Paris and the Limits of Free Speech

us bill of rights photo
Image by roberthuffstutter

Yesterday while grabbing a bite at the airport before flying home, a headline caught my eye and had me wondering just what the writer was talking about.

USA Today was right to publish a terrorist sympathizer

Now, I happen to agree. We should encourage all kinds of people to speak freely, so that we can publicly acknowledge who they are and what they think. Too often we see various apologists trying to minimize the true beliefs that groups hold, and we should see a group like radical Islamists for what they are, with their own words.

I also see one other problem with trying to shut this cleric up. It’s hypocritical. If we want to defend the free speech rights of newspapers who printed Mohammed cartoons, we have to, likewise, be willing to defend the rights of anyone we don’t agree with to speak as well. Go look at the original article, Choudary uses hate speech limitations as an excuse for killing people who print something Muslims might feel offensive. After all, if we can limit the speech of other groups, why not the cartoonists?

Think about it, if all of the “Social Justice Warriors” and Anonymous groups can pressure the employers of people who tweet an offensive joke to get them fired, and otherwise ruin their personal lives, based solely on the expression of a viewpoint that they consider “offensive”, we shouldn’t be surprised when a radical religious group says “well we are offended by this, and these people shouldn’t be allowed to talk any longer, so we will kill them.” It’s a pretty logical jump.

Free speech is either a basic human right, or it is not. Once you start putting various groups “right” to not be offended above the right to free speech, you’ve lost free speech and you’ve invited every nutty group in the world to start deciding what speech should be punished and how. Is that the world you want to live in?

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