Police / Fire

COMMENTARY: Murder For Insult Is An Attack On Ideas (revisited)

Communication is the key to a free society; that’s why it’s a target

[Note: I originally wrote the core of this 10 months ago, and it is even truer today than it was then because thousands of deaths all over the world – not merely the 100-plus in Paris this week – have since been added to the total murdered by despots and religious fanatics.]

Governments and peoples must not give in to fanatics who would murder or use other oppressive methods to stifle freedom of expression and communication with the goal of controlling society.  Make no mistake, controlling communication is the same as controlling thinking – an idea that never breaks the barrier of one’s mind in visual or audio expression, word, or deed has no impact on the world. 

It‘s no accident that authoritarian rulers, despotic governments, and fanatics of all stripes target the means of communication first for that is where the real danger lies for those seeking total control; if ideas are allowed to spread unchecked they inevitably break down all oppressive forces.

Threats, murder, terror, and even repressive “insult laws” are just some of the tools used to bring communications and populations under control. The fact that many ideas are wrong, stupid, offensive, or all in combination is not an adequate justification to ban or control them.

While it is fairly established that one cannot falsely shout fire in a crowded theater, the logical antithesis must also be true; one cannot be allowed to use threats of intimidation or terror to preemptively control free society.

Being offended is the price of being free because every idea, even the best, is bound to be opposed by someone or some group.  A society without the conflict of ideas is doomed to failure and regression, it is only by pushing the boundaries that we establish their proper limits.

In January 2015 and now again, the people of Paris paid the price for thinking free because some of them believed that is was extraordinarily stupid for upwards of 200 people to die in worldwide riots over cartoons insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and they were brave enough to say so.  This is not the first case of insult-driven terrorism and won’t be the last and they do not occur instantly in a crowded theater, they are planned, cold, and calculated to be both a punishment and a warning.  It is a challenge, the question is – will we fight to keep our freedoms when it is so much easier to compromise with self-censorship and sham “cooperation” (actually surrender to intimidation)?

One hundred and seventy-six years ago, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword” and it is, especially of you keep it sharp and stick it in the eye of your mortal enemies both literally and figuratively.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.