Hey Everybody, You’re Not for Free Speech if You Are Only for Your Own

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People have some very strange ideas about free speech. They think it means they get to say whatever they want to say, but nobody else can. Specifically, nobody can openly express disagreement with the things they say, point to faulty logic or false assumptions or omitted – or even invented – facts.

Pope Francis’ reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack is an interesting example of this thinking. While saying that “To kill in the name of God is an absurdity,” he also said that there should be limits to free speech and that “each religion has its dignity” and “there are limits.”

“You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it.”

Oh. You mean like Jesus, when he said, “Do not give to dogs what is holy” and “do not throw pearls before swine.” You know, because Gentiles (i.e. Pagans) are to be equated with “dogs” and “swine.”

The guy you built your religion around mocked other people’s faith. The Old Testament is one long anti-Pagan diatribe, and the New Testament isn’t all that friendly either. Sunday sermons around the world are literally jam-packed with anti-Paganism.

Yet somehow, for this Pope, free speech ends at criticizing religion. I’ll believe him when they re-write the Bible and get Jesus to retract his words.

Some people have taken this to mean that the Pope has “gone soft on free speech,” but it is not only religion he is defending. He is saying that “Freedom of speech is a right and a duty that must be displayed without offending.”

Ideally, we would all listen to our grandmothers and if we did not have anything good to say, not say anything at all, but the world doesn’t work that way. If somebody’s beliefs include extinguishing my right to my beliefs, I am certainly well within my rights to stand up and say something about it. In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when they came for him, realized belatedly that we have an obligation to do so.

Here’s another problem though with the Pope’s ideas about free speech. If you insult his faith, he reserves the right to punch you in the nose:

[If someone were to use] “a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose. That’s normal.”

It might be normal. But Jesus said to turn the other cheek. You would think the Pope would know that. I mean, he’s the Pope, hello. He should have a basic familiarity with the Gospels that lie at the center of Christianity.

And in fact, while saying “freedom of speech is a right and a duty that must be displayed without offending,” the Pope also offended people who criticize religion, calling them “provocateurs.” In other words, trolls.

Well that’s not nice.

I’m trying to parse this: So it’s okay to insult those who criticize religion but it is not okay to insult religion. Don’t get me wrong. This Pope has moved a long way from his predecessor’s claim that his capital-T Truth trumps my religious freedom, but I respectfully submit here that the Pope needs to reconsider his thinking on free speech.

It’s a tricky subject, as anyone will admit. After all, we must recognize that words themselves can be a form of violence. Are those words still permissible?

Even – or especially – France got it wrong, marching for freedom of speech even while they arrest French comedian and polemicist Dieudonne for using his own freedom of speech. You don’t go to prison in the United States for hate speech, but Dieudonne is only one of many standing trial.

It is difficult to understand. And at the same time, not.

The thing is, if I say something here, you have the right to disagree with me. I prefer, of course, you bring a cogent argument to the table rather than ad hominem attacks (attacking my character rather than the argument), or Straw Man arguments (misrepresenting my position so you can refute it).

But I can’t force you to do that. You have the right to simply contradict everything I say without providing any reasoned argument whatsoever. I will probably just ignore you in those cases, of course. There is no point arguing with somebody who has already proven they do not understand the subject.

So now you know how I feel.

You also know how Bill Maher feels, if you have been listening to him. He isn’t happy with the Pope, not at all.

“I was starting to really like this Pope,” Maher said Friday. “He’s dead to me now. Oh yeah, f*ck the Pope. Look, George Bush said it: you’re either with us or against us. Apparently the Pope is not with us.”

Well there you go. Was the Pope the troll in this case?

And then there is Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, who showed he really doesn’t understand how any of this free speech stuff works:

Liberals hate bullying, alright. But they’re not opposed to using it. When they casually throw out words like ‘bigot’ and ‘racist,’ it does cow people into avoiding this debate. And if you’re doing that, you don’t get to wear the #JeSuisCharlie button. The button you should wear says #JeSuisPartOfTheProblem.

So Donohue thinks he is not bullying when he attacks Muslims or anyone else. He’s simply exercising his right of free speech. But if anyone attacks him for attacking Muslims, it’s suddenly bullying.

It’s difficult not to agree with Bill Maher here when he says in response to Donohue, “You don’t get free speech. You’re just a baby who can’t stand to live in a world where you hear things that upset you.”

And after all, it’s not like Donohue has ever hesitated to call Maher an “anti-Catholic bigot.” Or say that non-religious people are insane. Or bash gays. Or smear church-abuse victims as active participants in their own abuse. Or, for that matter, attack the Pope.

But he complains people are attacking him.

Free speech is not unidirectional. It is omnidirectional. Everybody has it. So if you have an opinion, somebody else has a right to argue against your opinion.

Conservatives by far suffer from the most confusion about the idea of any sort of freedom, be it speech or religion, thinking it is something that only they have. For years we have watched them lie and insult and then demand an apology when they are, quite rightly, called on it.

Conservatives are not the victims here, not when you have Laura Ingraham saying what the GOP needs is a 2016 nominee willing to “Swift Boat” Hilary Clinton.

Nor is religion the victim, especially not when Christianity is the world’s largest religion and Islam is the world’s second largest religion. And they both got there by killing a lot of people, because both religions condone killing nonbelievers.

And certainly a Pope ought to be more sensitive himself to the long history of evil done by his own Church, as George Carlin quipped, “millions of dead mother*ckers, all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question.”

I think that just as there is one person – Mike Huckabee – who should not criticize another’s parenting skills, there is one entity who should not play the victim card, and that is the Catholic Church. That includes the Pope and his cardinals and bishops, and it especially includes Bill Donohue.

15 Replies to “Hey Everybody, You’re Not for Free Speech if You Are Only for Your Own”

  1. As Stalin once famously alluded to, the Pope doesn’t have any divisions. I would say that the Pope is simply using his own speech prerogatives to express an opinion that certain things are ethically out of bounds. As you point out others can be free to disagree, but since he’s not in much position to enforce it I wouldn’t get too upset.

  2. one thing people often forget about free speech is that while you’re free to say anything you also have to deal with the consequences…

    there used to be a legal ruling that there was a thing called ‘fighting words’… if you said something that caused someone to punch you in the mouth then you provoked that person… like telling him that he had carnal relations with his mother or while his birth certificate had his mother’s name it didn’t name his father…

    people say something dumb… like equating homosexuality with bestiality or pedophilia and then they’re surprised that their show is canceled no one has violated their free speech rights…

    its just that they learned that words have consequences.. the biggest whiners about this ‘surprise’ are the idiots who claim that they believe in personal responsibility and then are surprised when it bites them…

  3. “Ephemera”.
    That arrogant prince refers to the gay commitment as “ephemera”.

    Someone should remind the flatulent St.Francis WannaBe that whereas the Gay Commitment has been around for as many years as has been Libido, his silly-assed cult barely reaches 2000 years.

    A passing fad appealing to moral cowards, the desperate, and the delusional. And much as a fart in an elevator, once passed soon passes, so also will the rancid effluent known as Christianity, having erupted from the churning bowel of a civilization, some day be dispelled by an enlightened Mind.

    Adam and Steve will be holding hands long after this murderous cult of a depraved and degenerate spirituality has passed.

    …and they will bow their heads in humble awe at the mysteries of Creation.

    “Christianity” …
    It bears no greater resemblance to the historical Jesus than does a steaming pile of horse poop to a stallion.

  4. One of Ten Commandments clearly stipulate that ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’. Yet U.S. Armed forces are recruiting the southern kids into armed force with slogan of ‘Fight for your God and your country’. In matter of fact, this is considered illegal yet the most important part, experts has already pointed out that ‘Fight for your God and your country’ can easily demoralized the fighting forces in time of the war because soldiers came from vast different backgrounds.

    When will ever right wing finally learn the lesson? I shudder if next President is a Republican and appoint someone with Christofascist background to be Secretary of Defense. Its no doubt that our military activities will return to W. Bush’s era of peaked military activities around the world.

  5. I respectfully submit here that the Pope needs to reconsider his thinking on free speech.

    The entire statement by the Pope is distorted and incoherent.

    I give it a “thumbs-down”.

  6. James 1:27 in the NIV says:

    “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

    A lot of people who identify themselves as Christian don’t even realize this.

    Religion is a “man-made” belief in all faiths and is about appearances or universal things that only distract from knowing the living God and his son Jesus.

  7. The price of freedom is not a blood sacrifice on some battle field somewhere. The true price of freedom is other people’s freedom.

  8. The Bible also says: Life and Death are on the tongue..in other words, what comes out of your mouth has consequences..

  9. The true price of freedom is other people’s freedom.
    Jeeze, Leo…
    I have never encountered a statement regarding Freedom as compelling as this.
    Many thanks

  10. What about all those catholic priests who disrespected their religion by sexually abusing young boys??? What about all those Catholic nuns who abused all those young unmarried mothers??? The Catholic church has a lot to answer……

  11. Islam, euro-Christianity and Judaism. The Abrahamic 3 Stooges.

    If you have to kill for your ‘god,’ you need to upgrade your belief system.

  12. yes if you support freedom of speedch you must support the right to free speech to those who state things that are horrible and against everything you believe in. However, it does not mean you can not very publicly denounce those who mock others for their beliefs or who use hate speech.. Your response should not be to support them but to state that hate speech is hate speech and using one groups religious symbols in a way that mocks their beliefs way is still wrong… even if it is a joke. So as I would defend the right to make these statements. I will not support them financially or in any other way.

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