Michael - Thursday
|EFF members in red being ejected from parliament|
I’ve been brooding about free speech. Why everyone is in favor of it, but no one really seems to like it. I suppose this was motivated by the State of the Nation address that our president – the redoubtable Jacob Zuma – presented to parliament this week. It’s an annual event that gives the president an opportunity to present highs and lows of the last year, and enunciate policy for the coming one. In the event, the speech was long on rhetoric and short on new ideas or realizable plans. Not many people actually noticed the speech because it was drowned out by protests from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the colorful Julius Malema. In advance of the speech, the parliament chamber was occupied by the army to keep order. (Yes, the army. Not the police. There’s a message there.) Julius and his followers were forcibly expelled from the chamber to join the demonstrators outside, and the official opposition – the Democratic Alliance – walked out in protest. The whole thing was good television, and did well on Facebook and Twitter.
Zuma is held in such low esteem that his address was regarded as an insult, not worth listening to. More so, he shouldn’t even be allowed to say it. In this case, the speech was freely available afterwards, and so the opposition parties could read all the details after the event in time to start objecting to them in the debate the next day. Was the speech worth hearing? Probably not. Was it appropriate that people be allowed to hear it? Despite my feelings about the president and his failings, I would argue that it was.
The press on the other hand – supposedly the bastions of free speech - face more and more regulation. Everywhere – South Africa is no exception – governments are developing more laws and rules, sometimes with harsh penalties, to prevent the press from reporting ‘certain matters’ or misreporting (in the government’s view). As the New York Times pointed out today, Trump embraced the leaks of Clinton’s emails and called for more openness in ‘the swamp’ that he intended to drain when elected, but he was horrified by the pardon of the ‘traitorous’ Chelsea Manning, and is now very negative about leaks concerning his own administration.
Perhaps free speech is only an issue when it’s not the powerful who are doing the talking? How about the case of Helen Suzman – who spent her life opposing the apartheid government here as the sole true opposition representative in parliament – being refused permission to speak at Wits University? There were reasons why this might have inflamed radical students or perhaps infringed the University’s careful impartiality in the elections, but was it not worth hearing what she had to say? Shouldn’t her liberal and consistently honest views have been heard?
|UC Berkeley demonstartion|
Recently, President Trump threatened federal funds allocated to the University of California-Berkeley in the aftermath of a riot that forced the cancellation of a speech by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos. I don’t know that gentleman from a bar of soap and I suspect I would have rejected his views and hated his speech, but I won’t know now, will I?
On the other hand, we have ‘fake news’ – even the Russians are complaining about it – where people announce events, usually on social media, that they know actually never happened. Is this also free speech? Surely not. It’s a somewhat weaker form of shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater. No one seems concerned about this, however. Much of what’s coming out of the White House these days seems to fall into this category, and readily believed.
I know that the boundaries of free speech and what it means in terms of context is a vexed subject, and it can be argued strongly from several points of view. It does seem to me, however, that for free speech to be meaningful, you have to be allowed to listen and make up your own mind.
Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events
Won the 2016 Prix Marianne for the Lagos Lady, the French translation of Easy Motion Tourist: http://www.marianne.net/leye-adenle-prix-marianneun-aller-retour-noir-2016-femme-n-est-pas-egale-homme-son-futur-100246794
Easy Motion Tourist / Lagos Lady, was number 2 on Le Monde's list of best thrillers of 2016: http://polar.blog.lemonde.fr/2016/12/26/top-20-des-romans-noirs-et-des-polars-2016/
Easy Motion Tourist featured in the Guardian's Best Recent Crime Novel Review Roundup: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/04/the-best-recent-crime-novels-review-roundup
March 7 to 16: South African Word Festival, Stellenbosch.
Strange Gods: Paperback, Felony and Mayhem, Feb 2016
Idol of Mombasa: Paperback, Felony and Mayhem, Oct 2016
Sunshine Noir: Editor, White Sun Press, Oct 2016
Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, comes out June 6, 2017.
Just signed the contract for the next two Aimée Leduc investigations in Paris with Soho Press.
In two panels at Left Coast Crime in Honolulu, March 16-19
Signed two-book contract with Severn House.
2016 Barry Award Finalist for Best Novel.
"The Olive Growers,” appears in BOUND BY MYSTERY, an anthology edited by Diane DiBiasi celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Poisoned Pen Press, out in March.
Sunshine Noir: Editor, White Sun Press, Oct 2016
Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK and in October in USA