crypto and public policy

Freedom of Speech

Filed under: Policy February 5, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

Just when I thought I was going to be in complete agreement with George Bush on at least one issue, he manages to surprise me, yet again. I am truly confused.

The Danish cartoon story is baffling to me in so many ways. It is, without any shadow of a doubt, a clear case of free speech vs. religious dogma. Were the cartoons distasteful? Probably so. Although probably no more so than the dozens of antisemitic cartoons that appear daily in the Arab press. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s speech, and we cannot, we should not, we MUST not accept this attempt by fundamentalists to endanger our right to free speech. I strongly support Denmark and the newspapers who chose to run those cartoons and even re-run them. I am truly ashamed of the attitude of the French, British, and American governments, who chose this time to play the appeasement card.

So I’m baffled. Baffled because I think this is a tremendously poor move on behalf of people like the Palestinians, who have long yearned to have a democratic state of their own. Baffled, because I really thought Bush believed in this freedom thing (although his methods have always left me dissatisfied). Baffled, because this really should not be controversial for people who believe in freedom, which makes me wonder how many actually believe in freedom.

And so I’m afraid of what this means for the future. It’s almost as if the rapid availability of information combined with globalization gives rise to a new and serious threat to our freedoms: one newspaper says something offensive, which leads some undemocratic regime to go berzerk, which leads to boycotts, threats of violence, and effectively censorship. Because, let’s be realistic: from now on, who’s going to have the courage to publish a cartoon critical of Islam?

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