Sunday, September 23, 2012

Preventing the "heckler's veto"

Here's Victor Davis Hanson: "Please, no more apologies for free speech"
Apparently leaders of the Islamic world present a non-negotiable demand to the West that they be given a blank check for their governments to defame Jews, Christians, and Americans, but the United States must condemn any private individual who, quite apart from the knowledge of the U.S. government, does the same to Muslims. That is the issue, and anything less than an unapologetic defense of free speech is not only a betrayal of our Constitution, but a very dangerous concession that will only incite more violence in the near future.
The other day on NPR, professor Noah Feldman explained that freedom of speech is really unique here in the U.S.A.  Here's one excerpt from "Held dear in U.S., free speech is perplexing abroad"
"In the U.S., we value the liberty of the speaker much more highly than either the dignity of the person who feels insulted or the state's interest in trying to avoid violent protest. ...
"What's most distinctive from our perspective is that we think that if your feelings are hurt, then that's your problem. We don't believe that you ought to be protected from the hurly-burly of political insult. And that's a very deeply ingrained American notion. ...
"And because we're concerned not to allow what's called the heckler's veto, where the fact that one particular group or person will make a fuss, means that we will prohibit the speech, we've tended to be extremely permissive, and that does make us very different from other countries."
One thing I took away from this interview is that every time the United States rolls out a new apology, the response from the Islamic world is bewilderment and more anger.  The apology itself feeds into the mistaken belief that the American government can curtail speech if it really wanted to.

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