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danish cartoons - Ilya Shlyakhter (notestaff) - letters to editors
February 25th, 2006
09:01 am


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danish cartoons
Free Speech, at a Price

Regarding Danish editor Flemming Rose's Feb. 19 Outlook piece, "Why I Published Those Cartoons":

The Muhammad cartoons were a bad choice for making a point about freedom of speech. They said nothing new, exposed no unknown bad actors, suggested no constructive solutions. In short, they had none of the qualities of speech worth defending.

Freedom of speech comes at a price; along with truly valuable speech we're forced to permit speech most of us would rather forbid. The only way to justify the price is by pointing to valuable ideas we would have lost if not for freedom of speech. What valuable ideas that were not already out there did the cartoons convey?

The cartoons have set back freedom of speech in the Muslim world by giving this Western value a bad name. To many Muslims, "freedom of speech" now represents not the great Western advances but gratuitous insults. The cartoons vividly illustrated the costs of the freedom of speech without illustrating any of its benefits.

The Danish editor's "defense" of freedom of speech was as counterproductive and irresponsible as Muslim rioters' "defense" of their prophet.

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(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 28th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
You have some very good points, but I still disagree. :) I think the defense
for freedom of speech -- as long as it is not incitement of hatred (in which case it is not speech anymore but rather an act) -- should be unconditional.
It's another matter that speech may be very tasteless and (as you already
pointed out) outright stupid and non-constructive.

p.s. ...although you could probably argue that an immage of the prophet
with a bomb in his chalma is in some ways an incitement of hatred
against Muslims.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
I didn't think of the cartoons as incitement against Muslims. Put in the best light, the cartoons can be seen as showing the Muslims -- look guys, what you have allowed to happen to your religion.

I was never arguing against the Danish editor's _right_ to publish the cartoons, only against the wisdom of doing so. He wrote an op-ed trying to say that his publishing the cartoons not only was his right but was the wise and needed thing to do. I was responding to that. I think his "we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world" is an extremely lame defense. What planet is he from? As an editor he has a responsibility to think ahead, not just hide behind an "oops, sorry!" I have little respect for "heroism" that's done mostly at others' costs. He sits comfortably in Denmark, and the people killed in the (predictable) violence end up paying.

Would he go to a zoo and open the tiger's cage saying he wanted to photograph the tiger in the wild to show people the beauty of the animal -- and when the tiger kills a bunch of people, say "oh, sorry -- I thought the tiger was so cute and rational, I didn't know he might do that"?
Ilya Shlyakhter Powered by LiveJournal.com