This blog started almost 20 years ago principally to defend freedom of speech and to be certain that the cherished freedoms we have in the real world extends into the internet. Twenty years later those freedom are still under assault, both in the real world and on the Internet.
But my source of outrage today.... well, not outrage as much as disappointment is an article that appears in Time Magazine's Opinion Section on-line written by Bruce Crumley. In my constant war to protect free speech I have always counted on virtually all journalists and major publishers as trustworthy allies. Time Magazine and Mr. Crumley have defected to the other side.
The headline of Mr. Crumley's Op-Ed is Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr You can click on the headline to read the entire article, I'm only going to reprint a small portion below.
.... The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists ....
.... the coarse and heavy-handed Islamist theme of the current edition of Charlie Hebdo. As part of its gag, the paper had re-named itself “Sharia Hebdo”. It also claimed to have invited Mohammed as its guest editor to “celebrate the victory” of the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia's first free elections last week. In addition to satirical articles on Islam-themed topics, the paper contains drawings of Mohammed in cartoons featuring Charlie Hebdo's trademark over-the-top (and frequently not “ha-ha funny”) humor. The cover, for example, features a crudely-drawn cartoon of the Prophet saying “100 Whip Lashes If You Don't Die Of Laughter.” Maybe you had to be there when it was first sketched.
.... free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties—and that isn't happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.
Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile. Baiting extremists isn't bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate—is a real risk ....
Aside from the all too obvious "let's blame the girl for getting raped because she wore a short dress" theme of his diatribe, the conclusion of Mr. Crumley's essay is that we shouldn't needlessly offend a large portion of the population, especially if you're not very funny.
Mr. Crumley wants to place two limitations on free speech. First you must not needlessly offend a large segment of the population. This begs the question of how we might determine the need to offend. If I campaign here in Mississippi against the certain to pass "Right to Life" Amendment 26 I am certain to offend a majority of the population who believes abortion should be banned. My efforts will be futile, but are they "needless?"
Secondly, Mr Crumley wants the standard to be that the offending speech be really funny, or perhaps of sufficiently high literary quality. Certainly my writing is of inferior quality and not funny at all. So my campaign for a woman's right to choose fails on both points.
Obviously, in the gospel according to Crumley, I must just shut up.
Fortunately for Bruce Crumley, I strongly disagree with everything he wrote. Therefore I am able to staunchly defend his right to write an insanely stupid, poorly written, terribly unfunny, horribly offensive article in Time Magazine. And I will condemn anyone who chooses to firebomb his office or otherwise attack his free speech rights.