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September 12th, 2012
03:11 PM ET

Reaction to anti-Islam film fuels debate on free speech versus hate speech

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans amid protests against a film that denigrates Islam has sparked global discussion and debate  about whether there is a line between free speech and hate speech and, if so, where it lies.

“They don’t regard perceived insults to the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran as being protected by free speech, they regard it as a capital offense,” says Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, referring to protesters in Libya and Egypt, where the U.S. Embassy was attacked, who were angered by the film.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the movie was made by a real estate developer who wanted to portray Islam as a hateful religion.  The attack on the U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, was orchestrated by extremists who used the protests as a diversion, U.S. sources told CNN Wednesday.

“In some of these cases, the people releasing these films or cartoons are trying to make a statement about free speech, which is fair enough,” says Bergen, referring to the film and other provocative recent depictions of Mohammed, Islam’s founding prophet.

"But in some cases they are deliberately trying to provoke," Bergen says. "The film that is at issue is certainly very provocative, the way it treats the Prophet Mohammed, and people who release these things are being very irresponsible."

Read: Why Muslims are sensitive on Mohammed

Newt Gingrich told CNN Wednesday that the United States should seize on the violence spurred by the film “to teach the Muslim world about freedom,” specifically about freedom of speech.

His remarks, echoed by other conservatives on Wednesday, signaled something of a divide in reaction to developments in Libya and Egypt between the political right, which stressed freedom of speech, and the left, which added condemnation of those behind the anti-Muslim film.

"The horrific attacks in Libya & Egypt are a stark contrast to our American ideals of free speech, civil disagreement," wrote Todd Rokita, a Republican U.S. congressman who is from Indiana, on Twitter.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Gingrich, the former presidential candidate and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that after the attacks, “We had an opportunity to stand up and say, ‘You know, it is true - some people in the United States might make a film that is totally whacked out.’”

“Sooner or later, we in the modern world have to say to those who are living in a different way, ‘Look, we stand for freedom,’” he said.

Gingrich criticized statements from the U.S. government that he said went too far in condemning and apologizing for the anti-Muslim film.

In a statement on Tuesday morning - before the violence - the U.S. Embassy in Egypt wrote that it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

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"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy," the statement continued. "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

Some U.S. officials spoke to the tension between U.S. support for free speech and what some have described as the film’s “hate speech,” in reacting to the attacks.

"The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

"Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation,” she said. “But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

Some other political and religious leaders also cited the tension between free speech and what they said was hate speech. "I support #freespeech AND believe this film is hateful," tweeted Eboo Patel, an American Muslim leader based in Chicago. "I stand up for #Islam AND condemn violence of extremist Muslims #fb #responsibility."

Others joined in venting disapproval of both the film and the attacks. "For the record, you can condemn violence in response to hate speech, and you can also condemn hate speech," wrote Jeff Fecke on Twitter. "You don't have to support either."

Some American Muslims said Wednesday that while they support the right of free speech, they believe that the U.S. applies its values selectively in the Muslim world, especially when it comes to military and intelligence operations.

“Freedom of speech falls alongside other freedoms to live and be free from bombs falling on people’s heads and to be free from occupations,” says Omid Safi, religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina, referring to American military and intelligence operations in parts of the Muslim world.

“I will take free speech comments seriously when others take people’s freedom of life and dignity and to be free from occupation just as seriously,” he said.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on the discussion around free speech and hate speech and we'll fold good ones into this post.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Violence

soundoff (1,088 Responses)
  1. megamind

    Let's look at things from a common sense perspective instead of all the legally, justifiably,my 1st amendment,my right to... and all of the other good stuff point of view. What that film producer did was wrong.what those murderers did was wrong.The producer meant to offend more than a billion people. The murderers committed first degree crimes. They both used their freedoms un-wisely. The producer should apologize to all those he offended and the criminals should be bought to justice.

    September 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Juror

      Murder is not in he same stratosphere as in making fun of some peoples faith. If you are strong in your faith and you have at least a second grade education, a film, drawings or words will not lead a group of people to murder. Get upset and make a big stink about it, if you have nothing else going on in your life...and that seems to be the problem. I agree the film was in bad taste, however, there is no excuse in the world for what happened.

      September 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  2. Uncle Sam

    Being able to criticize and satirize any historical person or object is fair game. Whether it be Jesus, Moses, Mohamed, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy. Get over it.

    September 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • megamind

      youre full of sh##

      September 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Randon acts of obscene violence occur. Deal with it.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  3. Uncle Sam

    Americans should NEVER have to apologize for our right to free speech, no matter how distasteful it might be. I find the religious nutjobs in America who protest the funerals of our fallen soldiers to be extremely distasteful and disgraceful, but guess what....they are protected by our First Amendment, and I'm OK with that. That's the price you pay for living in a free society. Sinead O'Connor went on SNL in the 80's and tore up a picture of the Pope on NBC. Did Catholics storm the streets and start rioting?? NO!! Jews have been ridiculed and persecuted for centuries. Do they riot and turn violent?? NO!! Muslims need to get a grip. As for me, I'm glad that video was made.

    September 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Hamm

      You have a right to trash talk rival sports teams and their fans, but any fool knows that you don't do that in their sports bars.

      September 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • megamind

      Typical super power ego at its best. Just because one has the right and it is protected doesn't make it right now does it?Arrogance leads to destruction.Humility leads to greatness. If you offend somebody you should say sorry and if u can't stomach that then stfup and the hell with you.

      September 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • john

      The jews did not riot but they went and took over the British protectorate of Palestine in 1948

      September 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Hamm

      john
      But 2 years earlier they bombed the King David Hotel.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  4. Moby Schtick

    Religious fanatics who kill and do violence are mocking their god far, far more than any cartoonist or film maker. How do they mock their god by their violence? By putting to death someone Allah has not put to death himself. If you're so convinced that your god wants to kill somebody, then let him do it. If you go off and kill someone in the name of your god, you're blaspheming by over riding his will to let them continue to live.

    September 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Hamm

      Like the ancient Hebrews and some American Christians maybe these Muslims see themselves as God's Warriors, his tools to do the killing that he needs doing.

      September 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Truth

      "Christians maybe these Muslims see themselves as God's Warriors, his tools to do the killing that he needs doing."

      Yes, it's true, both Christians and Muslim are just a bunch of tools...

      September 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • megamind

      get the facts straight. some reports are saying the killings were planned out b4 and these riots are a diversion. some are saying these killers are part of a terrorist group. Don't blame the masses for the actions of a few. How many other deaths do you know of resulting from the protests?

      September 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  5. megamind

    Why is it that the aggressor that verbally harrasses and assaults someone is known as the bully and the person on the receiving end as the victim? Couldn't the bully have been expressing their right of speech?Why do we go after bullies? Is it because their freedom of speech can potentially be deadly? What if the victim committed homicide instead of suicide because of bullying? Would the bully still be held responsible?

    September 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Hamm

      "If the victim's wrongful conduct contributed significantly to provoking the offense behavior, the court may reduce the sentence below the guideline range to reflect the nature and circu.mstances of the offense." United States Sentencing Guidelines for federal courts.

      Courts do take provocation into account, and wouldn't we be even more outraged at these killings in Libya if they just came out of the blue?

      September 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  6. hyaghi

    Let's not change the subject and make it a political game. This has nothing to do with the elections.

    Mr. Gingrich, I am an American Muslim of Arabic origin and there are thousands American Muslims of several ethnicity. You generalized and you insulted your own people who are helping make America the great country it is. You are insulting educated Muslims who are against violence. Shame.

    Freedom of speech has no chair when insulting the beliefs of others. Freedom of speech is intellectual debates but not a distorted personal opinion being imposed on the public. Shame.

    I am totally against violence and it is condemned in Islam, thy shall not kill but a killer or a fighter during a war.

    The film maker and actors and supporters are responsible and should be brought to trial. Also those who cause damage to establishments or loss of innocent life should be punished. Law and Order.

    "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy," the statement continued. "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

    September 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Are you serious? People who make bad art should be brought to trial?!? For what, exactly? Freedom of speech means you can mock something or someone for any reason you want to. Religion or historical/mythical figures don't get a free pass. Shame on you for placing blame on those who made the film!

      September 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • niknak

      And who exactly gets to decide what art is "blasphemous" against your imaginary god?
      You?
      All religions are backward, but islam takes the cake for the most backward. I have been to many islamic countries and to a T they are backward cesspools.
      Wanna know why?
      Because of islam.
      You want to keep a group of people dumb, violent and in poverty, you give them islam.
      Oh yeah, phuck allah.

      September 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • CJ

      Blasphemy is a victimless crime. Just because you are offended does mean that you are right, and just because you are offended does not mean that freedom of speech is wrong. Authority to dictate offense is not given to you.

      Surah 9:5 "When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them."

      فَإِذَا ٱنسَلَخَ ٱلۡأَشۡہُرُ ٱلۡحُرُمُ فَٱقۡتُلُواْ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ حَيۡثُ وَجَدتُّمُوهُمۡ وَخُذُوهُمۡ وَٱحۡصُرُوهُمۡ وَٱقۡعُدُواْ لَهُمۡ ڪُلَّ مَرۡصَدٍ۬‌ۚ فَإِن تَابُواْ وَأَقَامُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَوُاْ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ فَخَلُّواْ سَبِيلَهُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُور رَّحِيمٌ۬

      "Do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam." – Ibn Kathir, muslim muhadith (1301-1373).

      September 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • hyaghi

      For those who do not read, this article on which you are commenting, states that on Tuesday 11 September 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Egypt wrote: "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy," the statement continued. "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

      Intellectuals argue and debate with respect. Dumb humans are coward and shallow, thus could not face others to debate scientifically. Ignorance is difficult to deal with.

      It is shame innocent people were killed. Barbarianism is rejected and is condemned.

      Double standards is rejected as well. Our beautiful colorful America should not be polluted by extremists. Extremism is ignorance.

      If a movie were made about Israel which Israel would consider offensive then the makers of that movie would be accused of "Qaeda". Don't use "Freedom of Speech" for political gains. Don't use "Freedom of Speech" to burn bridges with other nations or faiths.

      September 14, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  7. Stefan Radu

    The filmmaker should have known that it will lead to protests and violence, even killings. Is that the right way to use the freedom of speech? Trent Lott was led to quitting his job in the Congress for "poor choice of words", as he said. Is freedom of speech freedom to insult your neighbors, to use dirty words against them and suffer no consequences? This is one side of the picture. The other one is what Hillary Clinton said, that nothing justifies violence. Absolutely, even when it is organized. If people in this country misuse the freedom of speech, nobody else in other countries will be won to believe in such a freedom.
    About Romney's comments regarding Obama's response: he did not apologize – remember George Bush after 9/11, he declared that Islam means peace, that America does not lead a war against Islam; he said that to assure American Muslims that their safety will be protected. Did Romney criticize president Bush for that?

    September 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  8. Free Speech?

    this is funny.. americans are so quick to support free speech.. but the free speech in your own country is so severely skewed to the wealthy and powerful... and the right to free speech doesnt give u the right to say anything you want.. thats why its still a crime to threaten people or lie about people (ruining someones image).... in "the real" mid east.. extreme muslim terrorists are condemned.. countless people dont even regard them as muslim.... after all in the Qu'aran it says to treat all religions with respect and kindess... and killing is not part of islam.. regardless of what extreme anti-islamist activist choose to say.. what these terrorists did is disgusting... what the filmmakers did was disgusting as well... but dont be so quick to use this example as another "muslim" terrorist.. think of him as a gang member in one of your inner cities who you just offended..free speech is good and all.. but you dont think he is going to want retaliation?

    September 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Free Speech?

      But the US media is so quick to point out all of the stupid people in our society and generalize them to express the beliefs and actions of all muslims... thousands of people get killed daily.. even people in your own countries for stupider reason than religion.. you can tell from all the anti-islamic language in these threads how your own media (thanks to free speech) has skewed your views.. no offense have any of you talking down about muslims and arabs been to the middle east? Not areas where there are protests.. but to the actual mdidle east?

      September 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Get Real People

      Ok, so you say that these muslim terrorists are liken to gang members in a city. It would also be logical that gang members have gang leaders that they take their marching orders from, right? These muslim terrorists were too organized and well equipped to be a spontaneous group of protesters that decided to attack the American Embassy in Libya. In fact, they used the anti-muslim video on Youtube as excuse to attack the West on the 11th anniversary of 9/11as a way to mock the United States. It seems apparent that these muslim terrorists only respond to insults about their prophet with extreme violence instead of peaceful or constructive dialogue. This is probably due to the fact that they are 1) poorly uneducated & can only respond with extreme anger, 2) educated but disgusted at how Western ideas have affected the muslim world, or 3) has some education but chooses not to be progressive like the rest of the world and live a life reminiscent before the 1800's. The mainstream media is not helping matters by questioning the United States military response after it's embassy was attacked and 4 innocent diplomats killed by this group of gang members. What we should be asking ourselves are: "Why did Obama have to apologize to the gang members after they attacked the US embassy in Libya and killed our diplomats? And... Who are the leaders that orchestrated this attack on the US embassy in Libya?" A weak (US) leader like Jimmy Carter had the same problem in 1979 when Iranian protestors stormed the US Embassy and held our diplomats hostage for over 400 days. That president had to pay a high ransom (at the expense of US taxpayers) and apologize to the Iranians for their release. This same pattern of extortion and mob violence is happening again this time with Obama. In the words a former Los Angeles resident (Rodney King)..."Can't we just all get along?"

      September 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  9. ME II

    Wow, this is just ridiculous!

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/12/joint-chiefs-chairman-urges-pastor-to-withdraw-support-anti-islam-film/

    September 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  10. oldbikerbeatch

    Guess no one ever saw Monty Python's "Life of Brian," eh? That was a full-length feature movie that cause the Vatican to flip out and decry the movie as heresy. The difference is, though, MUSLIMS only know how to flip out and kill people. MUSLIMS are simply garbage and if it's not one excuse, it will be another excus to be barbarians. The middleeast should be nuked, plain and simple.

    September 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm a Catholic and I saw "Life of Brian". There were protesters outside but I think they were more Protestant than Catholic. I thought it was a good-natured and hilarious spoof. I saw the "Last Temptation of Christ" as well which I thought was largely miss understood.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Miss Understood

      Don't use my name in vein.

      September 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Artereo Schlerosis

      Don't block my flow.

      September 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  11. Juror

    A Muslim society that has so called honor killings as a right because someone brought shame to your family is the ultimate messed up society. Are you kidding me? If you riot and kill people because of a stupid film then you might want to hit the alarm clock and wake up. Say what you want about my religion or make a derogatory film, who cares? I dont have the time nor energy to worry about a stupid negative comment or film about something I believe in. Grow a pair and take care of your family, that is what it is all about. Sincerely

    September 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Al

      Juror, People like you are the last one to talk about Muslim society, because simply your words shows that you don't know us nor our faith.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • CW

      Al, the actions of your 'faith' speak volumes over the last few days. Be an example. Condemn the violence.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Lray1

      Al, my Muslim friend, I would not dream of slandering your faith. At its best(before men put themselves in the picture-as they do in all faiths)it is a beautiful and peaceful religion and the Quran is a remarkable book. My question is why the horrifying violence? If Muslims were indeed secure in their faith, why so easily inflamed to violence and death?

      September 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  12. Dzenis Alickovic

    I agree with Omid safi. The united states to be this great free country, where their ignorent little 1% is the only people really free, and the middle class and below arent very free to do much of anything. And also if you can have freedom of speech you can also be held responsible for the Actions it leads to. is it not only fair? There should be a difference between hate speech and freedom of speech, If something like this is nessecary to to adress then i feel a supreme court or Hague or something similar would be in order to judge the actions.

    September 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Lray1

      Dzenis, I also believe there is a marked difference between free speech and hate speech. Where we differ is in the response to it. Violent protest, ending in death or injury is not a reaction I would universally recommend. Remember, radical people of your faith also militate in this and other democratic societies. Should they also be put to death?

      September 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  13. CW

    '“They don’t regard perceived insults to the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran as being protected by free speech, they regard it as a capital offense' and guess what? That doesn't matter a bit in the US. Sorry we aren't bowing to these extremists, stifling free speech, all in the name of appeasing someone 5000 miles away. Don't like the film? Don't watch. And surely keep your rotten hands off our first Amendment rights.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Len

      Just like Christians who didn't like those atheist billboards didn't have to look at them, I suppose?

      September 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Dzenis Alickovic

      if your in somebody elses country your countries rights do not mean diddly squat ... brother.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • coexist

      Freedom of speech does not mean there will not be consequences. This is a case where a disreputable fraud, abused that freedom to create a film full of disrespect and lies, in order to incite violence towards people who are Muslims. This is not what freedom of speech means: here in the US, we are not about freedom of speech when it extends to utter outright lies, fraud, slander, and bashing of other people's religions. We are also not about freedom of religion to the extent that certain Christian religious extremists can do anything they want to do to instigate international unrest, violence, and loss of life. That is not what freedom of religion means.

      We also need to remember that the US is the greatest nation in the world, and that the Islamic people who are offended at this ugly film do not understand the level of freedom we enjoy under our form of government. We need to find some way of communicating to other nations that while very small minorities in the US may have horrible ugly points of view (which they are of course free to express) that this "free speech" is not something that the majority of US citizens agree with or want to put up with. I think Hollywood should direct some of their considerable talent towards making films for Islamic countries to explain our ideas of freedom of speech and freedom of religion to them, and also make films for the United States audience that would educate us concerning the forms of government, cultures, and religions of the other countries in the world. This sort of thing might actually produce some lasting progress in peace.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Al

      CW, you sounded like "My way or the highway", sorry you are wrong. Treat people the way you like to be treated, or Live and let Live.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  14. Richard

    Religon can not touch the freedom of speech because the freedom of speech is above relgion.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Maybe but you can still get you're azz whupped

      September 13, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  15. Al

    As an Egyptian Muslim I condom the Film makers with the strongest words, and condom the attacks on the embassies with the strongest action; not to be part of it.
    One more thing to my friends In America, Free people are responsible people, If you do something you are responsible for outcome, the Film Makers and this pastor Jones, should be declared as enemies to the American National security.
    The problem we feel in Egypt, that people like Mr. Gingrich feels deep in their heart that we are less human or important that him, and people like him are superior to us, and in this is wrong to me, all people are equal in rights and responsibility.
    I remember Mr. Bush saying "our way of life", well, good Sir, We all also have our ways of life and trust me if a Movie made to Insult Jesus will be sad and made more than Newt himself, and I am sure you will speak of freedom of speech again.
    Time for the Citizen of the world, that we are different and our difference should enrich our life, not to make it as we seen it in the past few days, years.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • opinion8it

      I have read the scriptures (Q'uran; Bible; Tora) and none of them say that you can kill a man for the sins of another man. If the film maker offended someone, then why did they kill an innocent person who didn't know about the film? You accuse a country for the actions of one man and this is unfair.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • CW

      Trojan or Durex?

      September 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • getmeinhere

      Al, I hope you realize that in America there is no need for us to declare the film maker as an "enemy of American national security." Giving people the freedom to say whatever they want has a way of enforcing standards upon social behavior. The people that produced this film are a marginalized, unimportant part of our society. Groups like this typically go unnoticed because they are so fringe. Nobody in the US had heard of this film before the attacks (I'm aware that a lot of protestors are under the belief that this film was widely aired and viewed in the US, which is laughably false). Now that the attacks have brought more attention to the movie, many people are aware of it, and it has resulted in the people associated with the film being ostracized by the vast majority of Americans. Freedom of speech gives people the right to show the public how stupid they are, and the public usually responds by regarding them as idiots.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Steve

      Al, multiple, multiple, films have been made in the U.S. attacking Christianity. This is not something where the Muslim faith is alone by any stretch of the imagination. The difference is that those in the U.S. have not reacted to anti-Christian films with violence. I applaud your rejection of violence, but it is fair to reject those who will respond to this film or any other with violence.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Juror

      Al,
      you are right about not knowing much about the Muslim religion. It is hard for me to understand how words or film would ignite hatred among your people. If you have a strong belief in your religion why would this have such negative effect on Muslim world. Say what you want about my religion, I have a strong belief and nothing anyone can say or do in a film is going to make me act any different.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  16. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    FOLLOW THE TRUTH ABSOLUTE LIMIT TO HAVE RESPECT FOR OTHER'S OR HAVE YOUR HINDU FILTHY MOUTH BUSTED.

    consti tution does not allow some one to provoke other's to violence and first amendment has no reference to protection of deliberate hinduism, criminality of hinduism, provocation in any form, hinduism, absurdity of protection first amendment has no value in support of hinduism, terrorism against Muslim's and Islam. IT DOES NOT. For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

    September 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    Why is it that every conversation I have with somebody about free speech starts out like this: "I believe in free speech..." and ends up like this: "... but there are some things people just shouldn't be allowed to say!"?
    Now, sentence one and sentence two should, by all laws of physics, create a fluttering devouring void into which everything is sucked, when they are combined into sentence three: "I believe in free speech, but there are some things people just shouldn't be allowed to say!"
    :::::bang:::::
    It's a syntactical impossibility. A semantic impossibility. It's also completely indefensible.
    Time and again, people revolve around those two magical sentences, pretending to be liberal and open-minded. But they're secretly advocating thought control.
    No, you don't believe in free speech if you say that. You can't say you do, and then espouse opinions contrary to that. No walking around proud about your ethical and moral fibre. I can't make this more clear: you don't believe in free speech. Say it with me... "I don't believe in Free Speech." Say it with the capitals on: Free. Speech. Don't. Believe. In. It.
    We have "free will." We choose how to act. In choosing how to act, however, we need information on which to base our decisions; we can't be said to be making an informed choice without information. If we cross the line and begin telling people what information they can access and when, we're not allowing them true free will; we're lying by omission, and we're manipulating them.
    One symptom of this manipulation in our current society is people's inability to understand personal responsibility. For instance, if I hear something and go out and massacre Jews, whose fault is that? If we censor thought and discourse, a person can argue that the state was responsible, for 'letting' them make the wrong choice by forgetting to ban a topic from books and TV. Or by banning the wrong things, and leading people down paths of thought they 'never would have taken otherwise.' Really, it's MY fault if I go out and massacre Jews, nobody else's. Not my parents, not the government, not the Jews. Mine.
    People who advocate censorship simply don't want the public to have information. They fear the public might make the wrong choices, and it's easier to deny all access to any information contradicting the prevailing mythology.

    September 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Legislating away people's option to share their ideas about things doesn't actually do anything about the real harm that's being done by the people committing acts about which other people have or share ideas. People communicating their thoughts actually leads to more intelligent, reasoned actions: that means less impulsive, irrational and inhuman ones.
      For instance: in the US, bearing arms is a right. Shooting people is not. Why? When you're bearing arms, you can't be said to be intending anything. Nobody can guess what you think about when you're stroking your gun alone at night, and so far nobody has tried to make bad thoughts illegal if you own firearms. If you shoot someone, we arrest you, and still don't ask how often you sat at home cradling your gun before doing it. Because that doesn't matter: the sitting at home didn't get someone kilt. Shooting them did.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Freedom of speech is also a privacy issue: dictating how somebody's head should work is dangerous and repugnant. My point is this: get out of my head. Justifying one kind of something while banning the other is more than hypocritical, it's dangerous. That 'method' of justification is a fill-in-the-blanks form, and can be turned onto anything, from science class to s.ex ed. to political criticism. There are no lines, only scales. When you argue for censorship that "harm was being done," I ask "so what did you do to stop it?" Not "how did you suppress the public's access to the evidence?" And when you argue that being exposed to something stops people acting a certain way, you can use any subject at all and the argument still works, in isolation:
      "If people couldn't see McDonald's ads, they'd stop eating at McDonald's."
      "If people didn't know about AIDS, they wouldn't get AIDS."
      "If people couldn't take pictures of beaches, nobody would want to go to the beach."
      "If people couldn't draw pictures of homeless people, nobody would be homeless."
      "If people weren't allowed to take video footage of war, there'd be no war."

      – All this from the now defunct sarcasticgirl website. The site had to be taken down by the owner after she received numerous death threats for her defense of free speech.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • opinion8it

      "Be angry, but sin not" - Not too many people are able to master this wisdom.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  18. honestOne

    Nobody is provoked to violence. The violent relinquish self-control and choose violence. Declaring their violence to be a tribute to a deity does not justify it.

    September 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • GA

      We in the USA celebrate soldiers as heroes. Our soldiers went into Iraq and created violence (without direct provocation). They relinquish their self control to the government (a deity that can be just as powerful as god, btw), do you condemn them for their violent actions and do you think they are unjustified? If yes, you can stand by your argument, if not, then rethink your position.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • opinion8it

      @ GA – what you are saying is true, but so is what honestOne said in his statement. Men/women have to yield to violence whether for a violent government or a violent god.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Phil in Wisconsin

    @A.siddiqui. Watch your language. Meaning: When you say "your free speech," you're doing exactly what many Americans find so wrong with the reaction of Muslim hillbillies to the film. By saying "our free speech," you're saying that we bad, bad Americans are all somehow responsible for what some idiots out in California made in some stupid movie that no one ever heard of until YOU made a big deal out of it. See what I did there? I made you part of the Muslim hillbillies who react like darned fools to this stupid film. Now I don't think you're responsible for their bad behavior. Why do you make all of "us" responsible for what those lamebrains in California did?

    September 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • CW

      Thank you. More people need to stand up to these people like you did.

      September 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  20. PRISM 1234

    There is much more to rise of islamism in times we're living in then what meets the eye!
    They are the scourge of God on ungodly Western nations, which have become god to themselves....arrogant , wise in their own eyes, given over to all sorts of ungodliness, not regarding to basic laws given to them by God, by which He instructed them how to live and keep their societies from being swallowed in darkness....
    He shone His light on them, giving them knowledge to know the difference between right and wrong, but they spurned His commandments and exalted themselves in futility of their own minds, throwing Him out of their midst. Yeah, one day with God is as thousand years, and thousand years as one day, so the rottenness can be hidden for a long time... But whatsoever man/nation sows, he/it will also reap!
    God will turn those who reject Him to the 'mercies' of their enemies, look for the pattern of His dealings with His people of old, Israel, how He dealt with them. And who are we that we would escape His judgment if we turn away... who can withstand the judgments of the LORD?
    I know that things written here are not what people want to hear, but it is nevertheless the truth. We need to stop cuddling ourselves and minimizing the condition and shape in which our western societies have allowed themselves to sink into!

    September 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Ted

      PRISM, adherents of your own sick religion also claim to be chosen by god. That is the pinnacle of arrogance, and you typify it.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Stan

      PRISM claiming to speak the truth – now that's really funny.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ted

      Yeah, well, PRISM probably meant "coddling", although likely he does cuddle himself.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.