Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I get the whole free speech thing...

but sometimes I wonder if people do it just to create a reaction.

So a while back there was the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis. Everyone has heard about it by now. If you haven't, you've lived under a rock because it was all over the news. The creator of one of the most famous cartoons (the one with the bomb in Mohammed's turban) had received death threats. Police in Denmark tracked the threats to a group of Muslims living in Denmark. Then yesterday they arrested them. The DB had a heck of a time getting in to work, seeing how there were lots of other news organizations hanging around and taking pictures, interviewing people and interfering with the security people and the police who were checking the id of everyone trying to get inside. The DB was very glad he got his photo id card Tuesday.

In a show of solidarity, a number of newspapers decided to YET AGAIN reprint the cartoons. And make big statements about free speech. As expected this set off a lot of other angry people, who are ticked off that the newspapers, having offended a huge population of the planet, would do so AGAIN, just because they can.

I support freedom of speech, but I also think that there should be a measure of social responsibility involved (it's that whole "fire" in crowded theater thing). It reminds me of the scene in Die Hard: With a Vengeance - where McClane is standing in Harlem with an "I hate Niggers" sign around his neck. Sure, a man has a right to go to Harlem and wear that sign, it's his right to freedom of speech, but if he gets the crap kicked out of him, or shot... well, that'll teach him.

I applaud people who stand up and say things that need to be said, even if they are unpopular and sometimes suicidal. But I'm a lot less sympathetic to those who say things for the purpose of creating conflict, fostering negative dialogue, and hurting people's feelings. This is why bullying is looked down on (hey, it's only words, why don't we just explain to the bullied that the bullies are just practicing their right to freedom of speech and they shouldn't let it get them down) and we have "hate mongering" and "sexual harassment" - all of which are ways of using words that are hurtful and in some cases, prosecutable.

Words hurt, and while we have the right to say what we want, we should also think about what we are trying to say and what impact that may have on those around us.

And that's all I have to say about that.

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