Free Speech is Free Speech is Free Speech

Originally published January 2015

It’s funny where your mind wanders on a snow day.

Stuck working from home, the news comes easier (and is more distracting) than at the office. First, the horrifying news out of France about the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, leaving 12 people dead. Then, the ridiculously funny in Frederick News-Post’s editorial aimed at Kirby Delauter, a Frederick County, Maryland council member that threatened a lawsuit against the newspaper for using his name in a story without his permission.

One story makes you want to weep, the other, laugh. Both stories the result of assaults on free speech.

I’m sure there are some that would make the argument that the French cartoonists took it too far—that they knew they risked their lives producing material they knew would piss certain people off. It reminded me of a debate I recently had with my husband about “The Interview”—his point being that cancelling the movie was a safety measure, and mine being that, if we did that, then the bad guys win because all that needs to be done to stop something potentially offensive is a phoned-in bomb threat.

So where do we draw the line? Simple. We don’t.

No, you don’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. No, I’m not in favor of televised executions. Yes, I think there are certain editing steps to be taken in sharing tragic news on television and in the interest of national security … yes there may be times the government finds it necessary not to tell us everything. And even that last one is murky at best.

But that’s about it for me. I’m pretty big on the whole free speech thing. And this is why I find it somewhat disheartening that these days, you’ll see more and more people react to something they don’t like with a petition to stop it. Take, for example, just the other day—GLAAD started up a petition against the television channel TLC to prevent their new, and no doubt, wildly-educational-because-it’s-on-TLC-right? show “My Husband’s Not Gay” from airing.

OK, let’s just stop right there. “My Husband’s Not Gay?” Come on now. GLAAD, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. One, anyone watching it is just doing so to mock it incessantly. And two … read the first point again. If anyone is watching that show and thinking, “Yeah, I like guys, but they’re married, so I think I’ll just keep it locked in way down deep inside and win at life,” then chances are they aren’t ready to accept themselves anyway.

You want to stop obnoxious, bad television featuring people that are dimwits and can’t make a lucid argument to get themselves out of a paper bag? Easy—stop watching it. Someone’s paying the bills for those shows, and if they can’t find viewers, then they can’t find advertisers. Or, choose to accept there are people out there that find this kind of nonsense entertaining, and leave it at that. I doubt Mama Duggar has had that big of an impact on shifting the equality debate because she decided to knock a few pictures off her Facebook wall.

If you are for free speech, then you have to allow for the fact there are numbskulls that can talk, and unfortunately, command a television presence. Instead, give your attention to and raise up those who really are on the front lines of the global experience—the journalists and editors that call governments and radicals into question, report stories that shine the light on human suffering, and sometimes give their lives so that the truth doesn’t remain hidden in the dark.

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