Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The tree of nuts

There's something that bothers me about the sight of an armed man talking about "watering the tree of liberty".

(I would reprint the picture here, but I can't find a copyright-free version, so you'll have follow the link if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

It's not the sight of an armed man apparently so close to the president. I'm sure the Secret Service is on top of that, and anyway, it'd do any president good to feel a little less cocooned from time to time. Nor is it the reference to blood, or the implied threat. Well, not wholly that, anyway. No, what bothers me most is the double standard.

In 2004, Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker was publicly charged with threatening the life of the president from an ocean away, with no more than an ironic joke - in a television review column. After an almighty ruckus, the Guardian was forced to not only issue an apology, but also delete the article from its website. You want to read it today? Tough.

But when a man who's actually got a gun makes a much more specific and personal threat, from within the same town as the president himself, that's free speech?

Yeah, I'm seeing how that works.

People who talk about "liberty" need watching. It's not the same as "freedom". Freedom is harmless - you're born with it, you decide every minute of every day how to exercise it, and most people manage to do so their whole lives without ever seriously endangering another human being. But "liberty" is something positive, it's a thing that has to be seized from the cold, dead hands of "tyrants". The very word is drenched in the blood of martyrs. "Freedom" is an assertion; "liberty", an accusation.

2 comments:

Project Savior said...

It's nuts like those that make me rethink me pro-gun stance.
I'm pro-gun and even pro concealed weapon, but that was because I thought most people had a milligram of common sense.
I'm thinking I might have been wrong on that assumption.

vet said...

Savior, as I see it, that's a question for you 'Murricans to sort out among yourselves, and the very best of luck to you. Doesn't bother me - if you like living in a country where every nutjob has instant access to purposely-crafted, ergonomic, efficient lethal force, then that's none of my biznay.

What bothers me is the standard that gets applied to the rest of the world, because that's me, and that is my business. When my newspapers can't print a feeble joke just because some partisans in a completely different country think it's a threat, I take exception to that.

(Same principle applies to cartoons of Mohammed. If you print one of those and a foreign government complains, you'd tell them to go boil their heads, wouldn't you? Not until the complaints start coming in from your own community should they be listened to at all.)