Hugo Chavez describes his idea of free speech. The BBC reports.
"No foreigner can come here to attack us. Anyone who does must be removed from this country," he said during his weekly TV and radio programme. Mr Chavez also ordered officials to monitor statements made by international figures in Venezuela.
His comments came shortly after a senior Mexican politician publicly criticised the Venezuelan government. "How long are we going to allow a person - from any country in the world - to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Mr Chavez said during his "Hello, President" broadcast on Sunday. "It cannot be allowed - it is a question of national dignity," he said.
Blasphemy, national dignity, hate speech, fairness, cultural insensitivity. They are all invoked to justify actions which are synonyms for the un-word. Censorship. Censorship of course, is a dirty old word traditionally been associated with Fascists and the perverted monks depicted in Sergei Eisenstein's closeups. Today it travels under different colors: those of progressivism. But despite its modern garb it resembles not only the modern, but the most ancient version of censorship. New Advent relates:
As soon as there were books or writing of any kind the spreading or reading of which was highly detrimental to the public, competent authorities were obliged to take measures against them. Long before the Christian era, therefore, we find that heathens as well as Jews had fixed regulations for the suppression of dangerous books and the prevention of corruptive reading. From numerous illustrations quoted by Zaccaria (pp. 248-256) it is evident that most of the writings condemned or destroyed offended against religion and morals. Everywhere the books declared dangerous were cast into the fire--the simplest and most natural execution of censorship. When at Ephesus, in consequence of St. Paul's preaching, the heathens were converted, they raised before the eyes of the Apostle of the Gentiles a pile in order to burn their numerous superstition books (Acts 19:19). No doubt, the new Christians moved by grace and the Apostolic word did so of their own accord; but all the more was their action approved by St. Paul himself, and it is recorded as an example worthy of imitation by the author of the Acts of the Apostles. From this burning of the books at Ephesus, as well as from the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus, it clearly appears how the Apostles judged of pernicious books and how they wished them to be treated. In concert with the Apostle of the Gentiles (Tit., iii, 10). St. John most emphatically exhorted the first Christians to shun heretical teachers. To the disciples of the Apostles it was a matter of course to connect this warning not only with the persons of such teachers, but first and foremost with their doctrine and their writings. Thus, in the first Christian centuries, the so-called apocrypha above all other books appeared to the faithful as libri non recipiendi, books which were on no account to be used. The establishment of the Canon of Holy Writ was, therefore, at once an elimination and a censuring of the apocrypha.
From the earliest times the control of the narrative has been of paramount importance to nearly every human and philosophical endeavor. Maybe for a brief period in the late 20th century, popular culture in the West "forgot" how important censorship was to shaping attitudes and policies because its operation had been become so invisibly transparent. Perhaps they have learned to detect censorship again. Now the 21st century has brought it back in all its more or less explicit forms, reminding us once again that freedom is not a permanent condition, merely a period of hard won, momentary grace.