Clash of freedoms

Beliefnet has a story about Opus Dei disavowing the publication of a cartoon by a local group which put Muhammad in Hell taking after Dante. The officials make it clear that the decision was in part driven by pragmatic concerns of violence after the Danish cartoon controversy, but I found this conclusion amusing:

"The cartoon's publication is further framed by the current debate in many countries regarding the false and unjust depiction of the Christian faith in The Da Vinci Code," he said. "The issue at stake here is how to make compatible freedom of expression, a free market and respect for religious beliefs."

In a word, "heh." A reader below asserted that "people scoff pretty easily at 'free speech'." I don't think this is so at all. It seems to be that only unassimilated peoples from non-Western cultures will make a full frontal assault on free speech. Westerners, in contrast, will redefine free speech in a more constrained fashion. This is surely what religious traditionalists mean to do when they hint at a resurrection of pre-modern standards of sacrality of religious beliefs while at the same time preserving "free speech." You know what they say, hate speech isn't speech. Right.


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The hardest thing about free speech is that it means other people have the right to say things you don't approve of. We often forget this.

"Either it's all OK, or none of it is," Kyle said. "Do the right thing."

By matoko_South_P… (not verified) on 18 Apr 2006 #permalink

"The hardest thing about free speech is that it means other people have the right to say things you don't approve of. We often forget this."

I agree. This is fertile ground for rabble-rousers, demagogues, and whatnot. Where do we draw the line between the common rabblerouser & the "truth speaker". By IQ? Of course, a truth speaker could also be a rabble-rouser, & could silently *enjoy* the unrest that he causes. I know that in this country, you cannot use the media to say just anything about anything. If, otoh, you go outside & stand on a milk-crate proclaiming that, say, the abolition of slavery was the real injustice, you aren't going to be tolerated very long, & that could even mean being assinated by a furious citizen.

Free speech entails some problems, slippery slopes, etc. Absolute free-speech is probably impossible, for a number of reasons. I personally believe that unlimited free-speech is unwise.