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Freedom to be a fool

After the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, many people were reluctant to give unreserved support for the victims because they’ve printed offense and outrageous things about many religions. In fact, some people said, in essence, sure killing people is awful but they got what was coming to them. The pope went on about punching people in the nose, and in general people missed the point.

Support for freedom of speech does not require you endorse the speech. In fact, you can abhor the speech or find idiotic and still support its expression.


Case in point, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo thinks religion should be banned from the public sphere and that, “Secularism allows all believers and not-believers to live in peace and that is what we defend.” Ah, the peace of “Shut up.” No, thank you. (Also, those lovely secular paradises of the Former Soviet Union, Cuba, and a host of other totalitarian states seem to refute your argument, n’est pas?)
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I supported the release of The Interview and was appalled at the companies involved for running scared, but the movie is most likely a mindless piece of tripe, and Seth Rogen is an idiot. (No, I’m not spending my scarce entertainment resources on that.)

But both the writers at Charlie Hebdo and Rogen have the right to say and print stupid things and not fear for their well being. “Say what you want, but you run the risk of being killed and we’re not going to do anything about it” is not support of free speech. At best it’s apathy; at worst it’s hypocrisy.

The whole point of civilization is that we don’t allow people to go on rampages raping, looting and killing for any reason, even hurt feelings. Saying, “You can’t say anything offensive about religion” is stupid because every religion is blasphemous to every other religion, and that includes atheism. A civilized society–a free society–says you don’t have the right not to be offended, but you also don’t have to fear for your life, liberty or property is you offend someone else. Support for free speech for idiots like Rogen and that editor is also support for free speech for those I mostly agree with, for those I somewhat agree with, and for me. And when anyone gets upset, they just have to scratch their mad place, as my mom says. If that scratching means boycotting, protesting, writing angry diatribes, or whatever speech you want, have at it.  And I’ll support you, even if you’re an idiot.

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