I’m astonished that people are still--still!—talking about Paul Henry. About a breakfast host most of them don’t even watch (and why would you when there’s much better things to do over breakfast), but whose bad-taste quips they’ve gone out of their way to be offended by.
But at least people are now talking about free speech. Albeit wrongly.
The principle of free speech require that speakers be free from government censorship. It does not require that the taxpayer provide anyone with a microphone.
It’s a guarantee that you can say what you want on your own dime or your employer’s dime (if they’ll back you up). It’s not a guarantee of freedom from criticism or consequences.
You should be as free to air your views as I am to ignore them. If I don’t like it, I can always turn it off.
You should be as free to air your views as your advertisers are to withdraw from them. If they don’t like it, they’re free to try to turn you off.
There is a right to free speech. There is no right not to be offended.
People say stupid things. They say things that are wrong. But parading around wearing an "I'm offended" sign is not an argument. It's just a whine.
Music reviewer Simon Sweetman reminded his readers the other day that lots of people in his field said stupid things. Sometimes people cared. Sometimes people didn’t.
Elvis Costello told fellow musicians Ray Charles was a "blind, dumb nigger."
John Lennon told Americans the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
Bryan Ferry told German journalists he was a fan of the work-ethic, architecture and artistic flair of the Nazi.
Eric Clapton told his audiences he supported hardnut anti-immigration Tory Enoch Powell, called England “overcrowded,” that it was becoming “a black colony and suggested England “get the foreigners out, get the wogs out, get the coons out.” All at the time he was enjoying fame and fortune for covering a Bob Marley song.
Donna Summer told journalists that Aids was punishment from God for homosexuality.
And South Park made fun of Catholics and showed Mary menstruating on screen.
Some of them took a hit to their careers. Some of them didn’t. For some of them it was a calculated career move. For some of them, it wasn’t. But win or lose, the issue was between their fans and themselves--an issue only for those who bought and produced their records and shows to decide, not for anyone else.
Because speech is speech, it’s not violent destruction.
Ridicule is better than bans.
Moral persuasion is better than force.
Laughter is better than “multi-cultural legislation” to stop people saying things other people don’t like.
When tyranny occurs, it can be challenged from a thousand presses -- but not if speech has been silenced and the presses have been closed down for being “offensive.”
Free speech has always been more valued in the abstract than in reality. "Freedom but..." is not freedom. “Freedom to … ” is.
Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them.
Bad ideas can only be fought with better ones.
So if you don't like Paul Henry, turn him off. Maybe you could find something better to do over breakfast. Like, maybe, talk to your family about why free speech is important.
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