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America's dual personality

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By Ben Cohen

As a foreigner living in the U.S, I am always astonished at the almost schizophrenic attitude towards freedom here. To me, the U.S is a remarkably free, tolerant and dynamic society. But there are massive self imposed restrictions on what is acceptable in mainstream debate, and it can often appear that the U.S is more like a totalitarian regime than a vibrant democracy.

Take 9/11 - Opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were drowned out of mainstream debate, and a climate of fear was fostered not only by the government, but by the public and the media. Speaking out was met with ridicule, scapegoating, and outright censorship.

Why was this the case in a country that goes further than any other in protecting freedom of speech? The brilliant Noam Chomsky has some thoughts.