Thursday, October 29, 2009

When free speech can really, really cost you

"I don't agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it." Such was the dictum of the enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and I agree with it. The right to say such things however is not a shield from criticism. Whenever people state an opinion and then are faced with a backlash of hostile counteropinions, they will often, mistakenly, retort "What about my right to free speech?" I can only shake my head when peole revert back to that excuse. Once you open your mouth, you have to be prepared to take as much as you just gave, even if the criticism comes from genuine idiots and fools.

Free speech though isn't just about what comes out of the mouth. In this regard, I do not support such things as amendments to the constitution as burning or desecrating flags. Although I am appalled by it, such is the right of people. If the symbol becomes more powerful than what it actually stands for, then the symbol stands for nothing.

The DNC is sponsoring a contest where people can submit ads that will run on TV in support of the Obama/Democratic health care proposals that are afloat. There are 20 finalists and one of them, if chosen, will do more harm than good. In this video, a flag is painted upon a mural and then graffitied with various "political" messages related to the health care debate. Now, the person who submitted it is free to do so. But he should not be alarmed by the backlash that it could cause. If the DNC chose this particular add, it will probably very likely turn off the independents who have yet to formally weigh in on the health care debate. Is vandalizing a flag the best way to get the point across? Without doubt a lot of people will ignore the message and focus on the graffiti on the flag.

Yes, have your free speech, but don't cry foul when you not everyone lines up to agree with you. You can watch the video and see if it passes your own litmus test for good taste.

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