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)
17 thoughts on “On the Defense of Free Speech”
Well and movingly put.
What we are watching, once again, is the very common heritage of mankind for all the millennia when it was ruled by ‘true believers” of one kind or another. If someone said or did anything the true faith declared to be wrong, he or she had to die.
It is a valuable lesson that each free generation needs to learn in its own way and in its own context. The repressive aristocacies of the old world are long gone, the crude ideologies that convulsed the world throughout the last century are in the ash heap where they belong,(although some zombies seem to wander out of the trash on occasion, like the one in Venezuela), and many in the west foolishly believed just a short time ago that there were no further challengers to our way of life.
It must be said again and again and again—we are the anomaly, we are the carriers of the true revolutionary message, we are the ones who have declared that the mind of the individual is the truly sacred part of life.
I’m not surprised by any of this, and I don’t believe for a minute that it has anything to do with some crappy homemade movie. These incidents and their bloody violence were planned and carried out in retaliation for the several victories we have had over the islamofascists in the last 11 years, especially the ignominious deaths of Saddam and OBL.
And all the duck-and-cover by the current regime and its media lackeys can’t change that fact one bit.
November can’t come soon enough.
There comes a time when all the brilliant arguments no longer work. It is when you come up against a primitive culture. My former partner, who is now 92 and still ticking although slowly, once told me a story about a psychiatrist who lived on his block. The ice cream truck came down the street and all the kids ran home to get money and then to the truck to get ice cream. Except one kid.
That kid lay screaming on the sidewalk while his psychiatrist father tried to explain to him why he shouldn’t have ice cream.
I don’t know any more about that kid and how he turned out but nothing would surprise me.
I thought about this when Clinton was facing the Serbs in Bosnia. Remember when the Serbs captured a couple of American soldiers ? And people hung yellow ribbons everywhere? He finally let the Air Force bomb from 30,000 feet. When the Serbs finally left, after we hot the Chinese embassy, it turned out all the tanks that had been bombed were fakes.
SERB troops tricked NATO war planes into missing their targets by making fake tanks out of polythene sheets.
Yesterday, the Tories called for an inquiry into reports that only 13 of the Yugoslav army’s 300 real tanks were damaged by the Allied air campaign in Kosovo.
NATO had earlier claimed to have taken out up to 60 per cent of the Serbs’ artillery and 40 per cent of their tanks during 79 days of heavy bombing.
But the Daily Record has discovered that Slobodan Milosevic’s men even used wood and black polythene to erect fake bridges and lure Allied bombers away from vital supply routes.
Sheets of black plastic were also stretched across fields in the shape of roads to throw NATO jet pilots off the scent.
We discovered a 300-ft plastic bridge, a dummy tank with a large wooden pole for a gun barrel and a fake armoured car just off a main road near Pristina.
The bizarre contraptions were made from wooden frames and covered in polythene.
Serb troops had built wooden supports for the fake bridge before stretching black plastic through the field to look like a road.
Just 200 yards away among a small clump of trees, the real bridge was covered with bushes.
Army insiders said the use of fake tanks and bridges was a technique perfected by the Russians. A NATO source added: “When you think of the pilots flying 15,000 feet above the ground at 500mph, it is easy to be fooled.”
The plastic tanks are thought to have served their purpose.
Although NATO originally claimed massive destruction of Belgrade’s forces in Kosovo, only three wrecked Soviet-made T55 tanks have been found.
Yugoslav troops told NATO leaders they took the rest home on low-loader vehicles. KFOR troops counted 250 tanks, 450 armoured personnel carriers and 600 pieces of artillery rumbling back to Belgrade unscathed as the Serbs withdrew.
Yesterday, NATO said it was not in a position to provide a detailed final assessment of the damage it had inflicted on Yugoslav forces.
The Allies carried out 36,000 air sorties during the conflict, including 10,000 raids using the world’s most sophisticated weapons.
But Shadow Defence Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said accounts of battle damage given to Parliament “appear to be inaccurate”.
Modern Democrats at war.
It is wrong to say, as our govt officials are currently saying, that someone has abused the right of free speech by saying something that someone else finds offensive. The very point of freedom of speech is that people are allowed to say things that other people object to. Otherwise there would be no point to it.
The correct official response to complaints that “Someone in your country offended us” is to say that in our society people are free to say what they want to say. Krauthammer put it well.
The return of the Age of Faith. To demonstrate yet again that those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it.
And in defense of the History of my faith, what of Christianity’s many follies and internecine conflicts compare to these semi-retarded idiots?
This is the most pathetic jihad yet.
Gotta love how Morsi jacks the vig to 10 Billion by taking our embassy. With football hooligans.
The only reason this is happening is our own pathetic weakness.
And yet: BHO will probably win. the Rebumblekins aren’t offering a real coherent alternative: The Welfare State’s solvency will be preserved for posterity. I think I’d vote for the real Welfare Statists. Why accept knock off imitations. The Fed’s balance sheet is unlimited, right?
The most disheartening thing for me is how readily the published newspapers gave it up, back at the time of the Great Motoons debacle. So, tell me once again how the right of the public to know must not be compromised, how important it is for our press organs to publish whatever, in pursuit of the public’s right to know.
Instead, we got a song and a dance about ‘oooohh, so horrid, so awful, so offensive’ – never mind that the cartoons themselves were about two degrees more incindiary than the average Family Circle offering. So much for the fearless minions of a free press. I appreciated those publishers who did admit freely exactly why they were afraid to reprint them … but please don’t ever tell me how courageous you are in regard to publishing other stories.
And now, it looks like the first reaction of our high government officials, and their big media syncophants is to throw the principle of free speech and intellectual freedom aside, in order to curry favor with middle eastern mobs. Sorry, that will not wash. I took an oath, ages ago, to defend the Consititution and the principles expressed therein, one of which was Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights. So that amendment or any other must be dialed back on because it will piss off the Muzzies? Right. That and the horse you rode in on, sir or ma’am.
And about violent mobs protesting at American embassies and other establishments? I’m actually pretty tired of them, too. Like Professor Reynolds suggested … flamethrowers. First shot is just for demonstration. Second shot is for realzies.
And lest feebs like Pengunnie think that is just to crude and typically American and oh-so-violent and unreasonable?
That idiotic video on YouTube was just a pretext. If they didn’t have that video they’d have something else to inflame the mob. It was 9/11 and they wanted to send a message and spill a little American blood in the process. Unfortunately, they scored a major victory with the cowering response from Hillary and Obama.
It seems 1979 all over again Rachel – and yes it was just a pretext.
I have a friend who worked for our major paper for almost 50 years. He spoke of the days when the owner – a Mrs Pynchon-like character (remember Lew Grant?) – would “hold court” in the company cafeteria – anyone with a problem or issue was invited to talk to her.
Her mantra was “get the story – no matter where it leads you”.
Mrs Pynchon is long gone, the corporation made some disastrous financial decisions, and the paper has turned hard-left. Hiring very PC – very few local reporters – get all their “news” off the wire.
He was pretty disgusted.
Even my mother – whose politics are towards the center, mentioned how useless the paper has become. She has subscribed to it for 50 years.
But they all have become – as you say – sycophants.
And you have succinctly nailed the importance of free speech – the selling of ideas. Without it the ideas don’t grow.
“….never mind that the cartoons themselves were about two degrees more incindiary than the average Family Circle offering. So much for the fearless minions of a free press. I appreciated those publishers who did admit freely exactly why they were afraid to reprint them … ”
One can understand not wanting to be a target. A tactic for a publication that feels threatened could be a short sentence under the banner every day for, say, a year. An additional date could be added for each instance of self-editing due to fear:
“The LA Picyune regrets that on 9/15/2012 we felt threatened by an individual or party who we believe would feel that a cartoon (or whatever) would be insulting to Islam or Mohammed. We regret this but do not publish because we fear for the safety of our staff.”
“And lest feebs like Pengunnie think that is just to crude and typically American and oh-so-violent and unreasonable?”
No … it’s just stupid. A two dimensional approach.
That’s our Pengunnie – always adding extra value to the conversation, with his rapier wit and unparalleled erudition. Bless your heart, don’t you ever change, you hear?
“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.”
You were on a roll, but then you completely blew it.
There is nothing wrong with making an appeal (faux or not) to manners. What are you thinking?
The line is drawn between making a counter-arguments (i.e. using words against words), including an appeal to manners, and the use of governmental oppressive power or violence. Words are good, oppression and violence bad. You seem to be foreclosing the use of argumentation itself – you would suppress the speech of others if it criticizes your speech???
“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’”
So publishers were now OBLIGED to print the cartoons? You seem pretty easily to give up on the freedom of publishers to print whatever they damn pleased.
You provide the arguments needed by provacateurs. Do you really think that we as a society should be led by the nose by the loudest and most obnoxious amongst us? Somebody wants to make a point by purposely insulting some group of people, provoking a strong reaction from them in the hope they go way overboard and their reaction becomes the issue – and all the rest of us are supposed to play along with this strategy? We are obliged to play along lest we be charged with abandoning freedom itself?
And if the insulted ones do overreact, we are obliged to protect the provacateurs. This is how people start wars – it is a classic strategy to provoke conflict. Are we really obliged to play along? How do we not?
Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe – you’re missing the point yet again… (several points, actually) One of mine was that for years the mainstream media told us all how brave and noble they were, that nothing could discourage them from printing the sacred truth, and that the public had the right to know … well, whatever it was, and nothing could dissuade them from that sacred duty. And then, the Danish cartoons … hardly any American newspapers printed them, and at least some of them had the honesty to admit they did so out of fear. So much for the public’s right to know.
So, if you have freedom of speech, and intellectual inquiry and the freedom of the press … but you are intimidated into not exercising them, then do you really have any freedom of speech, and of the press, and of individual inquiry at all? It was news, these cartoons. Publishers and broadcasters are in the profession of providing the news, so I would have thought their own professional standards and their own mission would have demanded.
As for the so-called provocation of this movie, of which hardly anyone had heard, I do not think it was the direct cause of the embassy attacks. It’s just a handy excuse, and I suspect a convenient distraction from mindboggling incompetence on the part our dear old State Department.
As for provacateurs, Joe … it takes amazingly little to provoke the provoked in this particular instance. Practically anything sets them off – they are in fact, led around by the nose by the loudest and most obnoxious among them, such are the pathologies of their various societies. So, what freedoms are you prepared to not exercise, in order not to have the insulted overreact?
The cartoons were published for the purpose of provoking a response, hopefully a violent one. Its rater a Leninist strategy – prod the beast and hope it reins terror down on everyone, then everyone will rally to your side as you oppose the beast.
There is nothing in the printing of the cartoons which adds anything to our knowledge. It was news and should be reported on. But a description of the cartoon provides all the necessary information. Republishing them is simply to play along with the provocation.
I ask you again – how does a responsible journalist avoid being exploited like that by provacateurs?
I agree with you that many in the Arab world are led around by the nose by the loudest and most obnoxious amongst them. Why do you wish such a fate on us? If one of them did something that many in the West would take deep offense to, wouldn’t the terrorist sympathizers over there make the same arguments that you are? That everyone in society should join in, or at least show support for those who insult the West? Would such people not scoff at those who expressed their opposition to gratuitous insults of the West?
It is not a question of intimidation. There are lots of people in the West, believe it or not, who have no desire whatsoever to gratuitously insult the beliefs of people on the other side of the world. Why should I be interested in doing such a thing? Why should I be pressured by the likes of you into doing it anyway, or at least expressing support for those who do it?
I think the movie is rather obviously the direct cause of the attacks we see this week. It also obviously is not the only thing going on, but to deny that it is the triggering event – and that without such an event the explosion may well not have happened, well that makes no sense that I can see.
“That’s our Pengunnie – always adding extra value to the conversation, with his rapier wit and unparalleled erudition. Bless your heart, don’t you ever change, you hear?”
Well to attack me in a thread I did not even comment in does speak to my value here.
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