Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Either you support free speech — all of it — or you don’t

We either practice #JeSuisCharlie or we do not. = A.J. DELGADO/Miami Herald ADELGADO@POST.HARVARD.EDU

Following the horrific attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices, in which Islamic terrorists executed journalists who published satirical cartoons critical of Islam, the West reacted with a widespread show of solidarity.

A Twitter hashtag, #JeSuisCharlie now is the most tweeted of all time and signified that, no matter how one feels about radical Islam, all can agree that speech should be supported and protected. Sunday’s “unity rally” in Paris, with a record-setting 3.7 million people in attendance, and dozens of world leaders marching together, overflowed with messages in support of free speech.

But the uncomfortable sleeper issue few wish to discuss is that, for all the images of photogenic Europeans on street corners holding “Je Suis Charlie” signs, or of Angela Merkel and David Cameron huddled together, Europe long ago abandoned any pretense as being a bastion of free speech.

The birthplace of the Enlightenment began to allow leftist notions of what is acceptable speech to dictate what is permissible speech....

And, only days later, liberals in the United States already are beginning to backpedal, noting civilized speech has “limits” and must be used “responsibly,” failing to realize that placing restrictions on free speech is, well, no free speech at all.

Reflecting on the tragedy, David Cameron reassured that Britain will “never give up” on freedom of speech — a curious remark, considering the United Kingdom boasts, for instance, the Public Order Act, a dangerous law banning “abusive” speech, which critics say has strangled free speech...

The West must make up its mind. Either it upholds free speech across the board or it abandons our most fundamental value and capitulates to a pattern of brutal censorship and inconsistent, irrational application.

We either practice #JeSuisCharlie or we do not.

Is the West, is America, is France itself, the land of Voltaire and he who is (although apocryphally) credited as proclaiming: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it” truly willing to stand by this noble ideal?

Scaling back, and standing athwart, the left’s assaults on speech would be a good place to start. KEEP READING