Robert Johnson-- censorship?

Professor Robert Thornton (031RTHOR@MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA)
Mon, 13 Mar 1995 11:11:40 -0500

Please, people, let me be brief. I did not request or demand
censorship of Johnson. I did, as I have done before, pointed out
the moral bankruptcy that lay behind Johnson's posts. I said quite
clearly that I respected his right to criticise everyone and
everything if he so chose. I expressed it as _my opinion_. Indeed,
I have no evidence apart from Mr. Johnson's own paranoid 'last
post', that he has actually been denied access to the list.

But, I do not accept a right to advocate violence. I do not count
lethal violence (and what else can you do with a gun besides hang it
on the wall) as 'free speech'. I do not accept that advocacy of
lethal violence is acceptable as 'free speech'. In virtually all
other matters, I respect anyone's right to say anything, and to
represent anything, including violence, in pictures or other media.
I believe that there is a great gulf, however, between representing
violence that has already happened, in the attempt to understand it
or to memoralise it, and to advocate violence itself. And there is,
again, a gulf between words and action. But the latter gulf is
crossed to often and too easily to accept that advocacy of violence
must have no limits.

I am not censuring Johnson for anything else that he has said on the
list. I am not concerned about his posts _about_ violence. I myself
have written _about_ violence in South Africa. Indeed, I have been
publically attacked at an international conference (IUAES, Zagreb)
for doing so by people who claimed that merely writing about violence
in South Africa was to trivialise it and somehow to justify it. They
advocated violence, lethal violence, and like Johnson, seemed to
light up with delight at the thought of some or other 'justice' being
'bought' in South Africa with 'blood'. Like Johnson, too, none of
them actually _lived_, worked, taught in South Africa, and none of
them had anything invested, and nothing to lose. For Johnson, talk
is very cheap; for the victims of violence, the cost is beyond
paying, for it buys nothing.

=====Professor Robert Thornton, Department of Social Anthropology====
University of the Witwatersrand, PO Wits, 2050 Johannesburg
South Africa
Office tel. : (011) 716-2900
Secretary, fax and answering machine: (011) 716-2766
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