions of Service for Goodreads Services (“Agreement”) is a legal agreement between you and Goodreads Inc. By using or accepting the Services, you agree to be bound by the terms of this Agreement. If you do not agree to the Terms of this Agreement, do not use these Services. You agree that your use of the services acknowledges that you have read this Agreement, understand it, and agree to be bound by its Terms and Conditions.” For more details about the Goodreads Terms of Use, I suggest you click on the link and read them.

And if you go to Amazon’s Terms of Use, and you will discover, “Visitors may post reviews, comments and other content; and submit suggestions, ideas, comments, questions, or other information, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights, or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable and does not consist of or contain software viruses, political campaigning, commercial solicitation, chain letters, mass mailings, or any form of ‘spam.’ You may not use a false e-mail address, impersonate any person or entity, or otherwise mislead as to the origin of a card or other content. AWS reserves the right (but not the obligation) to remove or edit such content, but does not regularly review posted content.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

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Censored but not Silenced: Part 5/5

Disclaimer: Before I conclude this series, I want to make it clear that I support the existence of Israel and its right to defend itself with America’s help, but I do not believe in the neoconservative political agenda of nation building by exporting democracy using America’s troops, bullets and bombs.

But—at the same time—I do not think it is a good idea to allow Iran to develop the bomb. If Iran wasn’t using its nuclear program, as it claims—to build nuclear bombs—why not follow China’s example and build thorium reactors that do not need weapons grade plutonium to generate electricity, but that is another topic. If you are interested, I recommend reading China blazes trail for ‘clean’ nuclear power from thorium.

Does that mean I support America going to war against Iran? Yes, but not to build a democracy but to make sure Iran never has a nuclear weapon. There are too many of these bombs already. Instead of building more, we should be dismantling them, because a conventional war isn’t as total as nuclear war.

Keep in mind that today’s nuclear weapons are much more devastating than what was dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. If you have no concept of that horror, I refer you to this site where there is an info-graphic that will show you. Click on Ingeniously Charting The Horrifying Power of Today’s Nuclear Bombs.

In addition, there are 17,300 of these modern nuclear weapons stockpiled by nine countries: Russia has 8,500; the United States 7,700; France 300; China 240; United Kingdom 225; Pakistan 90 – 110; India 80 – 100; Israel 60 – 80, and North Korea has less than 10.  Source: Ploughshares.org: World Nuclear Stockpile Report

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Censored but not Silenced continued:

Neoconservatism is a branch of American conservatism that advocates assertive promotion of democracy, and American national interest in international affairs including by military means.  Neoconservatives also believe it is okay to lie to the public to achieve their political agendas—and I think that lies and any form of censorship go hand in hand.

To follow this reasoning further, Rupert Murdock, a billionaire and a known neoconservative has “hired Jews as his closest advisers. His support for Israel has been absolute. Arguably, it is his support for Israel, and for neoconism in general (for many years, he owned and funded the losses of the Weekly Standard), that helped solidify rightwing support for Israel.” Source: The Guardian.co.uk

Is it possible that Murdock—and/or other wealthy neoconservatives—are supplying the money supporting the IMED where Julie Lenarz is a fellow?

Before answering that question, you may want to read a post by Andrés Perez-Alonso, Neoconservatism, the Israeli Lobby, and other Power Relations, on a Website/Blog that has 1,536 linked sites compared to the 38 linked to Julie’s Think Tank.

Andrés says, “The historical neoconservative commitment to Israel has been so pronounced that even traditional conservatives like Russell Kirk have charged them with mistaking ‘Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States’.”

This—of course—brings me to the fourth group with another alleged political agenda that might have done almost anything for an American war in Iraq and then later in Iran. This political agenda is based on an old proverb that is both ironically Arabic in addition to being Chinese. It is a foreign policy doctrine commonly used to interact with a significant enemy through an intermediary rather than through direct confrontation.

The proverb says: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

What better way to defend the survival of Israel than to have the only super power on the earth wage wars in the Middle East against your enemies while manipulating the flames of conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites in addition to working behind the scenes to encourage an Arab Spring that has led to clashes between Islamic factions and/or rebellions and civil wars in Muslim countries like those in Libya, Syria, and Egypt. I would not be surprised if a political faction in Israel was behind the Lebanese Civil War that raged for fifteen years. An Islamic Middle East at war with each other and/or at war with America is not focused on the destruction of Israel. Instead of “Blood for Oil”, this is”American Blood for Israel’s survival”.

Return to Censored but not Silenced: Part 4 or start with Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 3/5

The “Blood for Oil” theory that some claim was the main reason for the Iraq War was not the only reason behind the war, and I pointed this out to Ms. Lenarz in the allegedly censored comment.

There are at least two other major factors—and maybe three—that have nothing to do with oil.

First, President G. W. Bush’s White House was dominated by neoconservatives who had (and still have) an agenda to export American style democracy by using the U.S. military—better known as building democracies using America’s troops, bullets and bombs to force countries/cultures to become democracies.

A post written by Jacob Heilbrunn and published by The National Interest says, “It seems, in other words, that neocons in the administration (of G. W. Bush) were arguing that what the CIA was warning about was a bunch of hooey. They had their own pet cause—nailing Saddam Hussein, creating a democracy in Iraq …”

Second, on Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Source: NPR.org

And today, the military-industrial complex in the United States is a growth industry that depends on war to thrive and continue to make profits. In the allegedly censored comment, I pointed out to Ms. Lenarz that the United States Defense budget is the largest in the world. Without war, there is no excuse for this huge expense. Total global defense spending is $1.738 Trillion and America’s share of that is $711 Billion or almost 41% of the global total.

In addition, I wrote that the private sector weapons industry in the United States is the largest in the world.  This sector sells weapons to other countries and/or political organization—including brutal dictators—and controls 41% of the global market.  Second place goes to China with 8.2% of the weapons market, and Russia is in third place with 4.1% of sales. The United Kingdom, France and Germany combined have 10% of the global weapons market.

Therefore, I pointed out to Ms. Lenarz, there are three different private sector/political organizations that may have lobbied for a war in Iraq:

1. The oil industry

2. neoconservatives (with many working in the G.W. Bush White House) wanting to build democracies with America’s troops, bullets and bombs

3. the weapons industry

In the next post, I want to focus on the The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy.

Continued on March 6, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 4 or return to Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 2/5

What is it that I allege was censored by Julie Lenarz?

The comment I’m talking about was a response that Ms. Lenarz made to a comment made by pabilos30 who said (February 21, 2013 at 7:35 am) : “Are you blind, the only (main) reason the US went into Iraq in the first place was to get leverage on the most valuable energy resource on this planet – Crude Oil. Sure Halliburton who CEO from 1995 – 2001 was none other than Dick Cheney. Halliburton oil services are now the main facilitator of Iraqi crude, of the 2.9 mbl/d total production over 70% of this is now exported to the US….. Now tell me the Bush didn’t go in for the oil!!!”

Julie replied to pabilos30 (February 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm): “Drop the ad hominem and people might start taking you seriously. Also, the “blood for oil” conspiracy is dead. http://instmed.org/2013/01/06/iraq-the-blood-for-oil-conspiracy-is-dead-2/

My allegedly censored comment pointed out that pabilos30 did not use an “ad hominem” when he or she said “Are you blind”. My thinking is that “Are you blind” is a question/interrogative and not a logical fallacy/ad hominem, a personal attack on Ms. Lenarz.

In fact, I do disagree with some of pabilos30’s claims. After all, I don’t think Ms. Lenarz is blind. I just think she is wrong. If I were to say, “You are so wrong”, before I offered my evidence, would she accuse me of an ad hominem attack?

I then suggested that Ms. Lenarz did not understand what a logical fallacy was and referred her to three books and a Website to learn.

  • The Structure of Argument by Rottenberg
  • Informal Logic by Walton
  • A Concise Introduction to Logic by Hurley
  • Professor Kevin deLaplante’s Critical Thinker Academy

Second, I focused on Ms. Lenarz’s “blood for oil” conspiracy is dead defense and pointed out that the support she offered for this claim was written by her and posted on the Website/Blog of the The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy where she is a fellow.

Lenarz’s argument in that IMED post was that “invading Iraq was an extremely expensive undertaking for the US-led coalition with no guarantee or prospect of considerable profitability.”

I pointed out that the cost of the Iraq War was not paid for by any oil companies. I said that there is no tax in the United States to fund its wars. Wars are fought with mostly borrowed money that ends up growing the National Debt and that debt—if it is ever paid off—will be paid off by U.S. tax payers and not by oil companies.

And the American government is not in the business of making a profit, but oil companies are, and the oil reserves in Iraq are a known commodity. It isn’t a question of if they are there but that they are there proving that the Iraq War–that U.S. tax payers will eventually pay for–will benefit oil companies in the long run.

After all, oil reserves in Iraq may be the largest in the world according to recent geological surveys and seismic data. The Iraqi government has stated that new exploration showed Iraq has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, with more than 350 billion barrels. Officially confirmed reserves rank Iraq as third largest in the world at approximately 143 billion barrels. Henry Thompson at Aubrn.edu says “Selling this oil at an average profit of $75 per barrel for the next 100 years will generate $15,000 trillion income.”

And the Iraq War Cost the United States about one trillion dollars. There is a HUGE difference between one trillion and $15,000 trillion.

Continued on March 5, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 1/5

I think I have been a victim of censorship. Am I wrong?

As much as we may claim to value the freedom to express our opinions, censorship in Western democracies does exist in one form or another. For example, it exists in the private/corporate sector; it exists in the public schools, and it exists among citizens who host Websites and Blogs, etc.

Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 ranked Finland as number one for freedom of expression compared to 179 countries.

The United States, billed by many of its citizens as the land-of-the-free and a country that prides its freedom of expression while criticizing other countries such as China, is ranked 47th, and the U.S. has more people in prison than any country on the planet. In some parts of the United States, you can actually go to prison for life if you only steal a piece of candy or swipe a slice of pizza.

Reporters Without Borders says, “The United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.”

In fact, there is a long history of censorship in the United States. For one example of several, Civil Liberties says that in 1798, President John Adams made it illegal to criticize a government official without backing up one’s criticisms in court. Twenty-five people were arrested under that law.

Civil Liberties says, “The right to free speech is a longstanding U.S. tradition, but actually respecting the right to free speech is not.”

“A recent report from Google indicates that even western democracies have been trying to censor politically conflicting websites. Countries like Spain, Poland and even Canada have all submitted requests for the removal of content from the search engine.” Source: Business Insider

Back to the comment where I alleged that I was censored on another Blog that has a link to a nonprofit political organization with an alleged hidden political agenda.

I can only guess that I may have been allegedly censored because my position on the issue being discussed was stronger than the host’s opinion. Julie Lenarz, the host, specializes in Foreign and Security Policy and holds a BA in European Politics and an MA in Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics.

She is also an adviser on Foreign and Security Policy, a fellow at The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy and current affairs blogger.

The Commentator.com says: “Julia Lenarz is author of the popular blog, Julie’s Think Tank.”

Of course, the claim that Julie’s Think Tank is a popular Blog is questionable, because its Alexa rank was almost 5.5 million with only 38 sites linked in (on February 22, 2013).  There was no data for traffic rank in the UK or US.

But what is popular to one individual may not be popular to another and everyone has a right to an opinion even if he or she may be wrong.

This we do know—there is big benefit to censor the opposition, because then you control the conversation and may advance your own political agenda.

In the post in question on Julie’s Think Tank, Lenarz’s position on the Iraq War was clear: She supported the war in the beginning and still feels it was moral and just to oust Saddam and his brutal regime. I left several comments for this post, and then wrote about this issue in a three-part series on one of my Blogs in a post titled The Noble Nightmare.

Before I share my reasons why I think Lenarz allegedly censored one of my comments, I want to focus on what it means to be a fellow in a political, nonprofit organization.

A fellow can be a participant in a professional development program run by a nonprofit. This type of fellowship is usually a short-term work opportunity (1–2 years) for professionals who already possess some level of academic or professional expertise that will serve the nonprofit’s mission. Fellows are often given a stipend as well as professional experience and leadership training.

A key phrase to remember from that description is: “that will serve the nonprofit’s mission”, and after some research, I now question what the real mission is for the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, but more on that later.

Continued on March 4, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.