"Exercising" Freedom of Speech

Ophelia Benson takes offense at the claim by David Marliere that Charlie Hebdo's exercise of free speech may have been counterproductive (presumably to whatever goals he thought they were seeking to achieve).She responds to Marliere's "Of course people should be entitled to mock Islam and any other religion. However, in the current climate of racial and religious prejudice in Europe, how can these cartoons be helpful? Charlie Hebdo is waging a rearguard battle." by saying "If you’re hoping to help defend the genuine right to mock Islam and any other religion, as opposed to a purely notional right mentioned in passing only to be negated in the next sentence, then these cartoons can be helpful by exercising the very right that Marlière pretends to affirm only to deny it in the next breath." But to confound the suggestion that an act is unwise with a denial of the right to perform it is really pretty silly.

"Use it or lose it" may be a popular saying but it is certainly not a universally valid principle, and there is no inconsistency in suggesting that a right is more likely to be preserved if used sparingly. Marliere's conclusion re Charlie Hebdo may (or may not) be wrong, but anyone who wants to attack it is more likely to change minds if they do so intelligently (even though they do have the right to do so foolishly).

Leave a Reply