Friday, October 14, 2011

Trying to quiet the voices of dissent

Hank Williams, Jr. (who can't hold a candle to his father) may have gotten his panties in a wad after ESPN fired him for his comments comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler, but his loss was only monetary.

Marzieh Vafamehr is an Iranian actress who starred in the Australian film My Tehran for Sale about an actress whose work was banned by the Iranian government. Ms. Vafamehr reportedly is facing a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in a movie critical of the Iranian regime.

Mr. Williams wasn't deprived of his First Amendment rights when ESPN decided they didn't want Monday Night Football to be associated with Mr. Williams after he made his comments. ESPN is a business who has a brand to protect (don't get me started on that). Mr. Williams was paid by ESPN to do the intro.

When working for a corporate master, one must be careful what one says lest the words reflect badly on the company. Mr. Williams wasn't careful and he paid the price.

Ms. Vafamehr, on the other hand, is being punished by a government because she had the nerve to appear in a film that cast the government in a bad light. Such an outcome would be anathema to our sensibilities in this country.

Just what is the Iranian government fearful of? Are the leaders worried that someone might see the film and question what the government is doing? Are they afraid that such expressions of protest might cause others to cast a critical eye and ear to what government officials do and say?

Of course if your government claims to be carrying out God's law, dissent might become an issue. You see, faith can't tolerate dissent or critical thinking. You either believe it or you don't. You allow someone to question the tenets of a religion and the walls will begin to crumble.

Governments that continue to crack down on dissent will realize soon enough that just because you criminalize dissent, doesn't mean there is no dissent. In this day and age you can't control the voices coming into the country. The internet, blogs, Twitter, satellites and smart phones have made it impossible to squelch popular dissent.

Dissent is healthy. It's the pressure valve on a pressure cooker. When people feel they have a voice and that someone is listening they are less likely to resort to violence. The Soviet Union thought it had eliminated dissent - but its leaders were sadly mistaken. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt thought he had squelched dissent through his use of violence against his people. Wrong again.

Ms. Vafamehr's sentence is the sign of an illegitimate government. It is symbolic of a regime whose base is crumbling beneath its own feet.

But more than that, her sentence is an attack on those of us who fight for freedom here and abroad. It is a crime against our humanity.


Here's a little Hank Williams for your enjoyment:

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