Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

From the New York Times editorial board:

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

More here.

The shooting in Garland involves essentially the same issues as the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Killing is wrong. Freedom of speech is right. But one should not use one's freedom to be an asshole to an entire minority group. No need to rehash all that.

But a couple of things have occurred to me since then. First, this isn't really a free speech issue. Freedom of speech is about citizens' relationship with government. In contrast, when private individuals threaten violence, use intimidation, whatever, in order to stop somebody from saying something, it's called extortion, which is a criminal act, not a violation of someone's freedom of speech.

So we need to stop confusing the two. Islamic terrorists are criminals trying to extort people into doing their will. Meanwhile, everybody's freedom of speech, at least in the West, remains intact and unthreatened.

Second, Pamela Geller, one of the event's hosts, is a particularly sleazy and bigoted scumbag, and she succeeded in Garland beyond her wildest dreams. That is, Geller WANTED angry Muslims to shoot at her so as to "prove" her vile, prejudiced, and xenophobic beliefs. I have absolutely no doubt that her heart filled with joy the moment she heard that the event had come under fire.

She is an awful, horrible person.