Saturday, September 23, 2006

oxymoron: freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is fast becoming an oxymoron, as observed once again, when Pope Benedict XVI recanted his recent speech exploring the basic philosophical differences between Islamic and Christian faiths.

The inflammatory words, firing Muslims to call for a “…serious apology,” were apparently first spoken by Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which existed in what is now Istanbul, Turkey.

It may have been wholly (no pun intended) unwise of the leader of the Catholic Church to quote such a narrow perspective on the relationship between violence and faith, so publicly, during these turbulent times. But what’s more disturbing, is that freedom of speech took yet another nosedive in a flurry of papal irresponsibility and knee-jerk reaction.

What happened to live and let live? Let's agree to disagree? You go your way; I'll go mine?

If we don’t like what we’re hearing, reading, or viewing—shut off, put off, or turn off. We are each at choice.


Ant said...

Interesting topic. I think true freedom of speech doesn't really exist at all - we all modify what we say depending on who we're saying it to, and the fact that it's a public address doesn't change that. For instance, if we truthfully shot our mouths off about our friends I'm sure we wouldn't have many left, so we naturally self-edit ourselves whether we know we're doing it or not.

It's a question that comes around with blogs very often too - so many people (notable headline-makers including Dooce and Petite Anglaise) don't realise that the public nature of blogs means that they don't understand their audience and say things they shouldn't really. My own experience of this is when I overstep the bounds of taste and decency to try and get laughs and end up utterly disgusting my parents. I probably won't edit myself for them (because I tend to think that they've got slightly thinner skins than most of my other audience) but I am aware of being careful just how far I push things.

I'd also like to rant about the religious issues surrounding the incident you've quoted, but this comment has gone on long enough... :op

Kiyotoe said...

political correctness has grabbed freedom of speech by the "balls" ('scuse the language) and won't let go.

Yeah, we're free to say whatever we want as long as we don't offend anybody, which these days seems to be damn near impossible.

John Ivey said...

Your thought-provoking article was cause enough for me to do a little research on your subject matter. I myself being an atheist agree with Karl Marx's view that religion is the opium of the people, and could never figure out starting from my teen years after being introduced to the theory of evolution in the Big Bang theory, which in my mind gave me a much more believable explanation of how we arrived to exist as human beings as opposed to Genesis, Adam and Eve, and the other myths of the Old Testament, why so many people have a blind faith in an inexplicable god. But I digress. As for Pope Benedict XVI, as far as popes go, he is poised to set the Catholic church back 50 years or more with his pushing fundamentalist views on his followers. Pope John Paul II, again as far as popes go, was much more tolerant. The ethnocentricity of Western religions will only grow stronger if they move towards fundamentalism as we've seen with the religious right in the United States and the intolerant followers of Islam. It IS too bad that more people can't take a live and let live attitude towards one another. And why, pray tell, should we need a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? It's just another example of one group of people wishing to force their sanctimonious morals on the population as a whole. I hadn't really meant to go on such a rant, but as Ant got the ball rolling in his comment, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I was a foreign correspondent for 15 years until comprised by a pending law suit that demanded I disclose an informant's name. Freedom of speech does not exist anymore. Period.

Bibi said...

Interesting comments from you all. Anon, best of British w. your situation. I find many people feel strongly about our rights to freedom of speech, but it seems the 80:20 rule wins out and the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Kelly Wolfe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly Wolfe said...

woops, i had to delete my comment above because i had so many typos. haven't. had. my. tea. yet.

I used to live across the street from the Israeli embassy, which frequently featured pro Israel and anti Israel demonstrations at the same time. I would drive by on my way to work and say to myself, "I love this country," and mean it because you are allowed to express your own opinions.


MSU gal said...

by their very reaction, the extreme facist uncontrollable faction of islam proved how violent they can be. not long before the pope said these words, the same faction released a statement urging westerners to "convert to Islam or suffer the consequences" which means convert or be killed. I wish the Pope hadn't offered any explanation, but apparently he found it necessary to do so.
Islam is still the only religion that supports the idea of "holy war". I am not anti-muslim, I do have some muslim friends, but i always find myself debating with them on why they would allow extremists to exist, grow and prosper within their religious community.

Bibi said...

Lisa ... yes I remember frequently seeing similar situations when I worked at Citicorp, and again when I worked in London, with opposing groups protesting on the same street.

MSUgal86 ... yep, we see trouble when any extremist faction tries to enforce conformity on others.