Friday, January 9, 2015

Without a right to free speech, you do not have a right to say you're offended

There are two popular stories on the internet now about free speech and being offended. Oddly, some people are simultaneously citing one as a reason why speech should stop short of offending people and the other as a reason why people should speak out against those who are offended. The first is the Charlie Hebdo massacre; fans of hate speech laws say Charlie Hebdo went too far. The second is the possible bombing of the Colorado Springs NAACP office by someone who was offended by the NAACP's existence.

Now, at the time I'm writing, we don't know whether the arsonist was targeting the NAACP or the store next to it. Usually, terrorists take credit for what they've done with press releases or graffiti. But let's assume that the target was the NAACP office and the bomber was offended by what the NAACP believes. Does being offended give you the right to silence the people at whom you're taking offense?

Stephen Fry has a fine answer:

Offended people love to share the fact they're offended. They forget that the right to free speech protects their right to tell anyone who will listen that they're offended.

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