Some Free Speech Issues Are Not Free Speech Issues

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
Copyright © 1997-2017
All Rights Reserved

Sony Pictures produces a movie that depicts a known violent lunatic head of government in a manner he finds offensive. Kim Jung Un is not practicably able of lodging suit in a US court seeking damages for any claims he may have, and injury is primarily to his ego rather than his pocketbook. Even if he sued, and even if he had a cognizable claim, he can prove no resultant economic harm, not to mention his difficulties finding an impartial jury or judge. What other remedies do violent people have that they are very likely to resort to if you publicly insult them or their beliefs? Verbal assault, fighting words are well known among the most sophisticated, educated people to provoke violent reactions. This is not anything new.

I remember good old President Harry Truman – no Kim Jung Un type he –when his daughter’s singing was harshly and deservedly criticized publicly. His reaction was to threaten to physically assault the critics – punch ‘em in the nose, I believe he said. I doubt anyone expected him really to do that, but the critics became personae non gratae at the Whitehouse.

There are no constitutional free speech issues at play in these hostile scenarios. The critic is free to publish the offensive materials. No expression of the speaker of insults is in any way restricted by law at that level of expression. No government sought to limit the publication of materials/satire. This is a private vendetta by a group of extremists.

They do not represent Islam. They are but a very small far right edge violent group. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are no different from the rest of us. You can no more blame Mohammed for these extremists than you can blame Jesus for the extremists among us Christians. Neither Jesus nor Mohammed taught that it is right to do what extremists do. Therefore, to be satirical about Mohammed is not fair commentary. Be satirical of the source of the problem.

Stupid people satirized the wrong symbol and those offended by it retaliated. What do you expect? You might as well come to Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia or the Carolinas and publish an ugly satire of Jesus and then see what happens to you. There are the far right knuckle draggers in every society, and they are known to be violent. Poke them in the eye at your peril.

On the other hand there is a matter of simple good sense. If you seriously offend a powerful adversary that has no practical recourse under the law, you should expect the target to try to find some other way to get even/retaliate. An open mouth sometimes gathers a clenched fist. As the old saying goes, pay back is a bitch. I sometimes remind foreign embassy types who believe their diplomatic immunity is a license to do anything they might be in a mood to do at any minute that there are a few retaliatory options from which diplomatic immunity does not provide protection. Think of a knuckle sandwich, being stabbed or shot or having your car vandalized or your family members attacked. I then urge the arrogant ponces to reconsider the scope of their assumed circle of immunity. I am certain that the diplomatic corps is taught this, but stupid people refuse to learn even the obvious. Make people angry enough and they will find a way to get back at you. Intelligent people learned that in kindergarten or soon after. Fools have unrealistic, delusional notions about how they are protected by law and custom, and when they go do stupid things they frequently suffer various forms of payback.

It has nothing to do with any constitutional issues at all. It is simple common sense and the natural reaction of someone you stupidly thought you could injure or humiliate or take advantage of with impunity. You are a bloody fool if you are not considerate of the consequences of your actions. And you ae even more foolish if you believe it is cool to give offense and think of it as simply the way you make your living or that giving offense is OK because you believe you are being funny. Fools have a way of provoking retaliation. There are no constitutional issues attendant upon stupidity. While there may be a right to free speech, there is no formal protection against stupidity.

You are perfectly free to publish harsh criticisms of other peoples’ religions, but they should be expect to come back and kick your ass in some way/any way they can. You can offend terrible people, but you ought to be intelligent enough to know that they will strike back at you if you do. Nothing constitutional about that. In fact, someone stupid enough to do that, thinking there will be no consequences because retaliation might be against some law or other, is just a bloody idiot. Many people end up thinking that they would do the same thing as the terrible offended person if that happened to them. Are we now so ignorant of how real life works that we think there is a government duty to protect us from our own foolishness? If you believe that, you are probably in for a very unpleasant surprise.

Well, I got that off my chest. Anyone who is offended is welcome to come visit and bomb my home and steal my wine. I believe very strongly in self help, and I am an expert in doing that. Bring it on.

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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