Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Satire and Free Speech

In my previous blog, I mentioned I had no sympathy for Sony in the hacking of its computers and said though they had the freedom to make the movie they made, they didn’t have to do it. The same can be said for the recent terrorist attack of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in France.

Certainly Charlie Hebdo had the free speech right to publish cartoons about Muhammad, but they didn’t have to do so. I am going to be accused of blaming the victim, but the only thing I blame the victim for is stupidity. As any farm boy knows, if you are going to poke sticks in a hornets’ nest, you should have some plan for dealing with mad hornets.

The Charlie Hebdo workers kept poking sticks in the hornets’ nest, but apparently were not prepared to deal with mad hornets. They should have worked in a fortified environment with loaded automatic weapons at each desk and trained employees on how to use them.

An editorial in the Austin American Statesman this morning (1/13/15) raised the issue of having to defend freedom of speech but at the same time not condoning the tasteless speech of so many of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo.

     Many of the pundits seemed to excuse Charlie Hebdo’s tastelessness on the basis that it was satire, as if satire is a holy category that should not be criticized. Hustler magazine once publish a satirical cartoon in which evangelist Jerry Falwell supposedly had his first sexual experience with his mother on an outhouse toilet. It was certainly more tasteless than anything Charlie Hebdo published about Mohammed.

     Falwell filed and lost a defamation suit against the magazine. Hustler argued in wasn’t libelous because it was satire and hence everyone knew it was not published as truth. Truth or satire, it was libelous, but the ruling added to the idea that satire is somehow sacred.

Hustler also knew that poking sticks at butterflies does not carry the same risks as poking sticks at hornets’ nest.

Satirists have the same free speech rights as the rest of us, but I certainly have a right to withhold my sympathies where I well. They are with one protestor at an Austin rally held to express sympathy with Charlie Hebdo. He said he was there in sympathy for the Muslim police officer killed in the line of duty while protecting Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech.

When exercising your right to free speech, if you are going to poke sticks at hornets’ nests, have a plan for dealing with nasty, angry hornets.