Friday, May 08, 2015

Free speech or hate speech?

I'm still kinda sorting all this out, so I'll ask you the questions I'm asking myself.

Maybe you haven't been following the latest in the Charlie Hebdo matter, what with the elections in Canada and the UK and all.  Here's an excerpt to catch you up.

Critics argue that Charlie Hebdo routinely engages in Islamophobia, and many Muslims take issue with its depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, which are considered blasphemous.

Defenders counter that Charlie Hebdo, a provocative left-wing publication, lampoons religious leaders and politicians of all stripes and has devoted more time to attacking conservative politicians who favor anti-immigration laws — such as the National Front — than Islam.

First question: are we all still "je suis Charlie"?

Closer to home: was Pam Geller yelling fire in a crowded theater when she sponsored her Muhammed cartoon contest?  (Let's look past her ridiculous and Orwellian "I'm saving lives" justification for what she says and does for the moment.)  Is it a good thing that she hires her own heavily armed security for these events -- you know, Second Amendment remedies for First Amendment provocations?  Less important question: Were the two single cells in the Garland, TX "terrist network" ready for jihad... or just martyrdom?

Update: Ted Cruz blames Obama, of course.

Most important question: do you really and truly feel like defending to your death the right for Geller, or Charlie Hebdo, or anybody else to keep on like this, under the current global socio-political circumstances?

Report.  Decide.  Ted Rall's opinion.

When exactly does free speech cross over the line to hate speech?  What is the proper reaction when it does?   (Obviously not shootings and bombings... but what?)  Certainly it's got to be okay to tell people to shut up.  That's free speech also, yes?  Or is that censorship?  If it's not OK to tell them to shut up, is it acceptable to ask them to tone it down a little?

Is this just an endless loop of point/counterpoint, as Nick Anderson shows?  (Don't skip the petulant complaints and baiting taunts from the very worst of Houston's conservatives in the comments.)

If you have the right to insult people to the point that they become so angrily deranged that they kill you -- religious excuses aside -- why is it wrong for others who don't want to be caught in the crossfire or maimed by the blast or the shrapnel to tell you to pipe down?

No answers here yet.  Still just asking the questions.  But a few more toons posted here on Sunday will further illustrate the quandary in which we we all find ourselves.

How much intolerance is tolerable?


Katy Anders said...

I'm torn on this, because I really believe we ought to be able to say anything.

But if I know a crazy person is going to punch me if I provoke him, and then I provoke him and he punches me, what sort of statement is that? What have I accomplished?

Sure, the crazy person who punched me committed an illegal assault, but... I knew I was going to get punched.

I don't get it, I guess.

PDiddie said...

You get it precisely, Katy. The SCOTUS has already determined that their limits to free speech (yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is one) but where the others are, and where the line is drawn, is what is at stake.

Someone has to choose to use caution, or exercise restraint for the sake of peace. Without being called 'weak' for doing so. I believe Jesus called it turning the other cheek, but I'm not sure about that since I'm not a Christian. And the Christians I know don't demonstrate ANY of the teachings of Jesus, so there's that.

PDiddie said...

there are limits, not their. Damn autocorrect.

Gadfly said...

The full list of free speech exceptions:

PDiddie said...

So, Gadfly, would you agree that the "fighting words and offensive speech" part of that reflects Geller's violation? Does she walk up to the line, have her toes on the line, or cross the line?

Jeffyjeff said...

This is not even a close call. The right to mock what someone else considers sacred is the very essence of free speech. It is only offensive speech that needs protecting. That is the point.

Whether speech is incitatory—and, therefore, not protected—must be judged by the content of the speech itself, not by the subjective reaction of its most hypersensitive targets. If the scienter were the degree to which someone is offended, then Hustler Magazine would not have the freedom to mock Jerry Falwell, and Bill Maher would not have the freedom to mock Bill O'Reilly.

The fact that some people might be so offended by a Muhammad-cartoon-drawing contest that they would kill the participants does not make the mockery of their prophet “hate-speech.” Nor can the analysis be changed by the foreseeability that someone might react violently. That is just another way of saying that how offended the hearer is should be allowed to determine what the speaker may say.

As a nation, we have chosen a different path. The price of our freedom is that we must endure the most offensive and hurtful speech the human mind is capable of devising. We are the better for it.

Matt Bramanti said...

Perry, I dunno that you want to hang your hat on the fighting words exception. In the case that established it, Chaplinsky was arrested for calling a town marshal "a damned fascist." You shouldn't be subject to arrest when you call people fascists, and he shouldn't have either.

Justice Murphy's opinion also said utterances of "the profane" aren't protected by the First Amendment. You don't really think irreligious words may be punished by the state.

PDiddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PDiddie said...

Thanks for stopping by again, Matt. Lawyer dude just above you has clarified the limitless freedoms of cartoons, which I never seriously questioned. After all, he and Ted Rall (and you) all agree. Isn't that something?

I'd like to see some moderate Muslims exercise their free speech and protest the odious Geller, but they probably don't want to get caught in the crossfire any more than I do.

My point, recently learned, is that there is free speech of others that is so offensive that I'm not willing to defend it to the death. I'll defend their right to say it, just not going to bleed out over it. And if they die... then it's on them to have exercised more temperance.

Let's not call that PC, either. If Geller was as brave as she thinks she is, then she wouldn't hire armed guards at 1:5 ratio for her "events".