On Free Speech

So I’ve been contemplating what’s been happening in the Middle East.

I’m heartbroken at the loss of life our nation has suffered in Libya. Being an expat kid and knowing so many in the foreign service, I’m upset by the unjustifiable, abhorrent violence against fellow citizens who were trying to increase peace and understanding in a troubled corner of the world.

I’ve also been thinking about the internet film that supposedly sparked this whole powder keg.

And I’ve been thinking about our responses to this whole mess.

I will not pretend to be an expert on the Constitution, but methinks that just because we have the right to free speech doesn’t mean we’re absolved of the responsibility for what we unleash on the public.

Just because the Interwebs has built for us this awesome global social community where we can share photos of our latest culinary masterpieces, blast our friends with LOLZCATS! memes, or pontificate on political gaffes-du-jour doesn’t mean we just get to leave flaming bags of poo on the world’s virtual porch and escape unscathed.

Yes, the right to free speech is an American value worth protecting fiercely and without capitulation–even worth dying for. But I shudder to think that a lot of us don’t really know what free speech means or entails. Frankly, I’m tired of cowards hiding behind knee-jerk exclamations of “free speech!” (or, similarly, “academic freedom!”) without thought or appreciation for the obligations associated with said free speech. What kind of entitled morons are we breeding in this country?

When you enjoy the right to speak your mind freely–a right that the Constitution has afforded you as a citizen–you accept responsibility for the consequences of your free speech.

If you want to post a photo of your wang on Twitter, by all means, do. But you’d better be prepared to take responsibility for the mass riots and looting that happens as a result.

Rights and responsibilities, people.

We get to enjoy these inalienable rights because we agree to abide by certain responsibilities expected of us as citizens. Clearly we all didn’t learn this in Civics class.

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2 thoughts on “On Free Speech

  1. While there is a lot of sense to this, I can’t get behind it, Coobs. If someone watches a film and it compels them to inflict bodily and property harm on someone, it isn’t the fault of the film or the filmmaker. If your religion requires you to strike back against someone that blasphemes, then, i’m sorry, your religion is wrong. This isn’t a problem with free speech or even the film. This is a problem with the particular brand of Islam followed by the people that committed these acts. It’s sort of odd how it’s trendy and accepted to poke fun at or even denigrate Christianity–sort of. As was relayed in the post I made on FB the other day from the hatefulatheist, Islam is given a free pass of sorts to spew vile, violent, and sexist nonsense simply because it is a religion predominantly made up of minorities. Many liberals will, in the same paragraph, lambaste Christianity and vehemently defend Islam–a hypocritical and rationally bankrupt position. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not even going to attempt to defend Christianity against rational arguments as I think that faith and rationality are polar opposites. Was the film complete drivel? Absolutely. Do I feel the need to storm a Hollywood studio guns ablaze every time southern Americans are humiliated in a terrible film? No–and not because it doesn’t bother me, but because I’m not a complete fucking moron.

    I don’t think freedom of speech or obscenity or clear and present danger apply to this situation. In fact, I think the author Terry Goodkind described the true problem here pretty well:
    “Misery, iniquity, and utter destruction lurk in the shadows outside its full light, where half-truths snare the faithful disciples, the deeply feeling believers, the selfless followers. Faith and feelings are the warm marrow of evil. Unlike reason, faith and feelings provide no boundary to limit any delusion, any whim. They are a virulent poison, giving the numbing illusion of moral sanction to every depravity ever hatched.”

    1. I actually agree with you. I think the thing that bothers me the most about this (and the Chick-fil-A incident, and others) is our tendency to yell “free speech!” every time we want to justify a controversial statement or position. I think many Americans hide behind it and “freedom of religion” to justify their terrible, immoral actions.

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