Letter: ‘Killings everywhere were met with such outrage …’

Mock softly, and carry a big schtick

Two recent events in context:

  1. North Korea was divided from South Korea by a United States assault that killed well over a million in that tiny country which, ever since, has been subjected to crushing embargoes and uninterrupted menacing by the U.S. Consistent with the U.S.-North Korea policy of regime change, the U.S. State Department collaborated in the making of Sony’s The Interview, encouraging the filmmakers to include in the plot the assassination of the North Korean president. North Korea threatened “a merciless counter-measure” if the film were released.
  2. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa millions have been killed, maimed, displaced, had their countries demolished repeatedly, and because of a long history of U.S. and French military aggression, which continues. Immigrants from the region make up a small minority population in France subject to discrimination, poverty and unemployment out of all proportion with the rest of society. Out of that population apparently came the shooters who killed the victims who worked at the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, a magazine which published cartoons that mocked that population or its religion, much as if a U.S. magazine here had mocked people of color because of their ethnicity or religion.

Many have urged us to take a special interest in the release of The Interview and the killings of the staff at Charlie, because these matters are said to concern freedom of expression. But freedom of expression under our First Amendment is the right to be free from one’s own government’s silencing of one’s expression. Neither the killings in France nor the events surrounding The Interview tell of government censorship, or inaction in the face of private attempts to suppress speech. Indeed the right to provoke with cartoons or to propagandize on behalf of one’s own government’s belligerent foreign policy remains intact in both France and the U.S., where each government has acted quite vigorously on behalf of Charlie and Sony. France has flooded the streets of the country with an unprecedented number of police (after killing the suspected shooters), and the U.S. has imposed new sanctions against North Korea and officially encouraged release of The Interview.

Killings everywhere were met with such outrage, marches and instant government action as these in France. The threatening words and deeds of the great and powerful nations were punished as swiftly as those of the small and weak.

Roger Stoll, San Rafael

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