Category Archives: Free Speech

“the freedom of speech, or of the press”

That phrase comes from the First Amendment. Here, for context, is the entirety of the Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On the whole, the amendment deals with the freedom of conscience, which, along with life and property, is one of the most fundamental rights inherent to being human. What is freedom of conscience? According to Wikipedia, it is:

the freedom of an individual to hold a viewpoint, or thought, regardless of anyone else’s view.

That, however, is only the beginning of it. For freedom of conscience to be meaningful, people must be able to live as their conscience demands. The First Amendment deals with several aspects of it, including freedom of belief, freedom of expression, and the freedom to push for change in government. All of these freedoms center around the individual, because conscience is a solely individual phenomenon. Makes sense so far, right?

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Why We Don’t Want Cooler Heads to Prevail

There appears to be a consensus building among the mainstream in the US and Western Europe that “cooler heads” need to prevail and the confrontation between Muslim extremists and the West over the cartoons published by the Jyllands-Posten needs to be brought under control. If the folks who think cooler heads need to prevail mean cooler, calmer, more rational folks in the Middle East, and other Muslim communities, then I’m in agreement.

We are told, over and over again, that al-Qaeda, Hamas, al-Zarqawi, Islamic Jihad, the Ba’athists of Iraq and Syria, the religious government of Iran and on and on don’t represent the majority of Muslims. That may be so, but we have no indication that is true. If it is true, why aren’t those other Muslims, the ones who respect life, property, other religions, free speech, etc. not standing up and demanding accountability? Those are the cooler heads that need to prevail. Folks like the people who wrote this apology need to begin to assert themselves. The writers of the apology are not happy that the media only sees the extremists. But, the reality is that it is only the extremists voicing their opinion. We’ve seen what happens when the people of a Muslim country take matters into their own hands, such as happened in Lebanon last year. Why aren’t we seeing that now?

I will suggest that these “cooler heads” are not going to be allowed to prevail. They know they aren’t, that in fact they will be beaten, stoned, shot or blown-up by those who control their culture right now. This is how the imams, mullahs and government officials of the Middle East maintain their power. These protests are orchestrated by them, passions are inflamed by a small elite that is bent on keeping, and expanding, their power. This small group, the one that doesn’t represent the majority of Muslims, is convinced that all they have to do is cow their own populace and threaten the decadent (in their eyes) West with violence to continue to win. Why are they convinced of this? Because we taught them, that’s why.

Imagine, if you will, that you live in the same house as someone who holds an opposing religious view from you. At some point, you say something that they find offensive. Instead of asking you politely to not express yourself that way, they burn a picture of you on the patio, chanting “Death to my roomie” and then pick up a baseball bat and threaten to hit you with it if you don’t apologize. Well, to you getting that upset over this incident just doesn’t make sense, so you apologize. It’s just a little thing, from your perspective, you’re not all that religious anyhow. So, you go ahead and apologize. Now, ask yourself what is likely to happen the next time you say something your housemate doesn’t like? Do you suppose your housemate, who clearly takes his religion a lot more seriously than you do, might come to you one day with the picture of you burning and his baseball bat and tell you that you have to convert to his religion now, or face the consequences? What happens when he gets upset because you are bringing home your girlfriend and sleeping together, and he considers that a sin in his religion?

This is what has been going on with Muslim extremists and the West for years. It’s a bit simplified, but essentially we bend over backwards to not upset them, for a wide variety of reasons. We’ve reached the point where we think no one should be offended, and if they are offended, we tend to think that the guy who said something is the one in the wrong, not the one offended by free speech. We have gone so far as to state things like “free speech doesn’t give you the right to insult someone else”, but that is just the point of free speech. Speech is not free if you are constrained to say only that which is acceptable to other people. The Vatican’s position on this, while admirably consistent, is not supportive of free speech. Nor is the position being taken by most of the Western governments.

We are, in fact, confirming what Osama bin Laden believes is true. All he has to do is continue to confront the West with violence and eventually we will surrender. Not because he is stronger physically, but because we are decadent and don’t have the will to fight for what we believe in. He believes, as do the other extremists confronting us, that they just have to keep pushing hard enough and we will roll over and show our belly to them.

If we treasure our liberties, our diverse cultures, our literary and historical traditions, we must stand fast in the face of the bullies who are threatening us with a baseball bat for offending them. If need be, we must defend ourselves against their threat of violence. We must, above all, recognize backing down in the face of this “outrage” in the Middle East is just a continuation of the appeasement we have practiced for two decades now and will just further embolden them.

Remember, if you begin censoring speech and writing and other forms of expression, at some point it will be your turn to be censored. Right now, you probably don’t care because you could care less about those cartoons. What happens when it’s your speech about something you do care about? Only then it’s too late, of course, you’ve already surrendered your liberty.

So, the bottom line is this. I do not wish to go out of my way to make things worse, but I refuse to cool off, or back down from the confrontation. I will stand firm. I will continue to talk about this. I will continue to post these cartoons they are so frightened of.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Round-up of Cartoon Craziness

Hold The Mayo makes some good points in Cartoon Critics about the reality of what we will find in Middle Eastern cultures. What we definitely won’t find is a secular, liberal society that tolerates those who are different and encourages diversity. Instead, we find the medieval society that the West left behind during The Enlightenment.

Lisa, at Liberal Common Sense, highlights some of the violent reactions and the Vatican’s reaction. The Vatican is, essentially, saying a pox on both your houses. The middle road doesn’t work between Liberal and Medieval society. It’s time to choose which you believe in.

Catallarchy’s Patri Friedman points out the hypocrisy of protecting one set of sensibilities and not another. He’s right, of course. But which issue and behavior is more dangerous to liberty?

Stuart Richards, from Hammer of Truth, gives the Muslim rioters the same answer I did: “Get over it”. He also wonders if we live in Iran now. I’m wondering myself.

Instapundit, who actually doesn’t need my links to bring him readers, has lots of coverage of the whole affair. This entry is good, and there’s lots of good links.

The Voice of Treason has a good editorial on the topic. Treason says, “And while we all sit here and fiddle with words, embassies in Damascus are burning.”

And, if you’re interested, the international version of the Jyllands-Posten, the paper that ignited the whole controversy, can be found here.

Last, but certainly not least, Mark Steyn writes a piece that makes some excellent points. A lot of folks are quoting this piece, but I think they are focusing on the wrong set of points in it. Here’s the important bit:

Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a “diverse” “tolerant” society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Over the Top

No, not the WWI command given to soldiers when they left the trenches to charge into the machine guns. I’m talking about the reaction of Muslims to the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper last September. As I’ve discussed earlier, the reactions of violence and anger have proved the point of the cartoons that portray Islam as a violent religion. The violence has escalated from protests and individual gunmen, or small groups, seeking out Danes and Norwegians to kidnap, to rioters burning the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria. On a side note, I would suggest that anyone who thinks those riots were not allowed, even encouraged, by the Syrian government hasn’t paid much attention to reality in the Middle East.

First, a piece of advice to Muslims. Stop worrying so much about what someone who doesn’t believe in your religion does. After all, if your religion is true, those cartoonists have committed blasphemy and will pay the price for their sin. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt you at all. They have not caused you to violate your religion, nor even urged you to. So, chill out. Or, as another religion’s teachings say, worry about the stick in your eye before worrying about the sliver in mine. Because, if your religion is actually one of peace, you are violating it with the riots, attacks, and destruction of property that you are committing.

In the meantime, we in the West need to stand firm. Messages like the Washington Post is reporting need to stop:

“The right to freedom of thought and expression . . . cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers,” the Vatican said in a statement.

That’s complete bull. If you can’t offend the sacred cows and the naked emperor then you don’t have freedom of expression. Of course, I’m sure that the Vatican would like to have the ability to control thought and speech as they did in the past.

In the United States, major newspapers, including The Washington Post, chose not to reprint the images on grounds they would give offense.

So, you have de facto surrendered your freedom of expression. Of course, this is just a more public variant of something that has been going on for a while now. According to reports I’ve read in the past, the movie studio that produced “The Sum of All Fears” changed the plot from Palestinian terrorsts getting a nuclear weapon to white supremacists because of pressure brought to bear by Muslim groups. So much for artistic freedom.

Freedom of speech means that I can say whatever I please, publicly, no matter whether it is offensive, racist, inflammatory, or anything else that people don’t like. To suggest that there should be limits on what I say or write in order to avoid offense to another is to suggest that I should not be free to speak. The choice, and the responsibility, must be mine, else the freedom does not exist.

To the couple of commenters on this entry who suggested that the cartoons are racist, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Racism is the belief that race or ethnicity accounts for differences in the character of people or their ability to do something. It is about discriminating based on someone’s ethnic group. These cartoons may be anti-religion, but they do nothing to single out someone for their race, or suggest that any ethnic group is inferior to another. Of course, your charges of racism are a convenient strawman to attack this, and is an attempt to deny the truth that the reactions of Muslims supports the satire of the cartoons in the first place. It is also an ad hominem attack, an attempt to discredit the message by attacking the messenger. If you can make the cartoonists out to be racists you will, you hope, avoid dealing with the message. It’s a trap that ultimately discredits you. Deal with the message.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball
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