Governments and peoples must not give in to fanatics who would murder or use other 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 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 control a 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.
Yesterday 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 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?
One hundred and seventy-six years ago English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword” and it is, especially if you keep it sharp and stick it in the eye of your enemy both literally and figuratively.