‘Freedom of Speech Means the Freedom to Offend.'

1372 WordsMar 14, 20086 Pages
George Orwell once famously said ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.' This sentence sums up the very essence of free speech; it is, as Orwell believed, the mother of all civil rights. Without the unconditional freedom to offend it cannot exist. Ideas are, more often than not, dangerous things. There is little point in having freedom of speech if it only defends the most popular and innocuous of opinions. The freedom to offend can perpetrate racial, social or religious intolerance; however, conversely, it is also the only means available to fight against such bigotry. Free speech is not something to work towards when the world is ‘better'; it is, rather, the vital tool through…show more content…
Again, it should be noted that by use of the word ‘promote', it is implicit that the material on which the promotion is based exists. Censoring intolerance, or forcibly punishing it by imprisonment, is not an effective tactic. Without the freedom to offend, we cannot recognise these social problems, nor fight them with any real conviction. Relating back to this line of debate is of course the overseas publication of the controversial Danish cartoons. Cultural tensions within the European Muslim communities have been building up for decades; the Danish Cartoon Armageddon of early this year has only proven if anything, that social tolerance cannot be won through silence or apathy. Rather, it can only be gained through the implementation of free speech. To claim however that the caricatures championed some great ‘in defence of free speech movement' is wrong; they were, in themselves, badly drawn, inarticulate, and obscenely unfunny. The Danish cartoons were deliberately provocative, and as such blur the reasonable confines of expression. To lampoon the free speech cause by using them to argue for censorship is ridiculous. One does not go around punching people in the face to test their commitment to non-violence; similarly, the cartoons should not be used to test the attendant dangers of absolute free
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