Letter: Freedom rests on our ability to speak our minds openly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Recently several individuals were attacked as being “insensitive” toward Islam. They merely asked why non-violent Moslems throughout the world do not protest Islamic violence by its perpetrators. Given the hostile incidents in Denmark over caricatures of Mohammed, the attacks against the pope for quoting a many centuries old narrative, the mass suicide bombings in Iraq, the murder of many Australians in an Indonesian tourist site, people living in a democratic society that supports the rule of law believe this question is relevant.

Our culture has become extremely sensitive to political correctness, an abhorrent concept that has infected every fiber of American society. This dismal course of events has had a negative effect on our society, legal system and ethics in American life. If one expresses an attitude contrary to political correctness, one is accused of a broad plethora of crimes; the truth of the statement means nothing.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution mentions freedom of speech; those alleging ultra-sensitivity are not protected from most comments. Those believing they have been insulted can and should walk away if they choose not to discuss the issue. This freedom is not absolute; hate speech and speech that would result in destruction are not within the protection of the amendment. Justice Holmes put it succinctly when he advised that this freedom is not absolute. One may not yell fire in a crowded theater.

Our culture is based upon the free expression of ideas in the public forum. Attempts to hinder them are detrimental and lead to a loss of democracy, something that was a loadstone of the War for Independence. Trying to curb the ideas expressed by one with whom we may not agree is dangerous. Succumbing to this hypocrisy will only damage every idea that sustains free expression.

— Arthur Steinberg