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Do we need U.N. speech police?

Posted By Joseph Farah On 12/09/1997 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Two months ago, United Nations “peacekeepers” in Bosnia stormed and shut down a radio station run by pro-Serbian forces.

The NATO forces, which we must all remember are under the command of the U.N., not the United States, boasted about what a great move this was. They had stopped “hate radio.” I wondered at the time how such action could be justified. We live in a country that recognizes the rights to free speech and freedom of the press as inalienable, God-given, constitutionally protected. How could the United States rationalize participating in such an operation? After all, we haven’t declared war on Serbia. U.N. peacekeepers are supposed to keep peace, not take sides in a bloody political and religious dispute that goes back 700 years.

I had a feeling then that we hadn’t heard the last of this “noble” idea. And now the big plan becomes evident in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, the influential journal of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Writing in the current issue, Jamie M. Metzl, a former U.N. human rights officer, throws out the idea that it’s time for his old employer to create a special “jam squad” or “independent information intervention unit” that could be dispatched to crisis points around the world carrying equipment to block “harmful” radio and TV broadcasts.

The goal would be “countering dangerous messages that incite people to violence,” Metzl explains. As usual, with such freedom-chilling proposals, this one is dressed up in the most reasonable-sounding arguments and scenarios. Metzl, for instance, suggests such action might have prevented the genocidal horrors in Rwanda in 1994. That country’s main radio station, controlled by the Hutu tribe, broadcast calls for extermination of the rival Tutsis.

“Take your spears, clubs, guns, swords, stones, everything, sharpen them, jack them, those enemies, those cockroaches,” the station urged listeners. The broadcasts even targeted specific enemies to be hunted down. Later, some 500,000 unarmed Tutsi civilians and others were, indeed, massacred. Metzl also argues that sending in a communications jam team is less costly and dangerous than sending in troops to protect the peace.

Metzl’s idea, therefore, is being taken seriously in many quarters — including some which are not generally considered open to globalist speech-Nazi agendas.

“I think it’s a worthy idea,” says Rep. Edward R. Royce, a conservative Republican from Orange County, Calif. “I’m sure we would try to go out and jam if those circumstances came up again.”

But is this an American idea? Hardly. Metzl and his friends at the U.N. know it and have a response prepared.

“During the Cold War, when the United States faced a Soviet adversary intent on jamming the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe…, it made sense for the United States to promote an absolute standard for the free flow of information,” he explains. “Now, a more nuanced view should be possible.”

Talk about moral relativism! Do we believe in the free flow of information or not? Do we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Or are these just platitudes to be employed when they’re politically convenient? If we don’t believe in these ideals as moral absolutes, then we have no business, and certainly no moral authority, policing the affairs of other people and other nations.

What’s wrong with the strategy that worked so effectively during the Cold War — namely, providing an alternative voice to hate and lies?

In America, I would like to remind the bureaucrats at the U.N., we believe you punish people for criminal acts. We don’t criminalize speech. That’s exactly what the U.N. proposes to do and, in fact, has already done in Bosnia.

Do you trust the U.N. to be the arbiter of what constitutes hate speech? Do you trust even the American government to do it? Let’s remember that only a few days ago the White House was labeling all those talk-show hosts critical of its shameful policy in selling Arlington cemetery plots of inciting hate.

It’s bad enough — and certainly un-Constitutional — that Americans are being forced to serve as cops of the world. Is it possible we’re now about to be cajoled into serving as international censors?


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