Free Speech

posted February 21, 2006 by Jer

Jer

Con Bard Drew has pestered me on many occasions to acquire a Live Journal account. Xrys has also vocalized this. I understand the argument. LJ is a delightful little community where people can collaborate and share thought and ideas. My humble little site (which I never get tired of mentioning predates the word "Blog") really lacks the feedback and audience participation that LJ can offer. To that I counter: Free Speech.

We live in an age where "Free Speech" as a double-entendre grows more ironic with every advertisement to molest our eyes. Live Journal operates on the premise that you can say whatever you like so long as it does not impede their making money. While you are talking about the general high-school gossip or fandom drama that LJ is best suited for, you are happily seated in the green zone. In fact, you can likely get away with some moderate political disagreement and be just fine. LJ, however reserves the right to censor its content and delete accounts or communities. I take my words rather seriously, however, and When I publish words, I don't like others having such veto power.

On my little site, the highest authority is me. I write what I want, when I want to. Check this shit out:

GEORGE W. BUSH STOMPS ON PUPPIES WITH GOLF SHOES.

Now, the previous statement was a pernicious lie. The point is I can say it and no one is going to take this post or my whole site off the Internet for saying it.

This of course leads to the question of responsibility. Where is the line between what is protected by the right of free-speech and what is simply destructive and dangerous? Is there such a line? And if so, who should draw it? If you enjoy shutting up and doing as your told, you may be content to let other people draw such lines for you. I, personally, stand by the great American tradition of being a stubborn jackass, and intend to challenge any and all lines drawn. Unfortunately, me and my little website are little fish compared to sharks like the major media companies, international corporations, oppressive governments and deeply established religious movements.

If you live in China, the government censors every god damned thing you see. Ideally, people like me would like to isolate them until their people rise up and say "HEY! This is some BULL SHIT!" Unfortunately, I'm not Google. sure, I'd like Google to not deal with China, but do you know how many people live in China? About 5 times as many as the United States. A lot of people can bitch at Google for agreeing to obey China's censoring laws, but let me put it in perspective. I like Comics. If a particular comic shop says "If you wear a purple baseball cap cocked to the side, you can buy 6 times as much comics as you could if you didn't for the same amount of money," you know for damned sure I'm going to sport that lid. Same thing for Google, except that they just had to support an oppressive regime against 1.2 billion people, which for them is as easy as putting on a purple hat. Hell, the hat was probably made in China.

The free-speech issue that's really pissing me off though is the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Do you know how HARD it was for me to find an actual picture of them? EVERYONE is too scared to print them. Know what? So am I. Sure, I'm the be-all end all of Studio Splurd's editorial process, but that doesn't prevent some religious fundamentalist from hacking my site or dropping a pipe bomb in my mailbox. I do have a .JPG of Muhammad with the bomb turban right here in front of me, but I just don't have the chutzpah to post it. I am sure as hell going to bitch about it, though.

So this cartoonist chose to mock a religion notorious for inciting violent outbursts by accusing it of inciting violent outbursts. I think he may have been miss-informed if he expected Muslims to chuckle and say "Oh that's cute" when they read the Sunday morning funnies over coffee that morning. Message aside, their religion expressly forbids any and all visual representations of their Prophet. It's like crossing two lines for the price of one! Okay, granted, the artist had balls, as did the newspapers who subsequently printed the comic. The consequences are burning them now - literally in some cases - and now that the damage has been done no-one's got their back. I think I will take this moment to refer to the sad tale of Orson Wells.

As for the unavoidable backlash, here's what I know: if I stood accused of solving all my problems by hurting and killing people, call me crazy but I don't think the best way out of the conundrum is to start hurting and killing people. Now, as religions go, it's nothing new. Christians have been killing non-Christians for centuries. Another similarity is that the majority of both Christians and Muslims are perfectly respectable folks who just want to keep their faith and do as their religious leaders say. Now, I'm not saying Muslims shouldn't be pissed off. They have very strict rules about this shit. Hell, if Christianity had rules against visually portraying it's major figurehead, we wouldn't have a modern religion entirely based on the unlikely idea that some European punk got a bunch of Arabs to listen to him (if there is a God he sure as hell ain't THAT bad at planning). All I'm saying is that Muslims just happened to be in the right. If they used words against the Danish cartoons instead of knocking over cars and starting fucking fires, they would have easily been able to paint them as bigots propagating slanderous propaganda. Instead, they're living up to the very stereotype they are protesting.

Free speech means even if you're a skinhead Nazi you can say you hate Blacks, Gays and Jews in any forum you have access too. There should be no lines drawn to stop you, no laws to impede you. It is the responsibility of the society in which you must to put you in your place, as it always has before. You have the right to piss off any group of humans you feel deserves it, and you should expect said group and their allies and supporters to counter you. Through this process, both sides vent their opinions and have the edges dulled and venom diluted by a beautiful art known as conversation. The result is bridging divides through understanding.

Just so long as you don't impede the forum owners from making money. They fucking hate that.