“Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.” – Neal Boortz
Every examination of the shooting in Garland, Texas begins with “I support free speech, but…” There always a “but.” I saw across social media and the internet a series of cyclical arguments in which one person would defend the “Draw Mohammed” contest, then another would decry it, saying it’s too provocative. Over and over again, this cycle continued.
These cyclical arguments miss the point, because they’re both right in different ways.
Free speech—as we know it in the United States–is just that: free. The only boundary to this freedom is when one uses it to threaten the personal safety or life of another. In those cases, speech can be investigated or curtailed because it is at that point that one’s right to free speech infringes upon another’s most basic right to life.
The “Draw Mohammed” contest was not a threat—not from any perspective. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which it is indeed provocative. Those who created and sponsored the event, as well as those who participated, would be abjectly stupid to think their actions might not provoke a response—especially after what happened with Charlie Hebdo.
So there you go. It’s free speech, and it must be protected. However, we know what provokes radical Muslims, and it is well understood that if one provokes the practitioners of such a violent and evil ideology, there is always a possibility of danger.
Should you be allowed to walk up to a militant Black Panther holding a gun and call him the N-word? Yes. Should you do that and not expect repercussions? No. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.
So to anyone who would organize a “Draw Mohammed” event, I applaud your courage, but I also cringe at your stupidity, because you’re knowingly risking a bullet to the head.
But here’s the thing—regardless of the courage or the stupidity of the inciting incident, what we should be talking about is the fact that people are being gunned down in the United States simply for daring to offend radical Islam. It doesn’t matter how “provocative” or “offensive” the incident was, those who practice radical Islam have no American rights. They are savages.
I hate that the word “but” follows everyone’s opening of “I support free speech,” because this debate doesn’t exist inside a vacuum. We live in a dangerous world, and as such, we must acknowledge that our behavior can have negative consequences that are in no way our fault, but are still incited by our actions.
As the saying goes, there are no excuses, but there are reasons. We must be aware of the reasons.
Incidents like the Charlie Hebdo murders and the Garland shooting are tragic, and should be condemned–they are obviously wrong. However, we must understand that no matter how free we are, there are those who seek to destroy us.
Is someone wrong for drawing Mohammed against the wishes of radical Islamists? Absolutely not. However, if they wish to continue to live, it’s probably not the smartest move.
Free speech must not be curtailed, and what happened was terrible, but in a world in which these savages exist, we must be prepared for any possible consequences.