Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jordan and free speech in the New York Times

Comrade Joseph Massad wrote this response (I cite with his permission): "This article by Hiber’s Lina Ujaylat is true to the liberal commitments of her organization. What is frustrating, however, is the offensive appeal to an American imperial and liberal audience about the question of free speech without bringing in similar limitations in the US. Had she published the article in Arabic in Jordan, that would have been fine, but choosing to publish it in the NYT places an ethical responsibility on ‘Ujaylat, which she did not shoulder.  Anyone who is familiar with free speech issues in the United States knows the limitations on so-called “Hate Speech” in US juridical practice and on opinions that call for the violent overthrow of governments or support for terrorism. In addition, the idea that all views are allowed in the New York Times itself where self-censorship on questions related to “defense” or “national security” is routine, let alone views that are always banned from national newspapers, especially as pertains to Israel, is naive at best.  Had Lina coupled the limitations in the US, both legal and extra-legal, with her important, though by no means original criticisms, of Jordanian government and legal practice, she would have been more convincing in situating Jordan with the US and other liberal countries in limiting free speech —after all, the difference in practice between liberal and conservative dictatorial countries on speech is a difference of degree not of kind— and would have made an ethical intervention rather than a naive and West-worshiping appeal to white imperialist liberals (of course, had she compared Jordan to Israel on the questions of limitations on free speech, as she knows well, the NYT would not have published her piece at all). "