Commentary by James Shott
Recently, more words have been added to the list that our betters say we can’t use anymore. Most
recent is the word “thug,” following the riots in American cities after
the deaths of African-American males in confrontations with police
officers. News reports describing broken windows and looting of some
businesses, burning buildings and cars, etc., by some of the rioters
contained that word in what clear-thinking people would accept as
it immediately was labeled a no-no, because some had decided that it
was being used to replace the “N” word. That, of course, falsely assumes
that the only people who behave like thugs are black.
of Hillary Clinton’s support groups virtually dared media folk to use
any of 12 descriptive words in discussing her, because doing so, they
say, is sexist.
these folks, so quick on the trigger to ban words they don’t like,
forget is that here in America millions of us take the First Amendment’s
guarantee of free speech seriously. Just because you are offended by
something someone said, you don’t get to dictate what people can and
now the Garland, TX event that resulted in two Muslim extremists
getting their just desserts before they could murder participants and
the event’s sponsor, Pamela Geller, has ignited a furor over whether the
Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest event crossed the boundaries of free
Geller’s critics say “yes, she has the right to have this contest, even
though it is highly offensive to Muslims, but she should not have had
the contest because it drove those two Muslims to violence.” Translated
into plain English, these critics are saying, “If someone might react
violently to what the First Amendment guarantees you the right to say,
you shouldn’t say it.” And, they imply that the two now-dispatched
murderous Muslim thugs aren’t the ones who did wrong, Ms. Geller is.
that realm of illogic, what is or is not legitimate free speech depends
upon how someone might react to it, and the speaker is responsible for
how some maniac might react to what he or she said. That standard, if
adopted as law, would lead eventually to darned near everything being
ruled improper speech, because these days being offended now rivals
baseball for the title of National Pastime.
those ignorant of the founding principles, a refresher on why there is a
free speech clause in the First Amendment might be useful. Since no one
cares about restricting speech that they like and approve of, the First
Amendment must have been created for a different purpose.
purpose was to guarantee the people the right to say pretty much
anything they might want to say, however unpopular, vile or hurtful it
may be to some. Specifically, the right to speak against government and
those involved in it was high on the list. Imagine the futility of
declaring independence from an oppressive master, fighting a bloody war
to achieve independence, and then not providing mechanisms that
guarantee that the citizens of the new nation can think and speak like
the Founders did.
religion is concerned, consider that Andres Serrano received $20,000 of
taxpayer support from the National Endowment for the Arts for the “work
of art” titled “Piss Christ,” a crucifix sitting in a container of
urine. Millions of Christians and others condemned this as highly
inappropriate, but no one tried to kill him, or to rewrite or redefine
the First Amendment.
that with renderings of the prophet Muhammad, whom the Encyclopedia
Britannica said was “founder of the religion of Islam, accepted by
Muslims throughout the world as the last of the prophets of God.” The
episode in Garland, TX, the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, where two
Muslim men took exception to the idea of using Muhammad as the subject
of art works and showed up with assault rifles, stands in sharp contrast
to the Piss Christ episode.
are some exceptions to free speech, among them the commonly cited
“shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” which would spark a panic that
would likely hurt people. Drawing pictures of Muhammad, however
disgusting they may be, or calling thugs “thugs,” or using certain words
to describe Ms. Clinton fall well short of that threshold.
cannot and will not allow self-appointed censors to cleanse the lexicon
of imagined offensive thoughts and words, whether the goal is to
protect a political candidate, or because certain words or deeds are
likely to offend someone.
United States has not survived and thrived for more than 200 years by
letting a bunch of ideological nannies control their every word, thought
should expect and encourage people to use good judgment in their words
and deeds, but we cannot persecute them when their legal behavior strays
beyond our preferred boundaries.
United States has its way of doing things that has worked well for a
long time, including guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion, and
other important individual rights. Those principles are not going to
change every time a small, disenchanted group wants a change.
Cross-posted from Observations