January 11, 2015


Free speech comes with responsibilities (Sally Kohn, 1/10/15, CNN)

In the aftermath of the heinous attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France, many are tweeting and writing in solidarity: Je suis Charlie. But I'm not. Because I am not Charlie.

Of course, I unequivocally support the right to free speech. Period. And I also believe in choosing to exercise that right responsibly and respectfully. That's why I would not have published cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, insulting 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide in the process (and no, I wouldn't have published many of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons insulting Judaism and Christianity, either).

In no way should this be taken -- as it has been by some on Twitter -- to suggest that I somehow condone the killings of Charlie Hebdo's staff. That's a ridiculously insulting idea and just plain wrong. It's possible to honor and protect the free speech rights of publications like Charlie Hebdo while simultaneously believing such cartoons are unnecessarily disrespectful and offensive.

Free speech absolutists base their defense on the notion that ideas are such powerful tools/weapons that they deserve special protection from (potentially tyrranical) government, which might otherwise protect itself from the freedom-loving by limiting them.  Essentially, it's the same argument that Second Amendment absolutists make. Both are rooted in paranoia and a distrust of one's fellow citizens of the republic.

Left unexamined is the question of whether such freedom is worth the cost.  Second Amendment absolutism gave us over 12,000 gun deaths last year.  Yet the jack-booted thugs and black helicopters remain naught but a symptom of disordered minds.

It's harder to quantify the human costs of protecting hate speech, but hard to believe we gain anything by pretending that Aryan Nations, the Klan and other such groups add anything of value to our social dialogue.  That's not to say that we need to censor such "speech," rather we could use prosecutorial discretion nd jury nullfication to establish that we feel no need to protect it, nor its speakers.

Posted by at January 11, 2015 9:36 AM

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