With the tragic events in the Middle East the last 72 hours, the issue of free speech has come to the forefront as has the responsibility of everyone to practice a little discernment. It amazes me, constantly, how little Americans know about the rest of the world and sometimes vice versa.
Americans don’t get that Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan etc. are not all connected. I have heard so many erroneous assertions that somehow the militant attack in Libya – not protesters but an armed group that introduced themselves by throwing grenades and firing RPG’s – is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the never-ending unrest in Yemen. Oh, and yes, they all work for al-Qaeda.
I pointed out to one guy, who went on a tirade bashing all Muslims (and of course Obama is secretly one of them according to him) that quite a few Muslims died in combat trying to protect the Embassy staff in Libya and some recognition was owed them for laying down their lives for a bunch of Americans. It made no difference to him. It is impossible for him to set his hatred aside to recognize their sacrifice. I struggle with understanding such small-minded motivations.
We don’t have a hate incitement law here like many countries. This means you can say or degrade anyone pretty much at will. Some people – and sadly many of them are artists – do this to gain attention. Unlimited free speech is great but as we see now it has its downside. It is a really fine line on where to draw the boundary between free speech and hate incitement.
What hasn’t been touched upon is the personal responsibility involved with all this. The artist who made this anti-Islamic film (he supposed duped the actors by looping dialogue in the editing room so they wouldn’t know what they were doing) is one of the real culprits here. Reports are he is fearful for his life. A dubious character, I heard one reporter talk how she had a flow chart to track all his aliases, he should be fearful.
Every artist has to sit down and think out consequences. Words have consequences and like anything else in life, you have to take responsibility for your actions. People have died from this person’s bigotry. By the same token people like the anti-Muslim one I mentioned above or Muslims who hate all people in the West with a different voice are thriving off their own hate. There will be consequences for that as well. I see no difference between a person here with that hatred or a person in Yemen with that hatred. The motive is the same.
I don’t know if we need a hate incitement law here. A lot of times I think we do especially when I see words bantered around carelessly. On the other hand, I am torn about giving up any of the unfettered free speech rights that exist. It is a tough call. Then again, most things in life are. As the last few days have shown, very little is black and white.