OK, so call me retrograde, old fashioned, a bigot or the ever-popular ‘raaaaacist’ but I actually believe in free speech and free thought; for everybody, not just the ones that I agree with.
There is the caveat to this, of course. If you depend upon the larger public finding your persona, your manufactured or intellectual output appealing enough to purchase it … well, there might be potential customers disenchanted and disinclined to do so, should they find your exercise of free speech insulting or offensive. They are perfectly free to refrain from partaking in your product or purchasing it … it is, so I have been assured, still mostly a free country. Buy Chick-fil-A, or not. Listen to the Dixie Chicks … or not. Read the New York Times … or not. Watch Game of Thrones… on not, depending on how much you feel strongly about personal opinions. The right to speak is, has been, and ought to still be paramount.
Concurrent with that is the understanding that others disagree, or even be offended … but they do not have any right to silence the offending speech. Not with threats of violence, or the law, or even a faux-appeal to manners or to the perversion known as political correctness. The deity knoweth that Christians, Jews, Mormons, Baptists and all have taken their various lumps from comedians, artists and movie-makers in the last decades, or more. Why should the ever-offended elements of the Religion of Peace get a pass? Oh, yeah – because they go rabid, and blow up stuff and cut people’s heads off, and burn embassies every time someone looks at them cross-eyed. Look, this just won’t do, and it’s a serious problem, but it doesn’t look like going softly-softly is getting us anywhere. If free speech can be abrogated by threats … well, then, it isn’t free speech any longer.
I find it bloody appalling that certain pundits, politicians and high military officers have had the bare-faced gall to suggest that in order to placate Middle Eastern mobs that criticism and mockery of Islam by free citizens of an independent and democratic republic should be off the table entirely … and in fact should be prosecuted legally. Again, are we, or are we not a free people? Do we surrender one of our founding principles that easily? Some years ago, in considering the Affair of the Danish Mo-toons O’Doom, and the alacrity which which our advocates of a free press declined to publish a set of relatively inoffensive cartoons, I wrote this:
There is an old saying, to the effect that the most binding chains are the ones we put on ourselves. And the most insidious and effective censorship is that kind that we also put on ourselves, the censorship that strangles the question before it can even be asked … thoughtful people, earnestly wishing to be polite, tolerant and sensitive of others, began moving down that path that eventually ends— if we are not aware— with our wrists humbly held up for the manacles of imposed censorship to be firmly snapped on. A drift that began with good manners ends with limits imposed by maladroit legislation or a baying mob, maybe even both, and all the important issues of the day, which ought to be discussed— vociferously, noisily and with all the thrown crockery at our disposal— are removed from the arena where they ought to be, to fester and simmer away in odd corners. What has been more insupportable in recent years, is that our courtesy in this respect is not even reciprocated: the vilest sort of caricatures and insult imaginable regarding Westerners, Christians, Jews, Americans and others too varied to mention have free and frequent circulation in Muslim and Arab-oriented and funded media.
That most of our print media outlets punted on the question of publishing the Mohammed cartoons told me all I really needed to know about how deeply they really felt about their much-vaunted principle of ‘freedom of the press’. Now, our government and media are telling us how really, really deeply they are attached to ‘freedom of speech.’
Look well, oh wolves!
(Cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)