Forum: Do Ethnic Or Religious Sensibilities Trump Free Speech? Should A Line Be Drawn?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question: Do Ethnic Or Religious Sensibilities Trump Free Speech? Should A Line Be Drawn?

Liberty’s Spirit:  Absolutely NOT. As Voltaire said {paraphrased} about freedom of speech “I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to my death your right to say it.” Freedom of speech is the right to insult people as much as you want and for them to insult you back. It is a precarious slippery slope deciding what is or is not permitted speech, because that tyranny will change depending upon who is in power at any given time. Additionally, without free speech society could not challenge, grow and develop into democracies. No ruler, potentate, oligarch or tyrant would ever allow anything they did to be challenged especially, by free speech. This is why free speech is a crime in the majority of countries in the world.

In fact, the first line of freedom is freedom of speech. It is why it is one of the 5 freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. These are the rights that the founding fathers knew to be the most essential in order to preserve a democratic society. Freedom of speech may allow haters to vent their ignorance but it also allows you to answer them and to fight them. This is why the Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality are so insidious, and why free speech advocates are enraged that the Obama administration is going to turn over certain operations of the internet to the UN. This organization is run by tyrants, absolute monarchies and oligarchs. The importance of the internet is exemplified by the fact that the overt first acts of these dictatorship is to cut off or severely limit access to the internet or internet programs like twitter.

The UN, in fact, may best be described as “Animal Farm,” without the human element of compassion. It is important to remember that the UN directorate, which is beholden to Islamist nations for their positions (due to voting blocs), is also pushing for a blasphemy law promoted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). This law would punish anyone who questions Islam on any level. It is important to note that Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration support such a law curtailing freedom of speech. These laws and dictator-run-groups are meant to cut off and prevent freedom of speech on every level. It is beyond comprehension how anyone in the political class of the United States would support curtailing our most basic freedoms, but our President and presumed democratic nominee for 2016 do apparently support tyranny.

Freedom of speech is not easy. But it is important to note that freedom of speech is the hallmark of the enlightenment period. Without it all humanity would revert back into serfdom. Meant only to serve the political classes’ desires and wants, just as our ancestors were forced to serve the ruling/royal classes during much of human history. Like the novel “1984,” the march forward into a better world would end and we would see another Dark Ages. Something, by the way, the international political classes are trying to engineer by promoting and capitulating to Islamist aggression coupled with political correctness and cultural relativism worldwide, including in the United States.

 Simply Jews: No.

Sorry, it was a partial answer only. Here is a full one:

No. No.

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Oh, that’s easy!

NOT!!

Perhaps the most contentious issue in Free World?

If liberty of expression is not highly valued, as has often been the case, there is no problem: freedom of expression is simply curtailed in favor of other values. Free speech becomes a hot issue when it is highly valued because only then do the limitations placed upon it become controversial.

The first thing to note in any sensible discussion of freedom of speech is that it will have to be limited. Every society places some limits on the exercise of speech because speech always takes place within a context of competing values. In this sense, Stanley Fish is correct when he says that there is no such thing as free speech (in the sense of unlimited speech).

If free speech were ‘absolute,’ you could even lawfully kill somedobby, as long as you were doing it to make some statement.

On all sides of the debate, we can agree that speech is necessary for democracy. Governments ought not to abridge speech en masse. Government must show how the speech in question poses a genuine danger.

FreeSpeechDebate has an excellent piece up that systematically knocks out 19 arguments in favor of Speech Control. Well worth checking out, here is just a killer sample

The ‘globalisation’ argument:

‘The 2005 Danish You Know Who cartoons demonstrated how free speech in the West, even if harmless at home, can have violent repercussions around the world. In an era of instantaneous electronic communications, overly broad freedoms of speech can have dangerous consequences.’

Reply:

It is illegitimate a priori to suggest that one society’s norms of democratic citizenship must be abridged because members of another society dislike its exercise. By analogy, in many societies, electronic communications revealing scantily clad Western women also provoke hostility, which, however, would scarcely justify calls for Western women to start covering themselves up.

JoshuaPundit : Our Supreme Court has weighed in on this a number of times, and originally came up with an excellent dividing line in Schenck v. United States where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. coined the “clear and present danger” doctrine. Simply put, if speech was intended to result in a crime and had a good chance of succeeding, it was no longer protected speech.I largely agree with that doctrine. It’s a necessary line for the protection of a civil society.

Since then, our courts and our politicians have steadily chipped away at that doctrine, with various ‘hate speech’ codes in universities and other institutions being upheld whether they advocated crime and violence or pose a clear and present danger or not. This is a huge danger to the First Amendment that, frankly, comes with the Left’s increasing use of identity politics to foster division in this country. A president like Barack Obama who makes use of this as a major part of his political strategy is the natural result.

This danger to our traditional freedom of expression from this new ‘right to be offended’ has spread over the American landscape, the more so because the use of partisan identity politics is unequal, as is the fear of retaliation. An Al Sharpton, a Gloria Alred or a Louis Farrakhan can freely indulge in blatant sexism, racism or anti-semitism with no consequences, while it is open season on anyone not belonging to one of the protected groups who is guilty of what Orwell would have called thought crimes.

Another part of what I’ll call the Fear Factor is the introduction into America of fundamentalist Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood by our last three presidents. While hardliners belonging to other religions may be unpleasant and call names, Islam mandates the violent death of those whom ‘insult’ its doctrines,its prophet or its Qu’ran and a significant number of Muslims agree with that view entirely. The fear of Muslims and how they might react to something has become so pervasive in our media, military, law enforcement, academia, and politics that in itself, a significant amount of Islam and how it is practiced and proselytized in the West has become that clear and present danger Justice Homes spoke about, any number of decent, peaceful Muslims not withstanding. It has even infected our Supreme Court to the point where one Supreme Court Justice has been open about abrogating our First Amendment and another certainly leans in that direction in order to avoid any possibility of angering restive Muslims.

These threats to our First Amendment freedoms are something we are going to have to deal with in the future if we wish to retain them at all.

The Razor: Tricky question.The cliché is the limit of free speech is yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, so free speech isn’t without limits. Another example would be personal threats. One isn’t free to threaten to kill another. The problem is once you draw the line it’s difficult to stop moving it.

Take for example the Islamic extremists in the UK who threaten non-believers. Is that protected speech? I would say it is. However if the extremists threaten to kill David Cameron or move from the general to the specific, such as threatening to kill Jews or a British soldier, then in my view they’ve crossed that line.

But the question really is nowhere near that limit. It’s really about offensive speech. Muslims and their Leftist useful idiots have become quite adept at using speech codes to silence opposition to Islamic extremism in the UK as well as on American college campuses. These codes have nothing to do with protecting against threats and everything to do with silencing opposing voices through the justification of causing offense. The “logic” behind such codes is that there is an equivalent between mental anguish and physical pain; therefore the old adage that “sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never hurt me,” is false. Words can hurt just as much as physical abuse. That’s bulls**t. This twisted logic also assumes that humans can exist in a social state of non-confrontational bliss, which is also bullocks. Such a state assumes a level of conformity in thought and action that simply isn’t achievable without social engineering on a scale that has only been glimpsed in books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. Given that such utopian social engineering underlays both Leftist and Islamic ideologies, I suppose it’s not a surprise to find these unlikely bedfellows united in their promotion of speech codes limiting the free expression of contrary ideas and opinions.

It would be nice to live in a completely free society, one without lines, but the real world demands we must set boundaries and that means drawing lines. But these lines should be set as close to the ideal as possible, meaning that the cases that cross the line and the impact such crossing has affects as few people as absolutely necessary.

 The Independent Sentinel:No. People shouldn’t be rude but it’s the price we pay for free speech. Sensibilities never trump free speech.

People shouldn’t be sued or have to accommodate others for their inherent right to free speech simply because someone is offended. If every time we speak, we have to think of who we might offend, we lose far too much freedom.

I was giving a lecture one day and I referred to my flip chart. Everyone’s gasped. I had no idea why. Apparently it’s an insult to Philippine people. Where do we stop if we have to worry about people’s sensibilities? Do we have to know insults in other languages and do we have to know the origin of words because they might have been offensive once?

The recent event on the Bundy ranch should have everyone offended. The government, in addition to the whole martial law thing, set up free speech zones far from the ranch. They made a point of calling them free speech zones. Using those words was meant to send a message that the rest of the areas are not free speech zones. It was done deliberately because they want us to get used to the idea.

All of America is a free speech zone!

Bookworm Room : No. Free speech must trump any ethnic or religious sensibilities. It’s that simple. Once you start carving out little exceptions, you stop having free speech, no matter how little those exceptions are initially. And once you lose free speech, you lose freedom which is easily lost and almost impossible to regain.

Part of living in a free society is having a thick skin. One of the most terrible things the Left has done to America is to turn various ethnic, religious, racial, sex, and gender identity groups into panicked, hysterical bundles of over-exposed nerves. Few things are more dangerous than an angry, aggressive coward fighting for what the coward perceives to be his survival — and that’s what we’ve all been trained to be over the last forty, and especially the last twenty years.

 The Glittering Eye :No. Your free exercise ends where my freedom of expression begins. The First Amendment is pretty clear on this subject and, since it’s incorporated, that applies to state and local governments as well.

There is no guarantee of not being offended by the speech of others, either explicit or implied.

AskMarion: In the end each of our relationships with and to God is all that matters, and so I believe it is with countries and societies as well. As for organized religion, I have gone through my phases with religion(s) in general, individual churches and practicing at all, throughout my life. And looking at America’s changing relationship with God and His principles on which our nation was founded and the corresponding decline in America, American society and in our standing in the world, I would say that there is a fine line between the importance of freedom of speech, basic principles and ethnic or religious sensibilities.

I believe that in the end, if you do not have freedom and the right to speak out you lose it all, or at best life becomes very difficult, but in order to have freedom and allow freedom of speech, it requires civility, understanding and some compromise by all. For if you destroy the vehicle that allows you your freedoms, even if they aren’t perfect, you will soon find yourself living in anarchy and in a place that just might not allow you any freedom or at least not the freedoms that are important to you.

We are now seeing the exact opposite of what our Founders envisioned. We are living in a country where you can be destroyed, fired, and singled out for speaking up or donating to a cause that aligns with your religious beliefs, especially if you are a Christian, in deference to groups that have made huge strides in their freedoms in the past 10-years, because average Americans were willing to compromise.

Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders believed that they were inspired by God and that God had his hand on America. They believed that there definitely should not be central religion, like in Great Britain, but they believed that our country and Constitution would be best served if based on Judeo-Christian principles…. and they absolutely supported prayer at governmental events and in school as well as the mention of God and posting of the 10 Commandments in founding documents and governmental buildings and monuments. That is the basis for the huge misunderstood principle of separation of church and state, that is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

So yes… sometimes what is best for the society or country as a whole, must prevail. There are few absolutes, so although generally freedom of speech must be the measuring stick, sometimes common sense or the greater good must prevail because there is no freedom in chaos.

Well, there you have it.

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2 Responses to “Forum: Do Ethnic Or Religious Sensibilities Trump Free Speech? Should A Line Be Drawn?”

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  2. [...] Good stuff.  Very, very good stuff.  Dangerous times make for good writing, I guess.  Also, please check out the forum, which asks if ethnic or religious sensibilities should limit free speech? [...]

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