12 June 2008

Naughty words

Maclean's Magazine is in trouble in a British Columbia tribunal for publishing a book excerpt accused of inciting hatred against Muslims. The case came up in an interesting New York Times article about different understandings of free speech and its boundaries in different democracies.

The founders of the English-language Moscow-based The eXile exulted over the lack of American-style libel laws in Russia when they began their journalistic roller-coaster ride eleven years ago, but now find themselves in far more trouble than Maclean's. And as Sean Guillory points out, people seem to have very mixed feelings about The eXile's apparent demise: its constant stream of gonzo gossip and purely gratuitous offensiveness mixed with interesting political insights (some of which were actually delivered with less than the publication's normal minimum of scatological references) just hasn't inspired huge outcries from defenders of free speech everywhere.

The Times article points out that different societies balance the value of free speech and the value of intercommunal comity in different ways, with the USA being at the free-speech-first end of the spectrum. What's ironic to me is that in some of those other countries, mainstream political discourse often has far more wicked satire than the relatively tame American fare. Context is everything.

I'd write more, and look up links to examples, but I'm sitting on stairs in our empty house, in our last hours here before we begin our weekend in Eugene OR and then our journey to New England in advance of relocating to Russia. Most of our possessions are in a barn, under an orange tarp--all except our most important possessions, our relationships.

Count the unchallenged assumptions.

Snooky Pryor serves today's dessert. (Get it while it's fresh; I can't keep up with the disappearing clips.) (Ana Popovic's version of this song here.)


Robin M. said...

May God hold you in the palm of his hand, as you both travel so far. Thank you again for your gracious hospitality.

Johan Maurer said...

Thank you for making time to visit us (that is, Reedwood's family evening, complete with inflatable planetarium). And thanks for your prayer.