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Hoover Fellow Larry Diamond keeps track of the progress of democracy around the world. In "The Global Prospect" ( Hoover Digest. Autumn 1999), he draws on a report by Freedom House, which describes 53 states as "not free." Of these, 49 have one or more of three characteristics, the first being "A majority Muslim population and often strong Islamic fundamentalist pressures." In a chart showing "freedom scores," no Islamic state appears in the top half. Saudi Arabia is the very last (Cuba, Iraq and North Korea having the same score). Australia and the United States are first.
We should not therefore be smug. "Free speech" may not be far removed from the big lie. Our political system encourages politicians to make speeches in which they distort the facts to discredit their rivals and then use their funds to spread this distortion. Hence the importance of money, which in a strange travesty has been declared by the Supreme Court the equivalent of free speech.
The mantra "free speech" must be replaced with ™responsible speech," which excludes misrepresentation. The age of freedom is ending, the age if responsibility is beginning.
Ronald Hilton - 10/28/99