You’re an asshole. Maybe those aren’t the first words that you expected to read, but that’s your problem. What if I went further and said your religion is dangerous and no better than a cult? Your entire worldview is ridiculous, in fact. Does this offend you? Maybe it does. That’s too bad. You see in a free society you have no right to not be offended.
Maybe you’re one of the people who think I don’t have a right to insult you or disagree with you. Maybe you think there should be a law against things like that. We can be civilized you say, without insulting people. Then you really are dangerous and you need to read on. You see, free societies can’t ever work this way. Ever. There will always be someone out there who takes offense to even the tiniest disagreement about their cherished beliefs.
One of the most alarming trends around the world is a sudden desire by the ruling class to outlaw “offensive” or “insulting” speech. This is nice in theory, but can never work in practice. The problem is there is always somebody who can feel insulted by just about anything you say. This is because insulting speech can never be defined because what offends me does not offend you.
Let’s say you said my religious beliefs are ridiculous. (I lean Buddhist) I wouldn’t be insulted. My relationship with God has nothing to do with what you think about it. But for many on the planet, their religious beliefs define their entire person. They cannot be separated. They would take great offense to what you said. For every belief that exists there is someone who feels that belief defines everything they are and will ever be. That means there is always someone out there who will take offense to what you said. In essence, that means you can’t ever criticize anything, no matter how ridiculous you think it is, because there is someone out there who will disagree with you and they need to be protected. This is the height of absurdity. Nobody needs to be protected from hearing things they don’t like. Nobody needs to be coddled like children because their beliefs can’t stand up to insult or criticism. Deal with it. If your beliefs are strong enough, then they don’t need any external affirmation to hold up.
Of course, nobody likes to be insulted or run down. Nobody wants to feel ashamed of their beliefs or subject to hate speech. But there simply is no way to define it without starting to lock up everyone everywhere. We’ve already seen calls by Arab nations in the United Nations to limit insulting speech after the Innocence of Muslims video hit the Internet and was used as an excuse to start riots and kill an ambassador. The only crime here is that people decided to kill other people because they heard something they didn’t like. If you have no impulse control and you rise up and kill people because you don’t like what they have to say, then you deserve to be in prison or dead yourself. Unfortunately, we need to protect the idiot who made the movie, because one day someone will come and tell you, you can’t say something they don’t like because there is no universal litmus test for something that is offensive.
The video itself was amateur garbage. It was low rent and tasteless, but it just doesn’t matter. Morons have to be allowed to say their piece too. This is the backbone of free society. Either a society protects the freedom to speak plainly or they don’t. There is no in between.
Well-meaning people are pretty sure they can define what is offensive and what is not. But they can’t. They are delusional. By the very nature of being alive, your perspective is limited. People making laws like this always start with the assumption that THEIR beliefs are correct and protected. If you’re one of the people who agree with them, then you are lucky. If you’re not, then watch out. And of course, the people enforcing the law will have a different idea of what is offensive too and will enforce it based on those beliefs. For instance, you might find a police officer that takes offense to you insulting police and suddenly you are in jail. Or maybe you are a Democrat who doesn’t agree with the Republican belief that abortion should be illegal. Maybe you think the Republicans are fascists who want to take away a woman’s right to choose and suddenly you are now in jail for saying that out loud. Or maybe you’re a Democrat who thinks that Mr. Akin’s speech about “legitimate rape” is offensive and you want to throw him in jail? I might agree with you that his speech is offensive, but I will defend his right to be an idiot for as long as I live. And you should too because they day will come when someone doesn’t agree with you and twists the law to get you locked up. Maybe you even think these are isolated incidents and it’s easy to pick and choose among them. But, they aren’t. Eventually you fall on someone’s watch list. Eventually you will end up in jail too, because these types of laws have a way of allowing scope creep. Even worse they end up being manipulated by people who couldn’t care less about what you said, but maybe they are in the same business as you are and they want you out of business, so they report you. It never stops.
The trend of limiting free speech is not just happening in traditionally unfree places, like the Arab dictatorships. In Britain, of all places, a supposedly free and democratic country, there is already a law on the books that makes insulting speech illegal. It’s called the Public Order Act. It’s been used to arrest a sixteen-year-old who held up a sign that said, “Scientology is a Cult.” Gay rights protestors were detained for protesting Islamic fundamentalism. At least the actor who plays Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson, has the balls to stand up and say that this law is just on the books to allow the government to arrest anyone they want whenever they want. It won’t be hard to comb through a blog and find something insulting whenever a politician needs someone out the way. I say Britain just go all out Chinese here and just arrest people for anything a cop makes up. A cop in China can throw you in a prison for four years without any trial. Let’s just embrace this whole insulting speech thing and go all out to dictatorship. England, it’s time to break out the Guy Fawkes masks and put a stop to this bullshit.
Around the world, as economies crumble and people get scared, they start making stupid decisions. This is always the way of things, since the dawn of time. When the plague swept through Europe, people started burning Jews for poisoning the wells. That’s right, they killed more people to try to stop people from dying. Fortunately, for people who are willing to stop and think for a moment, there are some patterns to these types of stupid thoughts that creep into our minds when we get scared. If we can stay vigilant against these thoughts, then we have a chance to not let them slip in and make our problems worse. When a lawmaker comes to your town and starts suggesting we can make the world a better and safer place if we just shut these people up, watch out. The devil has already arrived.