Armchairing's Blog

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Freedom of Speech: How Low Can You Go?


How far should Freedom of Speech go?  The documentary, “Shouting Fire – Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” exposes this question.  Throughout the work, there are interviews of people and instances where freedom of speech is taken to that edge and beyond.  One such interview highlighted Professor Ward Churchill (not to be confused with the acclaimed statesman, literary genius and Nobel Prize winner, Sir Winston Churchill). In Churchill’s now infamous essay, “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens”, he tries to make a case as to the supposed ‘justice” in the 9/11 attacks.  He believes that the many years of unjust acts meted out under U.S. Policy before September 11th 2001 justified the terrorists acts that killed over 3,000 innocent American civilians that day.  In his interview, Churchill went on to criticize the television networks as a whole for calling the 9/11 attacks, “senseless acts” when in his words, America has been responsible for a great number of senseless acts upon innocent humans, i.e., the Wounded Knee Massacre, the violent U.S. occupation in Nicaragua etc.

   Ward Churchill is fully aware of his first amendment right and he took it to that edge, but one important factor about Churchill weighed heavily upon him.  He was a Professor of an institution of higher learning (University of Colorado at Boulder) and he taught his ideas to students; young people with impressionable minds.  During what looked like university hearings where Churchill’s future at the college was at stake, students showed up in full force, erratically ranting and raving, in defense of their professor.  Churchill was eventually fired, even after he took the matter to court. I believe that if his ideas of 9/11 simply being a case of, “…chickens coming home to roost” (or Karma upon America for past atrocities), were left to grow and cultivate in the fertile minds of students, cases of homegrown terrorism would have sprung up as a result.  There would easily be more Timothy McVeighs running around with blind hatred and revenge for an entire country and its innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the supposed practices they hate.

   Where was Ward Churchill during the Wounded Knee Massacre?  Where was he during the Battles in Nicaragua?  Where was he on September 11th 2001 when innocent people, as well as four of my relatives (including my three month old cousin) ran for their lives out of the Twin Towers, among the crowds and ash, losing their shoes, their sense of security and fellow co-workers in the mayhem?  Churchill was no where near these events which he speaks so “expertly” about.  Thus he can basically run off at the mouth without reservation. 

   One line in particular that startled me the most is when he said, “If there’s consequences, it’s not free.”  I thought that was such insanity, especially coming out of a Professor’s mouth.  He came across as a child who just got caught doing something naughty and his only defense while whining was, “But I thought I was free.”   With everything we do or say, there are consequences.  Every action causes a reaction but we are still free.  Eagles are free to fly but that doesn’t mean that they fly 24/7.  They have to take time to stop and rest or they’ll die of exhaustion.  Similarly, although we have the 1st Amendment right of Freedom of Speech, we have to couple that with discernment or we’ll just end up going over the edge.


February 15, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. Freedom of Speech does not mean forgetting our manners or being diplomatic. Some people just don’t think before they open their mouths or do they – Good Press – Bad Press – better than no press.

    Comment by Lisa J | March 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Another good post — whether I agree or not is irrelevant here. 🙂

    I like your thoughts being expressed and enjoyed your contribution to the class.

    Comment by Professor Dunphy | May 14, 2010 | Reply

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