Friday, June 4, 2010

Offensive speech

So this morning, I did something that I do occasionally even though I know it's just going to annoy me. While flipping through the channels on TV, I stopped on Fox "News". Steve Douchey (yes, I know that's not how it's spelled, but it should be) and the bubble-headed bleach blonde (tip of the cap to Don Henley) were talking to a curator of a museum in Oklahoma. Right now, the museum she works for is displaying paintings that show the Virgin Mary holding weapons. For instance, in one painting, she is holding what looks like a sub-machine gun. She isn't using the weapons or even pointing them at anyone, just holding them. Now I didn't find this particularly offensive, (I wasn't particularly impressed with the artwork, in my opinion, it was competent, but nothing special) but then again, I don't believe in the whole Virgin Mary story anyway, so that's not surprising. It also wasn't surprising that Fox actually considers this news or that the whole point of having this woman on was to give her grief (as opposed to taking a "Fair and Balanced" look at the situation)and get Fox viewers riled up about this awful thing that's going on, even though no one's forcing any of them to go to Oklahoma and look at this stuff.

But the point of this post isn't to point out what everyone knows, which is that Fox "News" is not a news organization. I just want to comment on something the BBB said. I don't remember the exact quote, but I think this is close enough to it to make the point, "I understand the whole free speech thing, but, still, a lot of people would probably find this offensive". The second half of that statement makes it clear that the first half of it isn't true. The whole point of freedom of speech is to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by its' very nature, doesn't need protecting. If I say something like, "Puppies and kittens are cute", I don't have to worry too much about upsetting people. But if I say something like, "I think if Christ did exist, he was just a guy with some good ideas, that's it, he certainly wasn't the son of God", there are quite a few people who would be ticked off. Does that mean I shouldn't have the right to say that ? Before you answer, think about this, would you want to live in Iran ? In that country, religion IS the law and woe on anyone who would dare to say anything against it. Some of the right wing nuts who think Obama's a nazi have drawn pictures of him with a Hitler mustache and Nazi uniform and displayed them at rallies. I personally find this offensive (and, frankly, I think most Jews or pretty much anybody who knows anything about history should). To compare anything Obama has done, no matter how much it has ticked you off, to what Hitler did is incredibly offensive and the people who do it just display how ignorant of history they are (and in general). Still, I would never say they weren't allowed to do it. Of course, during the Dubya administration (the Dark Years), any piece of artwork that made such an offensive implication about Dubya would have sparked outrage among these same people.

Bottom line, freedom of speech is not there to protect speech everybody likes. It's there to protect speech many people won't like, maybe even you. And like the right wingers who said that criticizing Dubya was disloyal and that we should always support our president no matter what who are now carrying those Obama is Hitler signs, the speech you find offensive today might be the kind of thing you want to say tomorrow. It's very easy for the tables to be turned. If you really love this country, like so many on the right claim to (and imply that those on the left don't), then you should support the First Amendment (and the rest of the Constitution) and just don't listen to, watch, etc. anything you don't like. Otherwise, one day you may find that you're the one being silenced.