Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And now, I rant about freedom of speech.

While I'm not all that upset by the decision of most media outlets in the country to not publish the infamous Danish cartoons (with the exception of the CBC, which is a special case, as I outline here) I am intrigued by the discussions regarding freedom of speech in Canada that it's prompted around the blogosphere.

Many bloggers, such as this one, (h/t P.M. Jaworksi) believe that publishing these cartoons actually violate the rights of Muslims. (He also believes in "group rights," which I'm turning over in my head attempting to define, but that's a subject for another post.)

Now, being offended does not in any way hold a candle to a rights violation, and if I had ever been a victim of a rights violation I imagine I would be fairly offended by the suggestion.

I understand and respect that Muslims believe that pictures of the prophet are blasphemous, but put quite simply, we're not all Muslim.

(Matt at The Freedom Project often tells a story Penn Jillette told on the radio one day about a guy who wears a Mason ring but is not a Mason. Someone might look at him and exclaim "But you're not supposed to wear those unless you're a Mason!" but he replies, "I know, but it's OK, since I'm not a Mason.")

There are plenty of beliefs that I don't hold and therefore I don't follow. For instance, I don't believe that choosing to end your life is something that anyone should be able to tell you you can't do, and so I would support any legislation to legalize euthanasia and oppose any legislation that would make suicide in Canada illegal. This is offensive to a lot of people, but while it would make my friends and family sad, it certainly doesn't violate anybody's rights if I decide to have a doctor put me out for good.

Now, whether or not you believe there should be a law against that kind of thing is your own business. I can't justify passing a law that pushes one persons's value system down anybody else's throat, but that's why I'm a libertarian.

I can respect an opinion saying that you don't think that the cartoons should be published because it's in bad taste, but please don't try to tell me that you're against it because of some fabricated rights violation.

(Besides, many Muslims believe in Sharia law, and we all saw how freaked out everyone got when someone suggested bringing that in.)

Another problem arises when people start talking about hate crime charges in response to publications such as The Western Standard publishing the cartoons.

A typical leftist response that I've been hearing is that Ezra Levant is publishing these cartoons because he's some crazy conservative and he's just hiding behind the guise of freedom of speech, and I don't actually have a problem with this statement, other than the fact that I disagree with it.

The problem comes in when you start saying that publishing these cartoons is against freedom of speech or that it violates the spirit of freedom of speech because it is so offensive to Muslims. At that point you're just wrong.

Freedom is the right to be obnoxious or tasteful, offensive or courteous. The whole point of freedom of speech is that you can be an asshole if you really want to, and no one can tell you that you can't, and they certainly shouldn't be able to charge you with a crime for doing it.

So you can be against publishing the cartoons if you really want. But please admit that if you're against allowing others to publish them then you are also against freedom of speech.



Nick Kouvalis said...

you're a trouble maker. And yes in this country you can be arrested, charged and jailed for being honest, hardworking, accountable, and loyal, let alone an asshole.

MartinP said...

Why admit ANYTHING? After all,you missed one basic freedom there, which is the freedom to be WRONG.

Interesting to note that a woman near here was sued for 6 million for posting pictures of waste that a developer had left laying around and unsafe labour practices for which the Ministry was called in.

The developer didn't even deny it, they simply said that it was creating a 'bad business envrironment', so they sued.

I'll bet that woman would have loved even HALF of the media attention discussing Ezra Lavant's 'freedom of speech'. I guess natives are right, the more money you have, the more 'free' you are. You can even get half the population guarding your freedoms for you.

These are called 'SLAPP' lawsuits, perhaps since freedom of speech interests you so highly you'd like to devote equal attention to the freedoms of hundreds of hard working canadians trying to protect their environment who are having their freedom of speech cut off.

mostlyfree said...


You will note that I never said you shouldn't be allowed to be wrong, I just said that they are.

As for your vaguely described poster woman, (I would read up on it had you provided more details) if she wanted to go head to head with a large developer it may have been in her best interests to pool resources with a group who could defend themselves in a lawsuit, which she is quite free to do.

MartinP said...

So 'freedom of speech' is for those who 'pool their resources'?? So you have freedom of speech so long as you have money? Interesting way of defining it. Heres a link, by the way, I realize my mistake and it was ONLY 2 million (doesn't make much difference to a suburban mother of three)

mostlyfree said...


Freedom of speech - not freedom from consequences.

Clearly we disagree on more than a few things. Thanks for the link, though.

Geo said...

Freedom of speech is either absolute or it's not, and though, as an American, I know we're supposed to have that right guaranteed by our Constitution, we even have room for discussion. Our worst problem is the leverage corporations are getting by donating money to make political ads. Corps run our country, I'm afraid, yet when some of us want to limit money that corps can donate, our opponents say that we're limiting freedom of speech. Doesn't all this get rather gray?

PS: I'm impressed by the intellectual and balanced level of the discussion on this blog. We're getting pretty bitter down here south of the border in our own communications with one another. Being 68 I recall better times, then I recall the days of the labor battles and McCarthyism and then I'm not so sure any more if it is any worse. Again, gray, gray, gray....

mostlyfree said...


I appreciate the compliment. Thanks.