“Shouting Fire” Documentary

The documentary “Shouting Fire” begins with Martin Garbus, an attorney stating “Congress should make no law abridging Freedom of Speech or of the press or the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition government for redress of grievances, which is the First Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights). Before September 11th, 20% of people thought that the First Amendment went too far. In addition, after the September 11 attacks, 50% of people believed that the First Amendment went too far. During times when our safety is threatened, people of course generate fear. When fear is created, civil liberties are attacked. Not only that, but when unpopular topics are mentioned, fear is also created, which leads to opposition. However, although I believe that everyone should have Freedom of Speech, at the same time words could be very hurtful. Yes, the saying says “stick and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you”. But people, especially now in the modern days, can do and say very offensive stuff and actions certainly do speak louder than words. Since if everything every individual said would be illegal because it was deemed “offensive”, we would be like robots or puppets. So what could be the perfect solution for all these conflicts?

The documentary then continues to  talk about McCarthyism, which is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty without proper evidence. During those times of McCarthyism and even now, as soon as someone went  against the “norms” of society by exposing the government or its corruption and expressing their thoughts, they were automatically punished somehow and thought to be immoral. An example of this is when hundreds of teachers’ licenses were revoked because they exposed things about communism. Nothing bad was said, but that is a perfect example of freedom of speech being abridged. More specifically, an example is the case of Professor Churchill in the University of Colorado back in 2005. Churchill was under investigation because he expressed his idea on the motives behind the terrorists of September 11th. He said that all of the major television news networks were saying that “9/11 was a senseless act” “how did they know?”. Exactly. Those news networks were just being gatekeepers, but in a negative way. A government official also so “he blamed the 9/11 victims”. Did he? In the trial for Churchill many students attended. As soon as a student attempted to speak out by saying “let the students speak”, a guard approached him to try and silence him. The student responded with “This is McCarthyism at its finest”. Just because Churchill did not censor his curriculum and said exactly what was on his mind, he was under “attack”. His civil liberties, as well were under attack. Churchill was not the only one, there were thousands of other professors on “the list” of “bad” professors. At the end, Churchill was guilty of misrepresentation, fabrication, plagiarism, and failing to comply with established standards of research. Just like the documentary mentioned, Churchill himself was not being punished, but his speech and civil liberties were.
Debbie Almontaser came to America thinking it was like sugar, that everything great will occur. Debbie was a teacher and in the year of 2005 started the Khalil Gibran International Academy. The response, all the families of 9/11 victims were opposed to the new school opening and thought it should be closed. They feared an Arab school being opened up as they thought it would teach the tots how to be terrorists. Not only that, but the school was though to be an anti-American/pro-terrorist school just because it was an Arab school. Was it a religious school? No. I found that so ridiculous. Although Almontaser is Muslim, does not automatically mean that she is a terrorist. It is true, that majority of the terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks were Muslim, but that does not mean that every single Muslim on the planet earth is a terrorist, but unfortunately that is the stereotype they all have to deal with after 9/11. David Horowitz stated “they want to start a radical Mandrassa (school in Arab)”. When he was asked how he knew it was a Mandrassa, he paused for a minute and then answered “Well, we know who Debbie is and the people who are behind it”. Okay? Muslims are behind building the school but does that mean all of them have terrorist intentions? NO! Debbie Almontaser was always questioned if she thought the September 11th attacks really happened. Her response was that she begins to talk about her son who was activated into the army on September 11th, of course she thinks they happened. So..what? People think that her whole life is a cover up for her “terrorist” life? After many accusations and much stress, Debbie Almontaser was literally pushed so far to the limit that she had to quit her position as Principal of the Khalil Gibran school.

The documentary then continues with a couple of other instances of where freedom of speech was abridged. Another thing, The Patriot Act. It was a response to the September 11th attacks. Just like a protester said in the movie “The Patriot Act is illegal, unconstitutional, and treasonous”. Basically, the act gives the government permission to get people’s private information. Not only is that against our civil freedoms, but as well as a huge invasion of privacy. It was signed by George Bush but then later a four year extension was signed by Obama. Overall, I think the solution to this problem could be very difficult to come up with. As I mentioned before, if our Freedom of Speech is taken away, we will be like sock puppets. In addition, if speech that is “offensive” becomes illegal, then the government might as well make talking in general illegal. That is because everyone is different, so everyone can find at least one thing offensive. Although I do not have a lot of knowledge on majority of these topics and events, probably because I was eleven years old at the time they occurred, I agree that everyone should have Freedom of Speech. Just like talked about in class, does burning a flag go against Freedom of Speech? In my opinion, no because it just depends on your motives and intentions behind it. I honestly, would have to say I do not know where I stand in this situation. They are both pros and cons of Freedom of Speech, but “If we do not fight for it, it will be taken away”.





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