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UNAM: Democracy and Mobocracy



     Many regard with dismay the abuse of free speech. John Wonder writes:
     "I wish more people could clearly see that free speech means rational discourse and advocacy. It seems to me that wild street demonstrations are acts, not speech. Even more so the burning of the flag; it is an act--and it could mean anything. How can one talk of free speech, when it is not clear what is being said? If you say you can guess, this is mind reading and thought control. I fail to see how the Supreme Court could have been so far off base. Speech is speech and acts are acts; if you say free speech is "expression", what is to prevent people from fornicating in the streets and claim they are conveying a message?"
     This brings us back to UNAM. The poll conducted by Televisa showing that the strikers have very little support enraged them. For an hour they held and beat up an attractive young woman who had been sent by Televisa to UNAM to cover a meeting of the conciliation committee. She was unable to do so. They conducted phony polls and tried to distort the Televisa poll by calling over a hundred times from the same phone. The system ensured that only the first vote was counted. The Televisa anchorman said he would not be intimidated and vowed the continue taking the poll.
     The situation was complicated by the fact that the city government was tacitly encouraging the strikers and found excuses not to make its police available. The message called for the "policía federal preventiva" to "resguardar" the university buildings. This is a branch of the federal police whose job is to keep the peace, not to put down disturbances. It was clearly unhappy at having been called on to do the job, which really called for anti-riot police.
     Words had to be chosen vary carefully. The question did not use the word "protect" but "resguardar", a slightly different word meaning to prevent illegal entry. "Protect" suggests using all possible force.
     For more on similar demonstrations, see the posting "Globalization. Rational discourse and irrational behavior."

Ronald Hilton - 4/19/00


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