Friday, February 27, 2009

Free Speech...or is that just too offensive for you?

(found on

This is our First Amendment and inherent in it lies the consequences of offending persons. To stamp out open questioning and criticism of absolutely anything not only teeters the practice of tolerance, it blatantly begs for a nation full of intolerant people because they are pregnant with ignorance.

Religion is already treated with an air of taboo because people are too afraid to say or question practices that they do not understand or do not agree with. If anything, religion should be the most important concepts to critically question. Women rights, homosexual rights, eating rights, and your right to practice your own religion (and to share it) without fear of reprobation is all dependant on being able to question and disagree with the very ideas and ideals of any religion which would confine, stifle, and imprison your own beautiful voice, your way of sacred worship or the lack of it.

Free speech gives us the very right to take a stand against intolerant acts that take away a women’s right to work, an African American to vote, a Christian to witness, atheists the right not to pretend, and it even gives Free Speech’s attackers the ground to suggest its removal from our mouth’s, inked hands, and printed words at the foot of our door.

Do you remember the Swedish Islamic Cartoons? What about the terrorist attack on 911, the bombings on London’s Underground, the vile murder of Theo van Gogh, and the endless list of intolerant actions? Think about your own questions or the conversations you have had with friends, do you believe those conversation should never again exist? Please take a few moments to read and learn about a country who does not believe in Free Speech, Turkey. Ask yourself, “Is this the way I want me, my family, and my friends to live?

It all sounds sweet to spare someone’s feelings until one’s feelings control a nation or a world. There are natural consequences to Free Speech and heinous consequences of its absence.

Cheers to the right of being offend and to offend! Now, lets talk about it.


Mark_W said...

Argh, again I’m now agonizing about whether I can afford a new computer that doesn’t come from the soundless steampunk era, and which thus lets me listen to as well as watch these clips: my admiration of The Hitch, as a friend of mine never ceases to point out to me, bless him, does verge on a "man-crush". (In particular, I think his Love, Poverty and War, is one of the best collections of essays ever published...)

Anyway, I think you’re spot on here, although I’m as capable of getting myself in a tizzy about this sort of thing as anyone. (I naturally tend to shrink, in a British sort of a way, from trying to define myself according to any sort of political benchmark, although, if pushed, I tend to grudgingly plump for "confused liberal". To pick a UK example, I tend to find I either agree completely with Nick Cohen, or, when I don’t, I at least find it rather difficult to explain why I think he’s wrong...)

Anyway, I agree completely with your comments on the ludicrousness of religion having a special pass when it comes to free speech, and the crucial importance of the right to be offended and to offend.

Like anyone, of course, I’m obviously capable of tying myself in knots when it comes to trying to define where I’d draw the line between "offence" and "incitement to hatred", though. The most recent example in the UK was the case of Geert Wilders being refused entry to the Britain to show his film about terrorism and the Koran to a bunch of Lords. Though I’ve not seen it, and he’s awaiting trial elsewhere on incitement charges, and he seemed, from what I read in the press, to be making a rather unhelpful contribution, I do think (probably!) that the UK government scored a spectacular own goal by turning him away: the argument that it was wrong to pre-empt him, and we should have let him come, speak his (balanced, considered, useful, odious, bigoted, hateful, or whatever, as the case may be) views and then arrest and extradite him if his speech crossed the legal line seemed to me to make much more sense than the ham-fisted and counterproductive attempt to stifle him before the fact that actually ensued.

In a similar sort of way, as disgusting and hateful as I find the views of holocaust deniers, I’m very nervous about the fact that in some European democracies these views carry a prison sentence. It comes down to, again, exactly where an opinion crosses over from being "merely" bigoted and offensive and actually becomes harmful – I don’t pretend to know what the definitive answer is, or even, to be honest, if I’ve even approached making something approximating a point here; but there we are – great post, anyway!



Lee said...

Well said...

People confuse freedom of speech (which I am all for) for freedom to do whatever you like (which I am against)

Though I might not like hearing someone’s 'reasoning' why homosexuals should not be able to marry, or black are a lesser race, or slavery is a good idea so long as they are fed correctly - they should have a right to say it.

Equally, I should have a right to tell them how stupid they are for having such ideas.(and why did I censor myself on a blog about free speech?)

Not got the time right now to watch the Hitchen’s video – but I like his view I think I heard once from him that the more offensive or extreme a view, the more reason why it should be heard. Only then will we all know how stupid such an idea really is (or something like that)


Mark_W said...

The more offensive or extreme a view, the more reason why it should be heard. Only then will we all know how stupid such an idea really is.

I really like that as a summary. [Though I suspect, the more I think about it, the more confused and hopeless I'll become! :-)]