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  • eacaraxe 2:40 am on September 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ACLU, , free speech, , Jewish, Nazis   

    Bob Chipman (@the_moviebob) and free speech 

    I saw this series of tweets, which I’ll block quote, and had to say something (emphasis mine).

    Picking your battles is tremendously important. “Free Speech” is devalued as something to fight for when too many people claim it. [sic] when they’re really just “fighting” to abuse people without consequence. That’s dangerous. As a result, there’s a perception that “the left” doesn’t fight for speech, when the reality is that it DID – and largely won. Speech, particularly in the U.S., is freer today than its ever been. And that’s the “problem” – when everyone can speak, no one voice can shout all others down. And the people who used to have that power call any pushback “oppression.”

    Bob, let me tell you a little story.

    In 1977, the leader of the National Socialist Party of America announced plans to march through the town (well, suburb) of Skokie, Illinois. Skokie, at the time, was a majority Jewish community (approximately 40,000 of the town’s population of 70,000 were Jews), and one out of every six residents in the town were Holocaust survivors. As you can imagine, such an announcement was just a little controversial.

    So, the town sprung into action, decreeing the NSPA post $350,000 liability insurance (a purely punitive amount) before obtaining a permit, and banning the exhibition of Nazi imagery, with the argument free speech protections were outweighed by potential violence and danger to life and health. All of which to stop the Nazis from marching in Skokie.

    The Nazis appealed. It actually went straight up to the Supreme Court, who eventually ruled in their favor, allowing the Nazis to march in Skokie and overturning punitive action by the municipal government. In the end, only about twenty Nazis actually showed up, loitered by ten minutes surrounded by counter-protesters, and left. As a movie buff, you should know the story well:

    But, the outcome isn’t the interesting part of this story. It’s how we got to the outcome that’s the interesting part. See, the American Civil Liberties Union — an organization of which I was a proud member for six years, until withdrawing my support in 2009 — took the case. And, they took the case at the urging of an attorney by the name of Burton Joseph. Burton Joseph was Jewish, and he came from a Jewish firm (Joseph, Lichtenstein and Levinson). So was the national director of the ACLU at the time, Aryeh Neier, who was actually born in Nazi Germany.

    The ACLU was in for a hell of a fight even before Joseph set foot in the courtroom. The ACLU drew heavy criticism from the Jewish community, in Skokie and without, up to and including the Anti-Defamation League. Even the ACLU’s own members protested; the ACLU lost membership and funding over Skokie. Yet, it persisted — and prevailed, in defending the right of one of the most-hated political organizations in global history to exercise its right to assemble and speak freely.

    The Skokie case is now regarded as the ACLU’s finest hour, and perhaps the greatest victory for the First Amendment in the 20th Century. Skokie was when “the left” fought for free speech and won, when it was as you put it, “fighting to abuse people without consequence”. And, in the wake of the Skokie case, the Holocaust Memorial Foundation was formed, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center built. As it turned out, twenty morons in jackboots posed no palpable threat whatsoever to Skokie or its residents, nor was it cause to put on jackboots of their own in response.

    I wonder if Skokie would have turned out differently today. You, Bob, definitely seem to be of the opinion here Skokie should have turned out differently.

    No, Bob, “one voice [shouting] the others down” is not the “problem” with free speech. The “problem” with free speech is when majorities shout down unpopular voices, informally (the “heckler’s veto”) or formally (legislation, executive action, or jurisprudence). It is when majorities dehumanize the speakers of unpopular voices for simply speaking. It is when majorities inflict harm, physical or emotional, real or perceived, on those speakers. It is when majorities silence by way of fear. That is oppression.

    And yes, that applies to everyone, period. Of course, free speech is neither guarantee of audience, license to speak unopposed, immunity from criticism, or consequence for engaging in particularly stupid, meaningless, or false speech. It as much my right to call you an asshole as it is your right to say or do something assholish. That’s something you damn well know, since out the other side of your mouth you use that very argument in defense of cultural criticism and cultural critics in gaming.

    That is something I damn well know, considering in 2003 I was put in cages and surrounded by armed law enforcement for speaking my mind that invading Iraq may not have been the best idea — entirely legally. I also was called a traitor, appeaser, inhuman, and worse, receiving death threats myself, online and in person. And, at times I did genuinely fear for my life and safety.

    I wasn’t at Zucotti Park, or Pioneer Courthouse Square, in 2011. Nor was I at Ferguson last year.

    So, “freer today than it’s ever been”? Fuck you, asshole.

    Those who call for censorship in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize it is never the oppressed who determine the bounds of censorship.

    • Aryeh Neier







  • eacaraxe 4:26 am on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: free speech, , , ,   

    Hollywood and gaming, part 5 

    [Just to bring everyone up to speed,

    Part 1 (“A Reply to Bob ‘Moviebob’ Chipman”)

    Part 2 (“An Open Letter to Mr. Bob ‘Moviebob’ Chipman”, tangential but added for posterity and disclosure)

    Part 3 (“Iconoclasm”)

    Part 4 (“A Response to Mr. Bob ‘Moviebob’ Chipman’s Latest Commentary”)]

    I saw this Uproxx article this morning, and found it incredibly appropriate to mention and discuss in context of previous writing on the topic and the still-ongoing GamerGate, especially with Hollywood figures continuing to weigh in on the controversy. Namely, this paragraph from the article:

    Pick up any text about the period and you’re hit with with talk of the “New Hollywood” and the collapse of the bloated studio system that bled money during the “golden years” of Hollywood. It was a time to take those risks you hear guys like Coppola and Stallone talk about. There was a search for that brand new method of success and features like Blazing Saddles could thrive there.

    I would strongly urge to read the linked articles in the Uproxx article itself — namely the Entertainment Weekly interview — as well. It is true Blazing Saddles was created and released during New Hollywood’s heyday. So was another of Mel Brooks’ classic films that proved highly controversial upon its release:

    So were the various exploitation film genres that gave filmmakers and actors of color a voice and platform to express themselves, as well as gave rise to cinema luminaries like Roger Corman whose influence on Hollywood vastly outstrips his own filmography. So was Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (New Wave cinema was not limited to the United States), a film which was censored or outright banned near-interionally and the film for which its writer and director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, was allegedly murdered by Italian fascists. Oh, and just for fun, so was this little-known, serially underrated film:

    Blazing Saddles and The Producers certainly would not have been made today. Neither would the blaxploitation films that rose individuals like Melvin van Peebles and his son, Mario, to prominence, paving the way for later directors like Spike Lee. Roger Corman would have been right out, and likely so would have the individuals under his tutelage — people like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, James Cameron (okay, maybe that one wouldn’t be such a bad thing).

    [Speaking of which, I have to wonder why not even the boldest feminist film and pop culture critics will so much as rhetorically throw shade at Corman, even taking into account his grindhouse/exploitation origins and omnipresent love for on-screen female nudity, usually if not always for the sake of audience titillation, otherwise known as “male gaze”.]

    See, on what many of these critics and current Hollywood and pop culture figures (especially those critical of GamerGate) are tellingly silent, is that while New Hollywood was a paradigm shift in filmmaking and golden age for independent cinema…it was the high-water mark for freedom of expression in American cinema, especially controversial and “politically incorrect” speech. That is thanks to auteur theory, which I discussed in my own blog posts linked above.

    Compare that to today, where a politically risk-averse Hollywood produces films “by the numbers”, always conscious of avoiding potential offense. Free expression, save a handful of filmmakers who specialize in ‘edgy’ (like, for example, Tarantino), is a thing of the past. While, paradoxically, Hollywood leaves politically correct, minority- and women-centric, films for “award season”…when did Twelve Years a Slave and Selma premiere, again?

    Why, it’s almost as if Hollywood uses women and minorities as props for inflating their own prestige, status, and “progressive” image. Meanwhile, White People Save New York City from 9/11 Because That’s the Only Place on Earth and the Only Thing that Ever Happened 2K15 23: Token Mary Sue Edition Because Feminists Will Literally Buy Anything with Straw Feminist Characters, oh and Here’s a CGI Monkey Just to Make Sure the Crotchfruit Throw Tantrums to See It and Buy Shitloads of Merchandise gets first-billed in blockbuster season and makes billions.

    [This is known as the “tentpole” model, because “White People Save NYC’ s billions in revenue are what fund the award-bait movies and arthouse wankfests over which the aforementioned critics go ga-ga. Not that they’ll ever admit it.]

    I can’t say I necessarily blame Hollywood, because at the end of the day Hollywood is a profit-driven institution and that’s where the money is. It is, still, what it is — exploitation with a feel-good veneer of progressiveness and inclusion.

    This sounds pretty shitty, right? Well, this — the feel-good veneer of progressiveness and inclusion, and damn all else — is pretty much exactly what those critics really want of video games as far as I can personally tell. It also happens to be the complete opposite of the New Hollywood to which they pay lip service, considering the ubiquitous employment of heckler’s vetoes and critical/industry pressure against “offensive”, “objectionable”, “problematic” or “politically incorrect” content (that is censorship, thank you). We didn’t get New Hollywood/New Wave without auteur theory, and auteur theory could not coalesce without free expression.

    Keep your Hays Code 2.0 ambitions to yourself, please.

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