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Ayn Rand Institute versus censorship

By Gennady Stolyarov II
web posted October 14, 2002

In December of 1999, U.S. authorities had apprehended Ahmed Ressam, an al-Qaida affiliate who had attempted to enter the country across the Canadian border in Port Angeles, Washington. This man's equipment, 200 pounds of fertilizer, four timing devices, and two jars of liquid, suggested that he had been plotting to assail the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Day of 2000. Thanks to the expediency and foresight manifested by the U.S. border guards, a horrendous act of murder had been averted.

That is the proper function of border guards, to exhibit discrimination in granting admittance based on objectively identifiable threats. Terrorism is not a perceived offense, nor is it merely in the eye of the beholder. It is a genuine harm resulting in massive death and devastation. It possesses objective indicators as well. A man carrying materials for the manufacture of a bomb may rightly be interpreted as a menace. Judging by his actions, he is one.

What must not be deemed a threat, however, and what Canadian border guards on October 3, 2002, had misconstrued as one, are expressions of free speech. A right to free speech is a necessary extrapolation upon man's identity as a rational being. Because man's individual thoughts can yield survival and prosperity for him in his life, he ought to be permitted to exercise them. A manifestation of free speech is a declaration of value, which is a consideration of facts of reality as they relate to the well being of the individual agent. So had the Ayn Rand Institute in its series of informative commentaries, "In Moral Defense of Israel" (PDF format), expressed values that it recommends for the entire country to adopt as ones that are conductive to its utmost rational self-interests. This proud author has read the articles and finds them thoroughly compelling advice for the granting of unequivocal moral and military support for the bastion of the West in a region of repressive theocracies.

Here is a quote from "Israel Has a Moral Right to Its Life" by Yaron Brook and Peter Schwartz. "We should be supporting Israel's right to take whatever military action is needed to defend itself against its nihilistic enemies. Morally and militarily, Israel is America's frontline in the war on terrorism. If America is swayed by Arafat's latest empty rhetoric, and allows him to continue threatening Israel, our own campaign against terrorism becomes sheer hypocrisy and will, ultimately, fail." Ultimately, this statement recognizes that the survival of this nation's freedoms against the menace of terror and our continuation of leading the life proper to man (i.e. one which does not impose totalitarian shackles upon the autonomous entity that is the individual) depend upon an unwavering display of fortitude in support of our crucial ally and trade partner, instead of granting moral sanction and deceiving labels to a tyrant, Yasser Arafat, who systematically lures his people into the quagmire of antagonism, martyrdom, and suffering.

To think that this expression of solidarity with America, Israel, and Individuality was interpreted as "hate propaganda" by the politically correct bureaucrats of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency! The profound articles were en route to an Objectivist club in the University of Toronto as part of a campaign to enhance their publicity and availability to thinking men whose self-interests such materials are bound to serve. Instead of receiving the intellectual resources, Mr. Ray Girn, the president of the club, obtained a letter from the CCRA, stating, "The following goods have been detained for a determination of tariff classification as they may constitute obscenity or hate propaganda." What sacrilegious expressions are contained in the assertion that one's freedoms have a right to exist? What hatred is displayed in works that stir just retaliation against depraved aggressors for the purpose of ensuring peace in our time? Must men keep silent while Arafat warps the Palestinian mass media to portray Jews in the same light of wickedness unheard of since the days of the Third Reich? Must politically correct knuckleheads jam their teeth together in terrorized angst, not because suicide bombers are weekly detonating innocent civilians but because a rowdy Palestinian street ruffian, a prime candidate for a suicide bomber, had been shot by Israeli soldiers asserting their moral right to self-defense and life?

The genuine quest for liberty and security is being stifled, while the racist, anti-Zionist, man-hating rhetoric of Arafat continues to pervade universities, including Canadian ones. Dr. Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, had remarked on this, stating, "It is shameful that an attempt to defend Israel on moral grounds would be considered for censorship while anti-Israel literature can be found in any bookstore and anti-Israel rhetoric can be heard on any college campus." Apparently, the Canadian border guards experience no problem with Palestinian textbooks stating (falsely) that a duty of a loyal Muslim is the hatred of Jews. What more circumstantial tripe can be found that fully fits the definition of hate propaganda, as targeting "a religious, ethnic, or racial group"? And why is it tolerated while the desire to eradicate the armed doctrine of racism using the only functional means, retaliatory force, is silenced and detained?

A hint may arise from the fact that the box had merely been labeled as containing literature from the Ayn Rand Institute, also stating the title of the article series. Dr. Brook suggests an alarming possibility: "Either Canadian Customs chose to detain the brochures because they opened the package and didn't like what they read, or worse, they detained the brochures simply because they disagree with any defense of Israel." Disagree they may, as it is their freedom of speech, but censor they may not. Censorship of intellectual arguments, of expressions of free speech that do not advocate racial hatred nor circumstantially-based violence nor initiation of aggression of any manner, holds an implicit denial of man's rights, stating that man is not rational, that he therefore cannot be permitted to select using the conclusions of his thinking mind and the data of reality as his warrant, that the imposition of brute force and regulatory restrictions is the only means of placing him upon the proper moral path. This was precisely the philosophy of the draconian Taliban in Afghanistan, who had barred all forms of media as a potential source for disagreement with the dominant orthodoxy. This is precisely the mindset behind Yasser Arafat's PLO forces staging mob assaults on harmless Israeli settlers or beating political dissenters who may have committed so little "offense" as to have written the omnipotent chairman a letter of admonition. Censorship lies at the root of the terror states presently endangering America and its right to exist as a nation philosophically founded entirely on voluntary association and value-trading, not master-slave coercion.

Ahmed Ressam, the man who had attempted to orchestrate a calamity during New Year's celebrations two years ago, had been but one agent of a movement whose sole purpose is hatred of the productive and free, of the American materialistic "Satan", whose success is derived from the fact that this country recognizes the fundamental liberties which must be afforded man to ensure his survival at the dignified, rational level prescribed by his identity. United States border guards knew their job and its limits. They knew that their task was to preserve freedoms, not to restrict them due to personal disagreements or subjective perceptions of offense where none was meant nor dealt.

It comes as no surprise, however, that Canadian border guards were not the ones apprehending Ressam, although his incursion into the United States was launched from Canada's soil and Canadian officials therefore possessed ampler access to him. The service, either from governmental mandate or intolerable caprices of individual employees or departments, upholds the same ideological standpoint, censorship, which looms over us at the terrorist threat of present days.

Fortunately, the degree to which the CCRA had pursued censorship was far milder than that exhibited by Chairman Arafat. The articles were released in three days and are presently en route to Toronto, where Dr. Brook will be speaking on their significance. Nevertheless, this incident in its present caliber has seen conduct that must remain off-limits for public officials who must be stewards of our liberties, not inhibitors thereof.

The CCRA, if there remain vestiges of morality within it, must apologize to the Ayn Rand Institute for the outrageously unjust detainment of its materials and provide a comprehensive written guarantee, in the form of a legislative or otherwise procedural document guaranteeing that such transgressions of liberty will never again obstruct the intellectual quest of defenders of human rights.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, writer for Objective Medicine, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator at http://www.geocities.com/rationalargumentator/index.html. He can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

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