Friday, August 08, 2008

The Aging of Free Speech?

This article got me riled up when I read it a while back. I shared some thoughts about it with some friends at the time, which I'll post here.
A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatened Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.

Things are different here. The magazine is on trial.

Two members of the Canadian Islamic Congress say the magazine, Maclean’s, Canada’s leading newsweekly, violated a provincial hate speech law by stirring up hatred against Muslims. They say the magazine should be forbidden from saying similar things, forced to publish a rebuttal and made to compensate Muslims for injuring their “dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

In the United States, that debate has been settled. Under the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minorities and religions — even false, provocative or hateful things — without legal consequence.
Perhaps it was the general "America is weird" slant of it, or the overall theme that seems to insinuate that it is important to protect people from certain speech.

People do not need to be protected from speech. The few exceptions that the Supreme Court have found for speech involve when the speech incites immediate violence in a setting where that violence would be likely.

While our American exceptionalism is something to be proud of, and that much of the world once admired (beacon of democracy, land of freedom, etc), now it appears that we are more and more seen as simply the cowboys of the world.

For example, my Belgian cousins lump our First Amendment protection of free speech dismissively in with our Second Amendment rights to bear arms, and our Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless searches and seizures. They don't understand why police can't just search people on the street who are obviously sketchy. So, they shrug their shoulders and write America off as a throwback country, an anachronism in today's world.

Such blatant disregard for the American tradition and the peer pressure to make me change my beliefs deeply offends my dignity, feelings and self-respect. So those Canadians and others better stop saying this, before I tell on them.


Anonymous Madelia said...

Well written article.

12:49 PM  

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