The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

CNHI Specials

September 27, 2012

Slate: We must defend even the ugliest free speech

NEW YORK — At the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly this week, plenty of voices will be heard, including that of the hateful president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and not one of those voices will be censored.

Rarely has the value of free speech been so threatened. The arc of the unfortunate story is now well-told: Using a perceived attack on the Quran by a private voice as a pretext to ignite anger, forces of intolerance incite riots against visible American interests and representatives, usually causing damage of some sort, and in the recent incident in Benghazi, leading to a tragic loss of life.

How should we respond, both to the initial provocation, and then to the assault on U.S. interests?

We should be clear in understanding that these attacks are the price we pay for believing in free speech, especially in a world where such tolerance is not universally accepted. We are used to dismissing as cranks and crazies the fringe voices who preach everything from anarchy to conspiracy, or who feel compelled to elevate their own religious or political views by speaking in venomous terms about those of others. Yet in parts of the world where free speech is not an accepted part of the political or social fabric, such speech can be exploited by those with multiple motives. As Bill Keller pointed out in Monday's New York Times, it is often the intent of those causing the riot that tough restrictions on speech be imposed. The very violence they cause becomes the argument they can then use to stifle opposition voices.

All of which brings me to a simple point. If we appear at all queasy in our dedication to the founding principle of free speech and tolerance for that right in others, we give sustenance to those who would squelch it. We also weaken the overwhelming long-term appeal our principles have in those nations now going through a tumultuous upheaval. Of course we cannot expect the end result to be universal adoption of our vision of freedom, but if we waver in defending it as a principle, then we will give up hope that we can move toward that goal.

Text Only
CNHI Specials
  • barbour021614.jpg No shows escaped death by Craigslist killer

    The young woman who says she was driven by satanic spirts to commit a cross-country murder spree over the last six years says authorities are not taking her claims seriously and that she tried to lured other central Pennslyvania men into her death snare with online companionship ads but they didn't show up.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • ent_jimmyfallon.jpg Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' debut: Social media reacts

    Jimmy Fallon kicked off a new era on "The Tonight Show" Monday night and garnered mostly positive reviews. Here's a sampling of reaction on social media.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • b_tuesday_eisenhower_20110405sg3371.jpg Augusta National removes 'Eisenhower Tree' after ice storm

    A 65-foot tree named after the nation's 34th president on the 17th hole at Augusta National Golf Club was removed over the weekend after sustaining "irreparable damage" during an ice storm at the home of the Masters Tournament.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140218-AMX-GUNS171.jpg Will smart guns transform the gun industry?

    One of California's largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • ten-10-dollar-bill.jpg VIDEO: Groupon claims 'President Hamilton' promotion an intentional mistake

    Groupon says a President's Day promotion mis-identifying Alexander Hamilton as a U.S. President was an "intentional" humorous mistake.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Samoas, Thin Mints and business ethics

    But these lessons aren't learned when Scouts sell outside grocery stores or via mobile app, or, even worse, when parents ask their colleagues to purchase Girl Scout cookies, a query I recently received at a casual work lunch. My friend wasn't prepared for the lecture that followed. I'd be more than happy to buy cookies from his daughter, I said, but only if she called me on the phone to personally ask for the sale.

    February 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 12.27.23 PM.png VIDEO: Just how easy is it to buy a drone?

    Businesses can't wait for drone rules to be issued by the FAA. They really can't. Estimates on business drone usage are in the tens of thousands...and they're overwhelming the FAA, which is still trying to come up with rules for flying them.

    February 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 4.42.12 PM.png VIDEO: Man falls through golf shop ceiling; everyone plays it cool

    After a man falls through the ceiling of a professional golf shop both the patrons and the employees react as though everything is completely normal.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • ClarkTheCub.jpg Clark the Cub takes his place among pro sports' worst mascots

    The Chicago Cubs have broken 138 years of mascot-free tradition by introducing Clark the Cub, who will entertain young fans at Wrigley Field beginning this season. Judging from reaction on the Internet, Clark instantly deserves a place on the list of pro sports' worst mascots. Here are our ideas for some other entries.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 4.09.29 PM.png VIDEO: Texting crash caught on dash cam

    A 23-year-old Florida man admitted he was texting behind the wheel when his car veered off the road and crashed into a tree.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo