Censorship

The Right Not to be Offended?

Even offensive speech deserves protection

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It's a discredit to our national confidence that each time some impolite thought—perceived or otherwise—is uttered, sketched, or typed, a faction of professionally offended Americans engages in a collective hypersensitivity meltdown.

It has been a long-standing custom for opponents to shut down debate by tagging adversaries with some dreadful labels. No one wants to be called a racist, a Commie, or a neocon. It's gotten to the point that the gatekeepers of the news walk so tepidly on the path of least resistance a journalist can't even get a dirty joke in the newspaper.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently claimed that we, as a nation, have been cowards on the topic of race. And maybe he's right. Some Americans are cowards. Other Americans—the ones in the media—worry that Al Sharpton might show up in their doorways and shake down their kids for allowance money.

Sean Delonas, cartooning at the New York Post, recently learned what happens when you inadvertently offend. He equated congressional authors of the so-called stimulus bill with that crazy rampaging chimpanzee (admittedly an unpardonable insult to our simian cousins). But some readers saw Barack Obama. So the situation has erupted into a massively stupid kerfuffle.

Now, I don't doubt that many readers of this admittedly unfortunate cartoon legitimately were offended. So let's, for the sake of argument, concede that the cartoonist is a raging racist. What now?

In protests this week, students at a New York college urged boycotts, began burning newspapers—a hop, skip, and jump from burning books!—and demanded that anyone involved with the cartoon be fired. Fair enough.

But now the Rev. Al has ordered a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission so he—a man who has set off more chaos, loathing, and racism in New York than any cartoonist—can discuss the ownership of the Post. The FCC, according to Sharpton, has acquiesced to meet in Washington.

As an antiquated government entity, the FCC controls the public airwaves and ownership of media companies. What if it meets with Sharpton and then moves against the New York Post's owner?

We largely have avoided the corrosive trend of chilling free speech—though discussions about the "Fairness Doctrine" (and its derivatives), which allows government to dictate what opinions Americans should hear on the public airwaves, remains a hobbyhorse for some lefties.

A media outlet, of course, is under no obligation to print something that gratuitously offends readers, and it would be counterproductive for it to do so. But umbrage often is taken regardless. Should an angry conservative leader have met with the FCC to discuss the future of The Washington Post's ownership when one of the paper's cartoonists depicted an American solider as a suicide bomber a few years ago? Imagine the outrage such a move would have caused.

Recently, Geert Wilders—a Dutch politician who produced the film "Fitna," which asserts that Islam is a threat to enlightened Western values—was refused entry into the United Kingdom because of that nation's policy to "stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages."

The British proved Wilders' point about Islam's influence by suppressing free expression. The case of Wilders, who is in the U.S. right now, offers a cautionary lesson.

Feel free to be indignant and hurt. Feel free to boycott and to cast nasty aspersions on the decency of those who offend you. But let's keep government out of it. If we're not careful, the war against offensive speech could morph into a war against free speech.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State.

COPYRIGHT 2009 THE DENVER POST
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  1. Is that “neocon” a joke, or is that actually a dirty word now? And do we have a definition, aside from “Iraq war supporter”?

  2. That picture is racist.

  3. “Neocon” was a long-standing self-description of basically LBJ-type Democrats who fled to the other party in the ’80s because it came to more nearly match their priorities, that now means either “Jew,” “suspected Jew,” “Jew-controlled,” or “I repeat words without knowing what they mean.”

  4. Al Sharpton should shut the fuck up. His existence offends me.

  5. That picture is racist.

    You would think that somebody in the reason staffroom would have caught that…but they didn’t. What does that say about them?

  6. I’m highly offended by Al Sharpton every time he opens his self-aggrandizing, race-bating, hate-spewing mouth.

    -jcr

  7. What should we call this new intolerance?
    “Political”…something…

  8. Is it racist of me to suggest that black people are more sensitive than white people?

    I’ll know racism is a thing of the past when the normal response to a racist is to ignored him.

    As I white male, I could care less when a Lefty woman or Dave Chappell make “racist” remarks against me and my ilk. Isn’t that where we’d all like to be.

  9. WTC 7 did not fall because of office fires.

    Did anyone see the video with the Chinese fire compare to WTC 7?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzXX_UgDhgo

  10. WTC 7 did not fall because of office fires.

    Did anyone see the video with the Chinese fire compare to WTC 7?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzXX_UgDhgo

    This thread’s about to become radioactive.

  11. Is it racist of me to suggest that black people are more sensitive than white people?

    No, Ed, just observant, which to some people is a form of racism.

  12. To all of those folks who get their panties in a bunch so easily –

    If you think that’s offensive …

    Really, fuck everyone of the race baiters. For Tawana Brawleys co-conspirator I have a special “Suck my pale dick you racist scum”.

    For the feminists perched in the crow’s nest, searching the horizon for the slightest trace of sexism, I say screw you. At least the few who aren’t fatties.

    For the theists of all stripes I offer, your pussy assed so-called God can’t do shit to this blasphemous man. Omniscient, omnipotent my ass.

    For anyone I haven’t offended yet, I did the dirty sanchez with your mother. She loved it.

  13. “No one wants to be called a racist, a Commie, or a neocon”

    I might just have to retire “Astroglide”.

  14. To all the stupid fuck troofers out there I say, I’ve known Cnidarians with more advanced reasoning skills.

    Gabe, look it up you re-fucking-tarded monomaniacal dipshit.

  15. Anyone remember SNL Hardball sketch, when Sharpton decides to greet people with “I’m outraged!” instead of “hello”?

    Neo-con – a Republican who is more honest about their tolerance of big government, and enouraging of it in the name of patriotism. Good enough?

  16. “I did the dirty sanchez with your mother. She loved it.”

    Actually, her exact wording was that she “enjoyed it”.

  17. Outrage is just theater in America now. One person does something, group that disagrees pretends to be outraged, person is kowtowed, argument over.

    It’s so much easier than addressing an argument with actual thought and reasoning.

    The best defense is to try and offend as many people as possible on a daily basis. I know that I do my part.

  18. “Outrage is just theater in America now. One person does something, group that disagrees pretends to be outraged, person is kowtowed, argument over.”

    That’s why Vivian Stringer and her Scarlet Knights are trash.

  19. Shut the fuck up, Al Sharpton.

  20. I liked him better when he was fat.

  21. The British proved Wilders’ point about Islam’s influence by suppressing free expression. The case of Wilders, who is in the U.S. right now, offers a cautionary lesson.

    Except the same week the British barred Wilders from visting the country, they refused entry to Christian psycho Fred Phelps, who is noted for his “God Hates Fags” demonstrations. So how does banning Wilders prove something about Islam in particular, rather than about religion in general?

  22. I find this article offending and demand a retraction and an apology or I will be very unhappy and in a pissy mood. I also plan to start a protest to burn laptops and computers that spew your hate filled message!!

    WHO’S WITH ME!!!!

  23. I liked him [Sharpton] better when he was fat.

    Right. He seemed, I don’t know…jollier then.

  24. This thread is crying out for a Jamie Kelly post.

  25. J Sub D…ever wonder who paid Peter Powers to rehearse those teror drills in London on 7/7 that Powers claims were exactly what occurred?

    You would think we’d here about this more.

  26. Gabe, I talked to the pigeon feeding bag lady about theology this morning, I’ve had my fill of delusional people for the day.

  27. Is it racist of me to suggest that black people are more sensitive than white people?

    I don’t see much evidence of that, actually. In my experience, the people most likely to get their panties in a bunch over anything they can possibly construe as racism are guilt-peddling white liberals.

    The Sharptons and Jacksons of the world are vastly outnumbered by the pinko academics like the Duke Faculty Lynch Mob.

    -jcr

  28. I’m just saying this is wierd.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKvkhe3rqtc

    and I was also demonstrating that “troofer” should be included along with racist, commie and neocon.

  29. In my experience white people are much more likely to reflexively call someone a conspiracy nut of troofer. Black people have less trouble accepting that the government is trying to kill them or make them slaves.

  30. Al Sharpton is a race-baiting attention whore.

  31. Gabe,

    I’m sorry that the government did such a rotten thing to you, rendering you semi-literate and devoid of the capacity to understand either logic or physics, but that doesn’t mean they’re guilty of the WTC attacks.

    -jcr

  32. Right. He seemed, I don’t know…jollier then.

    “America is READY! GIVE America a Black Santa Claus!”

    “[psst!](Gay, reverend, gay!)”

    “Give America a GAY SANTA CLAUS! Hallelujah!”

  33. A building has a raging fire for many hours, no sprinkler system and it remains standing.

    A building of similar size has a few small office fires and it completely collapses symetrically, straight down, with a kink in the middle. Many professional demolition professionals like Danny Jowenko say it was “Definitely a controlled demolition”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=877gr6xtQIc

    Merely mentioning these facts makes “John C Randolph” and “J sub D” go into ad hominem frenzied hysterics. The header article is about the way some people totally avoid dsicussion by just calling people names. Does anyone else think this is funny?

    Even if you love the Department of Homeland Security, rendition and the GWOT I’d think you’d want to know more about who paid Peter Power so we can learn more about how the terrorist operate.

  34. Gabe,

    WTC7 had massive pieces of WTC 1 & 2, falling from hundreds of feet above smash through its load-bearing columns.

    Did the Chinese building have that? No.

    The more I learn about the 9/11 truther movement, the more I pity them: the blistering illogic, the willfull ignorance pf physics and metallurgy, the credulous belief in massive conspiracies involving thousands of people who won’t talk…

  35. The more I learn about the 9/11 truther movement, the more I pity them: the blistering illogic, the willfull ignorance pf physics and metallurgy, the credulous belief in massive conspiracies involving thousands of people who won’t talk…

    … not to mention being associated with Rosie O’Donnell.

  36. I, having lost my house, my wife, my license to practice law, my truck, my car, everything but my daughter, am more that willing to say…..

    That Al Sharpton is nothing more than a piece of shit nigger.

    And by nigger, I mean a human being that proffers nothing for the advancment of humanity. A nigger, as I see the current definition, is nothing more than a parasite that lives off the labor and hard work of others. Melanin, is not the defining characteristic.

    By the way, in my world view, there are plenty of white niggers who sponge of the working class. Take this guy, Timothy Geithner. He is a nigger of epic proportions. This fucking nigger didn’t pay his taxes. But now, this nigger is the head of an executive branch that will to seek the imprisonment of others who don’t pay their taxes. Timothy Geithner is the living embodiment of the present day nigger.

    So, Al…before you come down here to Webb City to stage a protest, if you can read, you aren’t a nigger because of the quantum of melanin in your skin. You are a nigger because the inciting the friction between the melanin challenged and the melanin overloaded gives your nigger ass a fucking job. Al, you are a nigger because you cause friction between the races as opposed to a person who would seek reconciliation and forgiveness between the races.

    But I’d be happy to meet you mano-a-mano,with your nice silk $60.00 tie. But I don’t have any money for your nigger ass to shake down. So I am quite secure knowing that this useless fucking nigger isn’t going to show up at my door step anytime soon.

  37. It has been a long-standing custom for opponents to shut down debate by tagging adversaries with some dreadful labels.

    Yeah, it’s a technique the SPLC uses with wild abandon. Say, hasn’t Reason approvingly linked to that group a couple times? Oops.

  38. Definition of a Neocon. He shows up at the party, says the right things, smokes the right cigars, swills the right liquor, but after he makes his exit, you can’t help but to notice the punch has acquired a taste of piss.

  39. Have we all gone nuts?

    The FCC involved? For a rude cartoon? That’s kind of a big deal. All this focus on race is a distraction from the fact that the government is talking to newspapers about what they should print.

    The political correctness question, I think, is ridiculously overplayed — there’s no good reason to depict black people as monkeys, and I personally think you’re an asshat if you do.

    But, um, the free press? This actually matters.

  40. Hey, a question for the many atheist here at Hit&Run, how many of you would change your mind about the existence of God if someday it was reported Lonewacko died from food poisoning after consuming a fish taco?

  41. By the way, I have lived a full life but for one thing…. to have a drunk with J sub D. Buddy, you are welcome at my fire anytime.

  42. So let me get this straight…
    Mohammed ok, monkey not ok?

  43. Hey, a question for the many atheist here at Hit&Run, how many of you would change your mind about the existence of God if someday it was reported Lonewacko died from food poisoning after consuming a fish taco?

    That’s too mundane, if you ask me. I’d be more inclined to believe it was Divine Intervention if LoneWacko choked to death on a fish taco while asking a politician one of his BelovedQuestions.

    Or maybe getting run over by one of those green la migra SUVs while eating a fish taco.

  44. Self-pitying perpetual “victims” offend me.

  45. troy | February 25, 2009, 7:10pm | #

    I recognize you’re upset over the President’s latest powergrab, but you’re not helping your case, Mr. Byrd.

  46. “The political correctness question, I think, is ridiculously overplayed — there’s no good reason to depict black people as monkeys, and I personally think you’re an asshat if you do.”

    Except this is how this horseshit creeps in.

    The Post didn’t portray black people as monkeys. Even that’s trumped up horseshit.

  47. Al Sharpton is nothing more than a piece of shit nigger.

    Troy,

    Sharpton is a media whore. In your case, a successful one. The basic game used by a whore is to give you a raging hard-on so you loose your capacity to reason. Then he/she takes advantage of you and makes you say or do something that you might later regret. Here’s the game’s score now: Al Sharpton 1, Troy 0.

  48. J sub D | February 25, 2009, 5:18pm | #

    To all the stupid fuck troofers out there I say, I’ve known Cnidarians with more advanced reasoning skills.

    Gabe, look it up you re-fucking-tarded monomaniacal dipshit.

    Finally I get to use something I learned in grad school.

  49. Gabe, why would the government go through all the trouble of staging a terror attack to whip the public into a panic. It’s much easier and just as effective to panic the country over, a dip in the stock market, an extract from cold medicine, an herbal party pill that kills fewer people than aspirin does, pollution at the parts per billion level, tans fats, the weather, pot …

    Even the patriot act was just a small step allong the trend we were headed in anyway. Most of the act just extended existing drug war provissions to a wider population.

  50. By the way, Harsanyi, great article.

  51. So is it racist to say that conservatives were shocked and upset over the size of Obama’s massive package?

  52. ad hominem frenzied hysterics.

    In your dreams, Gabe. You’ll never be important enough for me to get angry with you.

    Now, run along and read the NIST report. Oh, you’d probably better take a few years and repeat high school first, so you can understand it.

    -jcr

  53. “upset over the size of Obama’s massive package?”

    Priceless.

  54. Until Sharpton pays the money he owes Steve Pagones, he should shut the fuck up. After that, he’s free to shut the fuck up.

  55. troy wrote:

    And by nigger, I mean a human being that proffers nothing for the advancment of humanity.

    Gee, troy, you’re like some kind of courageous plainspoken hero.

  56. What should we call this new intolerance?

    Censorship?

    Except the same week the British barred Wilders from visiting the country, they refused entry to Christian psycho Fred Phelps, who is noted for his “God Hates Fags” demonstrations. So how does banning Wilders prove something about Islam in particular, rather than about religion in general?

    The British said they banned Wilders, who says that Muslims are violent, in part because they feared that Muslims might violently protest his visit.

    “Gay riot” is pretty much an oxymoron.

  57. Am I the only one who is pissed off at the framing of the subtitle of this article? namely:

    Even offensive speech deserves protection

    This betrays a misunderstanding of the logic of the first amendment. Speech that is inoffensive doesn’t need protecting since it doesn’t bother anyone.

    The only speech that needs protecting is offensive speech. Therefore the free speech component of the first amendment exists *only* to protect offensive speech.

    To make a long story short (oops, too late), my beef is with the word “even” in the above quote, which should be replaced with “only”. If you don’t believe offensive speech deserves protection, then you don’t believe *any* speech needs protecting.

  58. My question is, are these people really offended? Really? Or are they just scoping out what is today’s definition of offensive so they can throw their fucking fit and hear the sound of their own self-righteous voices?

    Because if they really are offended, and seeing/reading/hearing things like this truly ruins their day, we’re in deep deep shit.

  59. I feel more sorry for that monkey than I do that chimpanzee…
    Didnt the left constantly portray GWB as a monkey too?

  60. Does parse think he was making a point? What religious group does he imagine being responsible for Phelps not being allowed in the country?

    Or is he saying that Phelps is an example of a bad person who is also a Christian? If so, please try harder next time.

  61. For the record, Phelps is a bad person and a Christian. But we already knew that, and it’s not relevant to the Wilders debate.

  62. The liberal’s dictionary: “Offensive.”
    (1) If something offends conservatives, it’s art. (2) If something offends liberals, it’s a crime.

  63. Troy is in meltdown. And he provided the resume. I’ll give him a break tonight. And that doesn’t mean I agree with him.

    Troy, you are forgiven (but just once). Snap out of it!

  64. I don’t even believe in three-strikes-you’re-out (outside of baseball). I hope you’re (Troy)just drunk. The enemy is everywhere. Please don’t obsess on Rev. Al. He’s our friend. Even Liberals laugh at him.

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