So, since Katie Couric’s controversial Free Speech segment on CBS, I’ve been giving some thought on free speech and exactly what that means.
Everyone has opinions, and everyone has the right to make their opinions known, no matter what those opinions are. So yes, you’re allowed to claim that Sesame Chicken is what the Greeks meant by ‘ambrosia’ and that the amount of Sesame Chicken one consumes is proportional to how cool one is.
See what I’m saying? It doesn’t matter how ridiculous your opinion is – you have the right to have it and express it.
But can you imagine a world in which we turn on the news and hear nothing but people expressing that opinion or those equally absurd? I think on a national arena like CBS news, those opinions that should be aired are informed opinions. That is why I did not appreciate Mr. Rouhrbough’s address. If every opinion as baseless and hateful as his was aired, there wouldn’t be time for anything else.
So yes, that’s an example of free speech. I do think, however, that CBS needs to re-analyze what it considers ‘news worthy’.
Informed opinions are what make society possible. We couldn’t have a proper society if everyone believed that lopping off your neighbor’s head was good luck.
I’m as big of fan of free speech as the next guy, but I think it too often gets used to defend ridiculous claims. It puts up a wall around speech where you can’t argue with it. Free speech is great, but it isn’t to be placed on a pedestal. Speech in this manor is not worth having. Speech without debate is nothing but an exercise in frivolity.
On a national scale we need to have the kind of free speech that is both informed and open for debate. It reminds me of one of my greatest pet peeves of religion is that the second you start debating religion with most religious people they get offended – how dare you question their faith. If one has an opinion one should be able to defend it – and accept that by either a successful defense or an unsuccessful one, you learn and your opinions become even more informed. Free speech is becoming like that. The second someone starts criticizing what another has said under the auspices of ‘free speech’ there is an outrage that you attack someone for exercising their constitutional rights.
Please please try to understand that it is not the person’s ability to say what they think that we are attacking, it is what they think. If you are willing to make a claim you should be both willing and able to back it up. Period. End of story.
Example? Let’s take Couric’s free speech segment. Here’s an excerpt from the last comment on the piece.
I may not agree with everyone I hear. I may hate the rhetoric that someone is spouting. But this is America. Every person is entitled to say what he or she believes. That’s what makes this a wonderful country. That is what you celebrate every night. Stick to your guns! (figuratively speaking only, of course)
Posted by lstitt at 01:34 PM : Oct 06, 2006
David Sedaris tells a great story where he points out that on daytime TV people get the most applause for saying things that are ridiculously obvious – the thing is that they say them in a defiant and righteous tone – almost making it sound as if they are taking a stand against all of those who think different.
This reminded me of that story. “God damn it, this is America, and people have the right to say what they want!”. No shit.
Here’s another comment excerpt:
As Voltaire said, “I may disagree with what you say, but shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.” This however, seems to be an epitaph rather than a rallying cry in this country today. I give CBS News credit for allowing Mr. Rohrbough’s views. If you do not agree with them, that is your right too, but belittling and degrading his viewpoint is a public censorship that should not be tolerated in a free society.
What these comments all have in common is that they are as unapologetically off topic as was Mr. Rohrbough’s statement. In stead of defending the content of his speech they are defending his right to make it. No one is debating his right to say whatever he wants. That does not mean however that we should not be allowed to criticize his ideas.
What I’m saying is that even the most feckless of individuals should realize that unless they’re willing to defend what they have to say, it is not worth saying.
Oh, and that Sesame Chicken thing . . . totally true.