A shooting in Arizona brings back the debate about the freedom of speech and foreseeable harm that may result.
It was just two weeks ago a post was made on this blog about a disgusting man who wrote a book to help pedophiles. (The pedophile's book is free speech) A sheriff in Florida sent deputies to Colorado to arrest him because the author had sold a book via mail order to the deputies. Charged with breaking Florida’s obscenities laws, the author’s defense lawyer claimed the book is protected speech. The conservative Republican sheriff’s response was that it is speech, but speech and words have consequences and can cause some to take action that can cause harm.
The blog took the side of freedom of speech, but hoped that someone could find a way to censor the author’s book without damaging one of the most important freedoms of all, the freedom of speech.
Sunday, six people were killed and a Democratic congresswomen was left with a bullet wound to her brain by a 22 year old gunman. (Congresswoman still sedated after gunman’s attack; second person of interest sought) The congresswoman was one of the 20 districts that Sarah Palin had targeted on her website, with cross hairs like that of a gun site. (We diagnosed the problem... )Others across the country, using a variety of media as their outlet, have also expressed in very vitriolic rhetoric, their hatred of people that disagree with their opinions in politics. The sharpness of political debate has come to the edge if not just crossing the line of speech that has consequences.
There are plenty of people with personalities that are easily manipulated. Political opinion leaders in the media know it well. They have built their careers, and filled their pockets, on the loyal readership, viewers and audience that follow their every word. As was suggested by the sheriff in Florida, speech can provide the justification needed to lead some to take action that they might not have otherwise.
This rhetoric flows in a circle. The opinion leader makes expressions that pulls in the audience. The audience then responds with their own harsh comments. That is then echoed back and forth until the debate loses any rational basis, leaving only the hate. In the last Presidential election, Senator John McCain stopped the echo when he shut down a woman in a televised town hall meeting. To his credit, he brought back the debate from the edge. Political opinion leaders need to do the same.
Political debate has always been hot. But, the opinion leaders’ venomous expressions have taken a sharp turn to the edge of lunacy. It will be difficult to find that line between freedom of speech and criminal activity. But to continue without backing up from the edge means that the expressions of some will be like the man that yells “fire” in a crowded theater or incites a riot. The freedom of speech ends when as a result, there is foreseeable harm.