Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dangerous free speech should be tolerated and dealt with by more speech

I generally support the notion that speech in art or politics should not be censored based on what a deranged or weak-minded person might do based upon viewing or hearing it.

If some criminal copies something they see on "The Sopranos", I don't think HBO should be held accountable.

If some unstable person attacks a public figure after listening to a rant on talk radio, I don't believe that anyone should be judged except the person who committed the act.

I will admit that words can have negative consequences, much more intense than positive affirmation. If I personally tell someone how much I like them everyday for a month, but get angry at them for something and lash out at them on only one day; they are likely to focus much more on that one instance. If you reverse it, they are much more likely to remember the month of bad interactions and think concerning the one good comment, that they "were up to something".

That's the essence of our nature. But, I think the standard for dealing with the potential negative consequences of speech should be whether a reasonable person would become agitated and take violent actions, whether the speaker was specifically trying to agitate the unstable, or whether there was a reckless disregard to the possibility.

It should be illegal for a known right-winger to go to an Al Sharpton rally and yell angry racists insults.

It should be illegal for a pro-choice activist to go to a pro-life rally and call them religious zealots.

However, they should be free to do so on the internet, at their own rally, or in other forms that are less confrontational.

The problem with political speech is similar to the issue with rap music. They purport to be "keeping it real". What should we do if people communicate messages that are dangerous if taken seriously, but in the final analysis the speakers say "it's just art" or "it's just rhethoric".

If a rapper says, "I don't shoot back because I shoot first", or "no snitching" when it comes to telling the police what you know about a crime;


A political candidate says, "we shouldn't retreat, we should reload" or "we'll give the ballot a try, but if it doesn't work, we must resort to 2nd amendment remedies...our founders wanted us to resist tyranny".

In each instance, when asked the speakers will soberly defend their language as poetic or rhethorical rather than an actual statement of purpose. What then?

I think it is the job of the media to force the artists to deny the implications, then publicize that "they aren't real". Because if they were they would be in jail.

A candidate who won't admit that they're not serious should be arrested for disorderly conduct.

So the answer is sunshine. The media doing they're job.
Furthermore the answer is gun control, law enforcement, proper treatment of the mentally ill, and more voices dedicated to building up America.

Other times it is ignoring the speech. If you don't publicize it, you won't feed the fire.

I therefore support extreme speech but not extreme actions.

This brings me to the Westboro Baptist Church who are known for protesting funerals in support of a rightwing conservative religious agenda. They are offensive. They are aggressive. They are politically incorrect.

As long as they follow the law in terms of staying away from the protest-free zones, and being peaceful, they should be left alone. In addition, the laws should allow them to be heard. Maybe not 10 feet away, but a respectful distance.

If you read what they believe, you know I generally agree with much of what they're talking about. But I would never do what they do. I don't support the tactics they employ. I don't support the over the top condemnations, I abhor the vile judgements of people. I do support their right to speak. I do support their commitment to make America a better place. I also realize that were they not so offensive and outlandish, I wouldn't have heard of them and they would be ignored.

I wish that more respectable people would speak out against the mainstream culture that is constantly devolving. I wish that normal Americans would speak out against gay rights, against the abortion culture, the feminization of boys, divorce, etc. But we leave so many topics out of the public square that it is left to crazy people to stand up for traditional values.

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