FORMS OF EXPRESSION, FROM THE BOTTOM UP

Freedom of people to express their opinions and ideas is something to cherish and defend. Freedom of people to choose their method of expression deserves equivalent status. So does the freedom of people to choose which opinions and ideas, among all that come their way, to take seriously and which to dismiss for lack of merit.

Freedom of people to express their opinions and ideas is something to cherish and defend. Freedom of people to choose their method of expression deserves equivalent status. So does the freedom of people to choose which opinions and ideas, among all that come their way, to take seriously and which to dismiss for lack of merit.

Sometimes, the method of expression speaks to the merits of the opinions and ideas expressed.

To be sure, history is replete with odious opinions eloquently spoken and with wretched ideas elegantly written.

Grand ideas likewise have bloomed from what began as humble, if not harried, utterance: scrawl on a chalkboard, for example, doodles on a napkin, thoughts extruded into shape through tortuous exchanges of typo-riddled e-mail messages.

One body of thought influential in modern politics and apparently representative of more than a few individuals in more than a few countries, characterizes itself by coarse manners of communication.

It is a body of thought consistently antagonistic to anything having to do with oil and gas and eternally friendly with environmentalism.

It energetically propounds that capitalism is bad, that corporations are evil, that economic development does more harm than good, and that global economic development compounds the damage. Inherently wary of authority, this intellectual realm translates readily into anarchism and often proudly bears the name.

And how do disciples of this body of thought articulate their opinions and ideas?

In conjunction with several recent meetings related to international trade, they have, for example, dressed in silly costumes, carried signs, chanted, kicked in shop windows, trashed whole blocks of cities, fought with police, and thrown things with the clear intention of doing damage to property if not people who don't share their opinions and ideas.

In Sweden this month, true believers greeted US President George W. Bush with a vivid demonstration of righteousness: They turned their backs to the visiting dignitary, lowered their trousers and everything underneath, and bent fully at the waist.

This is surely a case where the method of expression reflects sophistication of the opinions and ideas expressed.

So why would anyone care at all what these people have to say?

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