When Freedom of Speech is not so good

Listening to a piece on The World last night about bookstores in Egypt selling Egyptian translations of books written in the West about conspiracy theories on 9/11.

Now, conspiracy theories are as old as the hills. They give people a chance to feel more in control of things and goodness knows we can’t grudge anyone that, the world being as it has been from time immemorial and continues to be to this day.

A lot of the Egyptians they interviewed said that they don’t know what to believe about 9/11 and why it took place. Well, does anyone?  But the problem with these books is that, at their most basic, they are really just about making a buck for their authors; a sensational view that is sure to sell to at least some part of our society.  And that’s fine; that’s what America’s all about, right?  Opportunities to capitalize on ideas, no matter how far-fetched they may be.  Our freedom of speech protects any and everyone who wants to speak their mind about whatever it is that is on their mind and that is a good thing, even if a few or many people do not agree with what they are saying.

But then these books get translated and sent to places where maybe there isn’t as much acceptance if you malign your government or talk about things that shouldn’t, for some reason or another, be talked about. And so what’s in print becomes that much more weighty and people see these theories and think, well, it got published so it must be true and that just leads to a lot more hatred and hurtfulness and really, don’t you think there’s enough of that already?

Now, you may or may not know my rather strong opinions on the current administration (one more year is still too long!) but it takes a lot more cynicism than I have in my bones (and I have A LOT, esp concerning politics) to believe that our gov’t knew about or encouraged the death, the horrible, needless deaths, of all those who died on 9/11 in order to have some kind of tenuous ‘justification’ to invade Iraq.  But that is the information being peddled in these books and being believed by people who probably don’t really need that kind of crap to muddle up their already difficult-enough views of their role in the world.

So, Mr. and Ms. Conspiracy Theorist, while I acknowledge your right to earn a living and your temerity in adding to all the piffle that already gets published every year,  I would ask you whether it is truly helpful to spread rumor as truth in a world as fragile as the one we are living in right now and if not, don’t you think the world might be much better place if you kept your belly-aching to yourself and your friends and, instead of broadcasting it, maybe went out and tried to do something to build cultural bridges instead of knocking them down and adding to the divide?

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