Obama Didn’t March In Paris Because Of Difference Between Free Speech And Hate Speech

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Terrorism is something worth fighting against. President Obama knows this, and has been proving it time and time again throughout his presidency. Please don’t forget that this is the man who wiped out Osama bin Laden.

Free speech is worth defending. I suspect President Obama knows this too.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the murders that resulted from that attack, were horrific and inexcusable. Once again, President Obama, I think it’s safe to say, is well aware that murder is not an appropriate response to offensive cartoons and/or social commentary. It shouldn’t happen.

But what I think President Obama also knows, perhaps more than any of those other national leaders who marched last week to show their support for Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech, is that there is a line that actually does – or at least should – exist between free speech and hate speech. Free speech is worth defending and marching for. Hate speech is not. Having viewed a fair number of Charlie Hebdo magazine covers, it seems to me that more than a few times this magazine has confused the two, and I don’t think it was by accident. On the contrary, this to me is what seems to define the magazine as Charlie Hebdo. They work hard to offend. Really, really hard.

And I suspect this just may be why President Obama chose not to march together with his colleagues in Europe last week, nor did he send any high profile substitutes. Because he knows the difference, because he has lived  that difference in a way few if any of those other leaders have, and because he doesn’t feel comfortable putting a magazine such as this up for sainthood, or to nominate Charlie Hebdo as the poster child for freedom of speech. Because surely there are better candidates than this.

Not surprisingly, Obama has been the target of a fresh volley of slings and arrows from both the right and the left as they accuse him of gross insensitivity and an unwillingness to stand with those who support free speech and against terrorism because he didn’t go to the Big March last week. Once again, I’d like to remind those who now claim Obama isn’t tough enough on terror that this is the man who took down Osama bin Laden. And bin Laden wasn’t the only one. But still, in The Daily Beast, we get this from Logan Beirne in an article cutely titled, “J’accuse Barack Obama”:

“Through words and actions the president must galvanize the American people and the world to defend freedom of expression. He needs to go to the front lines, which currently include Paris, and as Gen. Washington phrased it, “show the whole world that a freeman, contending for his liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.” Gen. Washington understood that America’s enemies only respond to forceful resolve.” 

Or this from CNN’s Jake Tapper:

“But I find it hard to believe that collectively President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Attorney General Eric Holder – who was actually in France that day for a conference on counterterrorism – just had no time in their schedules on Sunday. Holder had time to do the Sunday shows via satellite but not to show the world that he stood with the people of France?”

There was more – plenty more – but you get the idea. And eventually the Obama administration did feel pressured enough to issue a response that they should have sent a higher level official to the march. The president even came out later and said he stood firm with America’s allies in the fight against terrorism, a claim that he really did not need to make given his track record which dwarfs all their efforts combined. As for free speech, judging by the kinds of things he and his family are forced to see, hear, and read on a daily basis from some of the most vile racists and bigots on the scene, I’m sure there are days when just for his children’s sake he wishes he could muzzle freedom of speech and set fire to a few of these clowns.

And then he takes a deep breath and goes back to being President of the United States. One of the best we’ve ever had.


23 Replies to “Obama Didn’t March In Paris Because Of Difference Between Free Speech And Hate Speech”

  1. People should get familiar with what Charlie Hebdo is and does before they jump on its bandwagon. The pope has said something similar to this, incidentally.

  2. So I think. They relentlessly jeer at outgroups, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised…victims of all kinds. Those who died did not deserve to die. The slaughter of that poor Arab policeman who had come to defend those who mocked his kind was especially needless and pathetic. Yet the “humor” of that magazine was the cruel taunting of those seen as too lowly to strike back. It’s not astonishing that, with equal cruelty, someone did.

  3. But
    There it is again.

    Let’s put this in simple terms; the mockery and the murders are two SEPARATE conversations.
    No matter how much the mockery may offend or hurt feelings it does not in any way, shape or form excuse ANY violence. And yes, the Pope is wrong. It is not “normal” to punch someone in the nose because they speak offensively about your mother. The individual moved to violence over an insult has lost control and will very likely find himself facing assault charges.
    The attempt to muddle the reality of a mass murder by condemning the conduct of the murdered- rather than discuss the conduct of the murderers – speaks volumes.
    The U.N. has affirmed the HUMAN RIGHT to blaspheme. So no…you don’t have to support the message, only the messenger’s human right to deliver it.
    End of story.

  4. Hate words are also those addressed to Religion, any Religion. And what’s lacking in Europe is respect for Religion, any Religion. The higher morals are sold to be the atheist lay “I do what I want, regardless”! And Charlie Hebdo goes into that direction in the name of free speech, but it’s really only smut! And the egotistical approach to life does not take into account my next fellow, that may just feel offended by my behaviour. The fact of the matter is that Christians tollerate the bashing and immoral behaviour upon them, and this convays a wrong message to Muslims, who think all Christians are dissolute! And the bottom line is that there is more respect for Religion in the USA, than there is in Europe. In the USA it’s taken for granted that any man has a Religion; in Europe any man in civilian life “must” be an atheist! Unbelievable, but so! Your President takes office swearing on the Bible that was of Lincoln! No Bible is admitted among Europe’s politicians.

  5. I don’t think the Pope is wrong. Who are you Judge and jury? You don’t know, notta damn thing. Yes I said notta. It IS normal for a lot of “normal” people to take off on someone for dissing one’s mother. So stop thinking you know every damn thing. Because you don’t. What I know is that everybody has their own belief and their OWN opinion. You can’t have yours and dictate mine too. So get your head out your area and respect others. When its all said and done it all comes down to respect and the lack of. Something you can’t seem to or refuse to understand. There is s price to be paid for everthing u or I do, good or bad. Some folk choose to take a chance with insulting a religion and that too is their right. Even when there is a chance the consequences could be dyer. I’m just glad that they were not ignorant to the fact that this could happen. At least They knew that someone could be mad enough to kill them for the references made by them. It’s sad on both sides. I tak…

  6. Charlie, if you are not already there, move to Europe. To France! You’ve got the prerequisite! I compliment you with your self-control! Haven’t you ever heard of cause-and-effect? Ciao, from Italy

  7. Freedom of speech, yes – but with responsibility!

    IMHO, founders of every religion should be treated with respect, not mocked, etc.

  8. This article is perhaps the best written, most appropriate response to President Obama’s decision not to go…or to send anyone other than Eric Holder…to France. He did send a high profile representative; he sent the United States Attorney General but that apparently isn’t enough for the media and GOP that have vehemently criticized this President for having made the decision to not send anyone else. I believe the author has very adequately summed up why Obama made the determination he did and who can disagree with the writer of this excellent piece when he describes the horrific racial and bigoted slurs made by not simply ignorant people of this country but also many emotionally stunted elected lawmakers of this nation. I concur with everything you said Black Liberal Boomer and yes…President Obama is “one of the best we’ve ever had.” Thank you for articulating beautifully what has so sadly been lacking in the vast collection of public commentary so eagerly thrust on us thus f…

  9. From what I understand the pope was against any type of speech against religion period.As for me I’m an atheist. Christians and those who practice Islam consider my very existence to be an offence to them. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia I would be killed as a terrorist just for being a nonbeliever this by the way was a law recently passed there. Even here in America in certain states I am not allowed to hold a public office. Do you still expect me not to speak against religion especially when people in power aren’t even willing to hide their discrimination against me.

  10. Washington was correct, those who oppose freedom will kill to stop it. So Obama was wrong not to attend this March.
    It is really that easy, you have NO right to kill (or be violent against) someone no matter what they say about you, your mother, or your imaginary friend in the sky.

  11. I am confused with your post. Are you saying no matter how vile the speech is if someone is murdered the President has a duty to attend whatever memorial that person has? Would you feel the same way if it was Limbaugh? He does have a place of honor in his home state

  12. Reply to linda jay

    I don’t think the Pope is wrong.
    Who are you Judge and jury?

    No Sweetpea, I have an opinion just as you do.
    At the very least, the Pope’s words lack moral clarity. Seemingly, moral courage as well.
    But I do hope it was just a poor translation of his vision.
    It is not inoffensive speech that needs protecting.


    What I know is that everybody has their own belief and their OWN opinion.
    And in the words of Christopher Hitchens:
    “… I claim the right to have to have it [my opinion] defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, anytime. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.”

    Now anyone who would care to say anything abusive about me or to me is quite FREE to do so.
    Thank goodness.

  13. I don’t feel president Obama needed to attend the march. If there is anyone who believe Obama is against terrorism than they are a blind fools, and don’t want to admit it. France did not care so why are we Americans so in a uproar? You are a bunch of phonies. Leave him alone he’s a wonderful human being.

  14. What about Nigeria. where is the outcry there. Boko Haram still running around. Oh! it’s just black people.

  15. The Paris massacre was horrible by any standards.

    I get a kick out of Americans bitching about Obama’s absence at the march. It wasn’t that many years ago our
    Congress actually voted to call French fries “freedom fries” because France did not join us in the rape of Iraq.
    Times change.

  16. Why?

    Respect is a two way street. It is not automatically given, or received. And demanding it is a sure way to get the opposite of what you want.

    While I would not go out of my way to tell someone their beliefs stink, I will not allow anyone to impose their beliefs on me without fighting for my own.

    Incidentally, the Pope is not the founder of the Catholic religion. Nor was Billy Graham and all those other preachers the founders of Christianity. In fact all the founders of their respective religions are a long time dead.

  17. Hate speech is about perceived content. Free Speech is the position that (with very few exceptions such as imminent excitement to violence) content is not relevant.

    The more you try to slice and dice free speech, the less free it becomes. The solution to hate speech is more speech, not less.

  18. No one is saying Charlie Hebdo should have been censored or punished. What we are saying is that they were not heroes and martyrs in the name of Journalism, and if anyone, up to and including the President, sees fit not to enshrine them as such, that is also free speech.

  19. I despise Limbaugh. Yet I would have to say that if one believes in free speech, even Limbaugh has the right to freely utter his mental farts.

  20. ” … than any of those other national leaders who marched last week to show their support for Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech …”

    PLEASE, PLEASE stop with the “those other national leaders who marched last week”. A

    I am tired of the level of ignorance in this country.

    There WERE NO NATIONAL LEADERS MARCHING FRANCE. These people were there for a photo-op and not to participate in a march.

    Why would President Obama or anyone else from this country go to France for a photo-op?

    Did the national leaders come to the united States to march in support of the 3,000 people who were murdered on 911?

    Didn’t think so.

    P.S. The American ambassador to France represented the U.S. Which was more than enough.

  21. Charlie Hebdo insults ALL religions. Ridicules everything. The President was right in NOT marching as: ” I am Charlie” He is NOT. So why should he participate?

    The street rally was not the proper venue for the President. My opinion.

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