Je Suis for Free Speech…

Posted on: 13th January 2015

Like, I hope, everyone else I stand shoulder to shoulder, arm-in-arm, and full square in support of the right to free speech.

We must not let our society become intimidated by impressionable individuals captured by the deranged logic of the jihadists.

But, the right to freedom of speech is a privilege which should be handled with care, especially by those with the additional privilege of having more prominent free speech than others.  Because, with that right comes responsibility not to simply be gratuitously offensive purely for the sake of it.

The tradition of satire has been a force for good, going back thousands of years.  A good satirist exposes and ridicules the foolish and corrupt; but the underlying intention has always been to enable self-appraisal and improvement so that the character targeted by the satire can overcome their weaknesses.

Satire has been most effective when it ridicules and exposes the rich and the powerful.  But it is least effective when it ridicules the weak, deluded and marginalised, especially if it is simply to offend those who have become captured by the deranged logic of the jihadist mentality.

A good satirist will have empathy for their quarry – at  least to ask themselves how they would feel if it was their values and their loved ones, who were being held up for ridicule.

I penned an article nearly nine years ago whilst in Yemen after witnessing protests when the infamous Danish cartoons were published.  Elsewhere jihadists responded by threatening beheadings and murderous retaliations.

Yes, of course we must defend (perhaps even to the death) the right to freedom of speech, whilst also encouraging the responsible use of that right; and the discouragement of purely gratuitous abuse and offense represented as “edgy” humour.