Free speech is paramount to the continuation of our society.
Finally, even our elites are beginning to realize this, even if they are not willing to express it openly – yet.
Even a few in the media are begginning to acknowledge this, even though most are still confused about what ‘incitement to riot’ is.
Just for the record, saying “Your Mama wears army boots!” is an insult, not incitement to riot, violence or murder. Saying “Kill those who say My Mama wears army boots!” is incitement to murder.
Even if you replace ‘your Mama’ with ‘Your Prophet’ and ‘wears army boots’ with ‘rapes little girls’.
And offering money to anyone who kills ‘Steve X’, because ‘Steve X’ said or wrote or drew or filmed something, is conspiracy to murder…and a criminal act.
I’m only explaining this because so many policymakers in the USA and UK and media members everywhere seem to have trouble understanding this simple distinction.
Back to the French…
What is more, they announced ahead of time that they were going to do so.
The response of the French government: send riot police to guard the magazine from rioters, because, as they quite correctly said, free speech must be protected. And, they beefed up the security at their Embassies, in case there was a backlash there.
That is what the French got right.
It’s the next bit I have a problem with: the French banned all protests against the cartoons!
I’m sorry, but that is just as wrong as banning the cartoons themselves!
Peaceful protests are a necessary expression of the freedom of speech and no government may ban them, on any grounds.
Sure, if the protests turn violent, the police are obligated to arrest those who break the law and riot. That goes without saying. But banning a protest just because it might – even if it is very likely that it might – turn violent is a violation of the very principles that were upheld by protecting the publication of the cartoons!
You cant’d punish pre-crime and you cannot limit someone’s rights because of what they might do.
Well, obviously, you can – the French just did it.
What I mean is that it is wrong to do so…
Freedom of speech is for everyone.
It is especially important that we protect the freedom of speech of those who say things we don’t like.
Sure, the protests were likely to turn violent. Pretending otherwise would be naive.
But the power of the government does not extend to limiting the freedoms of their citizens to commit crimes – only to arrest them and punish them in accordance with the laws after they break the law!
Yes, there is a problem in many places with protests turning violent: but that is because in the past, the police have been negligent in apprehending and punishing those who break the laws during protests. That is a problem which needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.
But past negligence in enforcing the laws sufficiently does not give any goverment the right to abrogate the rights of its citizens – especially a core right, like freedom of speech.