by Melissa Clouthier | April 27, 2010 3:40 pm
No, I am not making that up. He really does. Go read for yourself. Bookworm has more about this new, abhorrent precedent we’ve set up in America:
There are a couple of points I want to make about this whole embarrassing debacle – embarrassing for Comedy Central, which shows that it’s offensive only when it’s safe; and a debacle, because it’s one more nail in the coffin of the free speech that has always been an integral part of America’s political and social culture.
My first point riffs off something David Hazony said in a Commentary blog post about the South Park episode (emphasis mine):
The core of liberal society is the belief that every new thought, every iconoclasm, every “dangerous” idea, can be uttered somewhere, by someone, as long as it doesn’t openly incite violence – and that every sacred cow is ultimately just a cow.
(I urge you to read the whole post, but the above sentence is the one that intrigued me.)
In the old days, the notion of incitement to violence examined whether the speaker literally incited violence. For example, the speaker might say to the crowd “Kill the President” or “Kill the Congress person” or “Kill all the meter maids” or something equally incendiary. The threat of violence wasn’t implicit in the speech; it was explicit. No civilized society could countenance speech that simply and directly inflamed blood lust. We in America have always been willing to trade in the world of ideas, but the civil contract demands that we stop short of demanding someone’s head on a pike.
We’ve now entered a brave new world that redefines “incitement to violence” away from its traditional meaning of explicit demands for blood, death or revolution. Now, “incitement to violence” includes speech or images that hurt someone’s feelings or offend their sensibilities. As a society, we used to say that it was just tough if someone’s sensitivities were roughed up by speech that falls far short of calling for that person’s (or someone else’s) blood. We recognized that our civil contract – our constitutional contract – requires for its health resilient people who can deal with hurt feelings.
Now, however, we see our media and political outlets repeatedly defining as incitement speech that lacks any calls for violence but that merely makes the crazy man angry. Where we would once police the crazy man, we now police ourselves. Everything we say must be run through the filter of “will it make the crazy man angry?”
What a gutless, ridiculous place Comedy Central is now. Or has it always been? It’s easy to be brave when you know no one will harm you, but how ridiculously craven to dodge truth and art in the face of real harm.
Tom Elia has more.
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