Washington Post: I used to be a free speech absolutist; Charlie Hebdo changed that

Washington Post:

January 26 2015.  Andres Martinez is editorial director of Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Trade Winds column. He teaches journalism at Arizona State University.

U.S. Supreme Court justices are not supposed to say anything interesting outside of the Court. But in 2010, Justice Stephen Breyer was asked in a rare TV appearance if he thought a Florida pastor had a First Amendment right to burn a Koran.

First, Breyer cited Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s old line about not having the right to cry fire in a crowded theater. Then, he asked some interesting questions: What does that proverbial theater look like in our hyperlinked world? And what is our era’s equivalent of being trampled to death in that theater? As if remembering himself, he quickly added that the answers to such questions get defined in actual cases before the Court, over time (as opposed to on “Good Morning America”).

At the time, Breyer’s TV provocation was roundly denounced by free speech absolutists (a club I frequent). But I have found myself thinking about his questions in the aftermath of two major events involving the cross-border repercussions of speech: the horrible attack on satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the hacking of Sony Pictures before the release of the sophomoric comedy “The Interview.”


6 replies

  1. It is rather unfortunate that someone like the writer is allowed to teach journalism: a profession which is supposed to defend the truth regardless of who is involved.
    His opinion is that there are to be limitations on free speech for fear of making losses whether life or profit. This is a boost to enemies of man’s basic rights.

  2. For the Muslim Times’ collection of articles about Free Speech, please click here.

    Several of the articles linked here have comments and discussions on the issue of free speech. I believe that the discussion should start off with the following among other issues at hand:

    European Convention of Human Rights
    I think many of the exceptions for freedom of speech are tackled in the Article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights.
    This Article provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, but allows restrictions for:

    interests of national security
    territorial integrity or public safety
    prevention of disorder or crime
    protection of health or morals
    protection of the reputation or the rights of others
    preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
    maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

    We would certainly need the best legal minds humanity can offer to give concrete and legalistic details of the above exceptions that may be acceptable to people of all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, at least the moderates among them.

    If the Supreme Court Justices do not come to our rescue, may be a good and an accomplished writer can help out with a best selling book. But, the key is to at least, win the moderates, in all the established religions of the world and among the agnostics and atheists.

  3. The danger this quack posses is having to impart the same contaminated opinion to the students he is misinforming who will then go and spread it.

  4. Surah 99: Az Zalzalah (The earthquake) with English translation

    99 – Surah Zalzalah – English Translation – Beautiful Mishaari Recitation

    Surah Az Zalzalah – In precious vioce of Idrees Abkr

    What is an Atom -Basics for Kids

    Bill Nye the Science Guy- Atoms (Part 1)

  5. at·om
    the basic unit of a chemical element.
    synonyms: grain, iota, jot, whit, mite, scrap, shred, ounce, scintilla, trace, smidgen, modicum
    “there wasn’t an atom of truth in the allegations”
    atoms as a source of nuclear energy.
    noun: the atom
    “the power of the atom”
    an extremely small amount of a thing or quality.
    “I shall not have one atom of strength left”
    synonyms: grain, iota, jot, whit, mite, scrap, shred, ounce, scintilla, trace, smidgen, modicum
    “there wasn’t an atom of truth in the allegations”
    Earthquakes 101 – National Geographic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.