Defending Freedom of Speech, Al Jazeera Style

A leaked email from Al Jazeera English Editor and Executive Producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr, obtained by Fox News, had this remark, among others, in it:

Was this really an attack on “free speech?” Who is attacking free speech here exactly?

Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.

Khadr also suggested that the slogan “I am Charlie” is

an alienating slogan—with us or against us type of statement—one can be anti-CH’s racism and ALSO against murdering people.

It may well be that being “obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile;” however, the rub is in whose definition of obnoxious, whose definition of offensive, whose definition of appropriate response to offensiveness or to obnoxiousness is to be applied. When governments make those definitions, all we have is tyranny and the arbitrary rule of a northern Korea, or a Soviet Union, or an East Germany. Or an Iran, or a Hussein Iraq. Or an al Qaeda or an ISIS.

When individuals are free to determine the appropriate sanction to be mayhem, all we have is a Hobbesian existence where the strong determine, arbitrarily, what is “right,” and the weak must obey or die.

Murdering someone—or even “merely” assaulting someone—just because the murderer or the assaulter was offended or thinks the victim’s behavior infantile is always and everywhere brutally wrong, and the deed wants the severest of responses and sanctions.

All apologists like al Jazeera do is give these murderous despotisms and barbarians cover.

If we’re to have free speech, we must be free to be obnoxious and offensive, too, else we have no freedom of speech: someone always will define a remark as out of bounds, and ultimately all speech not preapproved by the strongest becomes forbidden.

And we will have free speech—it’s a necessary part of that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness that are an indivisible part of the fabric of every man’s very existence—Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, etc, alike. Nor al Jazeeras, nor barbarians, nor Muslim terrorists, nor anyone else can deny us that, even though they may murder our bodies. Full stop.

It’s also true that one can stand against racism and against murdering people at the same time. But this is Khadr’s cynical strawman. There’s no racism involved here. There’s no oppression of any group of people here. Khadr will have to play with that dolly without me.

2 thoughts on “Defending Freedom of Speech, Al Jazeera Style

  1. Nobody is required to listen to “offensive” speech, either. Charlie Hebdo was nearly bankrupt – they were not popular, and were probably going to disappear soon. But now they have a new lease on life – all because the offended also have no strategic sense.

    • Well, you know. Some people can’t look away from grisly accidents, others can’t not hear what offends them.

      On the other hand, some people can’t tell they’re alive unless they’re actively searching out excuses to be offended.

      Neither group is the sort to think strategically. Or at all.

      Eric Hines

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