Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chomsky Publisher Charged in Turkey.

A work appearing under the title Fallen: Confessions of a Disbarred Lawyer by "Anonymous," is not written by me. "Confessions"? How does "Anonymous" manage to "confess" anything? However, I like the title. Regrettably, I have not been involved in multiple marriages. I have never had and do not now have a number of "younger" -- or even older -- mistresses (although it is a pleasant thought to wonder what that is like!), nor have I ever been charged with any crimes, like "theft," torture and the cover-up of torture. I have never been indicted. I leave "theft" to experts, say, in New Jersey's legal and political circles. See "Cement is Gold," "Same Old, Same Old," and "Da Jersey Code," at Philosopher's Quest. (ISBN No. # listed for this "alleged" book is: 1-4116-005-x on 7-10-2006.) I am not a Communist. I am also not a Mets fan. I am against smoking in public places. I am "for" motherhood and apple pie. Anything I write for publication will not be anonymous. Anonymity is the refuge of cowards and scoundrels, not to mention persons who favor smoking in public places. In other words, New Jersey legal officials and politicians. There is much more to come, so stay tuned to this channel.

"Fatih Tas, the [brave] Turkish publisher of a book by the American intellectual [and revolutionary] Noam Chomsky, said yesterday that he [Mr. Tas] and two of his colleagues were facing prison sentences as long as six years on charges of 'denigrating national identity' and 'inciting hatred,' Agence France-Press reported. Mr. Tas, owner of the Aram Publishing House, said that he and his colleagues Omer Faruk Kurhan and Taylan Tosun had been charged over the book 'Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,' written by Mr. Chomsky, and Edward S. Herman, which argues [-- not very shockingly to me --] that corporate and government pressures distort news coverage." The New York Times, July5, 2006, at p. E2.

You don't say. So news coverage in the corporate media is distorted? Wow.

No government may, legitimately, limit a person's right to speak freely or to insist on recognition of his or her freedoms. Any government that does so commits a grave fault against that individual. This is true of ANY government in relation to the speech of ALL persons, regardless of the disparity in power or resources between that government and the "lonely individual" shouting his or her protest.

Philosophy is, among other things, a source of resistance and power; hence, philosophy is also a locus of struggle for many otherwise powerless people, like me, against states and corporations or "factions," whose rationalizations and rhetoric diminish or vanish under philosophical surgery, just as a tumor may be excised by an adroit physician. Totalitarianism will always lose any fair argument.

Organized crime will be defeated, in the end, by law enforcement in every society. This defeat will happen for this one reason above all others: because criminals cannot prevail in any fair argument. Not surprisingly, totalitarians dislike fair arguments or debates. They prefer force and concealment in darkness, the dagger in the back is usually an ideal method for would-be dictators enforcing the peace -- except that they enforce the "peace" of the grave. In the end, those who live by the sword in America tend to get indicted.

I am aware of the philosophical difficulties in what I have said so far: 1) Aren't "rights" a Western concept? 2) Isn't philosophy "neutral," like science? 3) Doesn't all of this tacitly rely on a form of individualism which must be overcome before real progress can be made? 4) What do you mean by "power" and isn't it true that you must have some power even to raise this issue? 5) Aren't free speech rights connected to educational and other economic development issues that alone make such rights truly meaningful? 6) Speech only becomes a concern after people have eaten a full meal, right?

I cannot address all of these questions in a single Internet post, so I hope to touch on the motivating concerns for each question in what I do have time and space to say.

In a setting subjected to every kind of harassment, where image-posting has been blocked and efforts at intrusion together with other forms of harassment are a daily feature of my writing experience, the struggle against censorship by government officials (or unofficial criminal hirelings) is particularly important. We must never take our rights for granted. I will not be intimidated nor will I hesitate to express my opinions, regardless of who happens to find those opinions annoying.

I find myself in the situation of a man painting a canvas as he is beaten with sticks by masked persons all around him, whose primary concern is the beauty and truth of his work because it is the most cherished part of himself that he gives to others, especially a few important others. Each human being on the planet has the same or equal right to speak freely that I have. The idea of a "right" may be Western in origin, but it has become universal in scope, as evidenced by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNUDHR).

Article 18 of that document provides: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion ..."

Article 19 states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression[.]"

Turkey, like the U.S., has accepted this Universal Declaration. Turkey is now seeking admission to the European Community (EC). This is an opportunity for Turkey to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by abolishing censorship laws and apologizing to Mr. Tas.

I urge Turkish authorities to terminate any legal proceedings or other harassment, official or unofficial, against Mr. Tas. It is time to end the torture, censorship and jailing of dissidents in all countries. I hope you will join me in this request, thus proving that "lonely" individual rights-bearers need not be so lonely. Individualism can lead to the willing and freely chosen communities of members of the human family, whatever their ethnic and other differences. People who like slogans should note: "Freedom is only enhanced when it is shared."

My freedom demands that I fight for your freedom. This idea is at the heart of American Constitutionalism. No, this has nothing to do with "invading" Iraq, since you must choose to be free, something that most of us -- including our friends among Turkish publishers -- will not be able to avoid. Humanity implies a yearning for freedom, as Mr. Hussein's murdered opponents and Iraqui dissidents might attest, if they were still here. Many of them did so and in writing, even at the cost of their lives. Many have done the same in Cuba and in the United States of America, as I am doing now.

All peaceful dissidents, anywhere, have my support to speak and advocate freely, especially in opposition to power. There are political prisoners or prisoners of conscience in every nation, including (allegedly) within the United States. I am on their side. It should be noted, however, that Mr. Chomsky has not (yet) been jailed in America. Others have been, allegedly, so that the struggle for our Constitutional rights takes place daily and it is always unfinished. (You can help by joining in the effort to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.)

The idea that human dignity requires this deference to zones of moral entitlement on the part of States, while acknowledging the crucial role of education (also a right) in making expression meaningful, is older than the Elightenment and older than the great documents of modernity's "bourgeois revolutions" in the Western world.

This idea that humanity is universally entitled to morally and ontologically privileged status existed even in antiquity alongside loathsome institutions, like slavery, and was vital in opposing such institutions. The ontological uniqueness of persons is a concept that is part of all three of the great religions of the West. It may also be found, in different form, within the spiritual traditions of Asia. See Elaine Pagels discussion of Augustine's political theory in Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, pp. 117-120, then compare Houston Smith, The Religions of Man, pp. 350-357.

You cannot remove the spiritual history of humanity from our universal quest for freedom and justice.

Free speech is "only meaningful after people have eaten," you say, but what allows us to recognize the equal entitlement to be fed of each person is precisely this spiritual and philosophical insight concerning human dignity. Science is one result of the insight that each of us can find out for ourselves how things are, not on the basis of authority, but by looking and thinking FREELY. Science and individualism are aligned.

Free inquiry and thought, as a value, are not unrelated to individualism or the concept of rights. In fact, they are connected to modernity's celebration of that Kierkegaardian "individual," entitled not only to be fed and educated, but to tell us what he or she thinks of us afterwards. Whatever happened to gratitude?

As for philosophy's neutrality, it is like that of science: the product of a number of pre-existing commitments, both epistemological and ethical or political, involving notions like this very concept of individualism, but also the epistemological commitment to truth inherent in the practice of dialectics. Apel's Kantian writings on the "entailments" (you should forgive the expression) of the philosophical "enterprise" come to mind.

We always begin philosophizing or doing science -- or painting, worshipping, or anything else -- from some place, within a history and tradition, including a language. Hence, absolute neutrality may not be possible in either inquiry, but (as in ethical reasoning) objectivity and truth are achievable. We must believe in both, as ideals at least, otherwise the philosophical enterprise becomes a form of stamp collecting.

Dr. King never doubted that the ultimate result of his efforts would be success (freedom) for his people (and that's all of us), whatever his personal fate might be. I am sure that, whatever happens to me, the New Jersey mob's infiltration of politics and the corruption of legal ethics in that state will be ended.

This achievement of ethical or political truth (like the truth that we are entitled to struggle for truth) is also a kind of power not to be underestimated. This fear of a Howard Zinn-like "people's power" may explain why Turkish authorities are concerned about Mr. Tas publishing books by Chomsky. After all, Gore Vidal or James Baldwin (who visited Turkey) may be next. After that, who knows? William F. Buckley, Jr.? Maybe power's fear of honest argument has something to do with my own troubles in writing these essays. Censors always fear reason and truth. They should. Publishing anonymous Internet smears about me will not change this reality or allow you to avoid your fate.

On behalf of intellectual "trouble-makers" and "marginal men and women" everywhere, I urge the Turkish government to abolish all laws that curtail free speech, to do away with the death penalty today, so that Turkey may be welcomed into the EC, thus becoming an example for others in the global community.

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