The Blanket

Freedom to Dissent

Dorothy Robinson

From an Irish-American point of view, one of the unfortunate by-products of 9/11 was watching so many here in the States run for cover. Web sites were taken down, Irish bulletin boards were removed from computer "favorites" lists, and overnight the initials IRA meant Individual Retirement Account instead of, well, you-know-what. I believe it was Thomas Paine who coined the phrases "summer soldier" and "sunshine patriot", and I suppose these titles are fitting enough for some of those who drifted away during that time.

There is nothing more worthless than an unexpressed opinion. Somebody has to be brave and say it first, or do something about it first. However, many times those who do so suffer the rest of their lives (e.g., M. M. O'Hare and her First Amendment battle against school prayer). Other times sticking one's head up and stating an opinion gives courage to others who feel the same way but were afraid to speak.

I have no idea or opinion on whether or not the current #1 suspect in the anthrax case is guilty or innocent, but things he said or did years ago are being dredged up as "evidence", whether or not those actions were sinister-appearing at that time. This, in combination with new legislation and the State Department taking for itself the "right" to unilaterally decide who is a terrorist and who is not, will have a further chilling effect on dissent here.

All of this brings me around to making comment on the Republican Movement in Ireland, and how they are not only not helping but actually hurting the movement here. The internet, which might have been God's gift to dissidents, has instead become a curse. The Irish [message] boards are being used to express opinions that have nothing whatsoever to do with achieving a 32-county independent Ireland, and which have a negative impact on our ability to regroup here.

Instead of bringing us all together, these opinions are driving a wedge between Ireland and America. Starting just a few hours from the 9/11 attacks, postings began showing up on the Irish boards stating "the U.S. had it coming," and so on. Whether or not we "had it coming", so stating on a public forum while the buildings were still burning wasn't the wisest idea if one wants to encourage American support for Irish freedom, not to mention encouraging Americans to speak out against their government at that time.

It took a week for Republican Sinn Fein to issue a brief statement expressing concern for its New York supporters and for the lives of the police and firefighters lost in the attack. I saw nothing posted from the other groups. For nearly a year, the boards have been filled with pro-Arab, anti-Israeli, anti-American statements.

What does any of this have to do with Irish freedom? Is the Republican Movement so lacking in momentum that it has to resort to outside issues? Is it now the case that working for a 32-county Ireland just isn't enough? That it is also necessary to be socialist and pro-Palestinian?

Our Founding Fathers obviously viewed freedom of speech as vital, to the point it was part of the very first amendment to the Constitution. It is vital, and it is the right from which all other rights flow. But rights should be used wisely - I have the right to walk through Central Park at 3 in the morning, but it probably isn't a good idea. For 150 years, Americans supported the movement without question. Perhaps it is time that the R/M learned support is a two-way street.







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A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
- Adlai Stevenson

Index: Current Articles

15 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Put Spotlight On Republican Aims
Eamonn McCann


No Hierarchies Here!
Anthony McIntyre


Freedom to Dissent

Dorothy Robinson


Freedom of Whose Speech?
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


Political Intimidation
Anthony McIntyre


Class War is Over!
Billy Mitchell


11 August 2002


Class War
Newton Emerson


Nationalist Euphoria - Unionist Despondency
Billy Mitchell


Silent But Lethal

Anthony McIntyre


Democratise Democracy
Davy Carlin


The Pentagon's Secret Weapon
John Chuckman




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