[By Alex Gregory]
Ok, I should probably step off of Richard's blog now, so I'd like to thank him for letting me post here for last couple of weeks. For this last post, I just wanted to make a brief point on free speech.
I often hear various (not all!) left-wing people attack free speech these days. They often make the point that speech is an act like any other, and, like any other act, can have negative consequences. Shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre seems unacceptable given the injury, or even death, that it might lead to. Likewise, they say, racist, sexist, or other bigoted speech should similarly be supressed. (witness that cartoon controversy).
But I suspect that these same people would be the first to object to the same reasoning when used in the other direction. Over at (the sometimes amusing, sometimes silly) minimum security, Stephanie has a cartoon suggesting that it's terrible that the American government is charging someone because they've made statements that support Al-Qaeda.
Perhaps she's right, I know nothing of the details of this case. But anyone arguing against free speech must really take care to remember that those choosing which speech to supress won't do it perfectly. The choice isn't between free speech and perfectly regulated speech. It's between free speech and imperfectly regulated speech. The latter, especially when those in power are the one's doing the supressing, looks far worse to me.
It might be true that some speech should be regulated in an ideal world, but nonetheless, I don't believe we should trust anyone, including ourselves, with the task of choosing which speech to prohibit.